“An Undateable Date”
A blessed Advent and coming Christmas to all! My title is in quotes because it is just that: I borrowed it from the heading of the fourth chapter in Dr. Paul Maier’s insightful book, In the Fullness of Time, which was our October Book Club selection. (Thanks to Jane Gibson for the recommendation.) That fourth chapter is the theme segment of the book and is based upon the famous Scripture passage from Galatians 4:4-5,
But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.
Maier comments that God did have a good sense of timing in sending His Son into the world as the predictions of the Old Testament set the stage well, the pervasive Greek language provided a common vehicle for the Gospel, and the Roman Empire offered governmental stability.
Maier also points out that, oddly enough, the precise date of the birth of our Lord is not known. You can read of Maier’s reasons for saying this on pages 25-31 of the book as it is available in on the top shelf of the book cases in the Fireside Room. With most of the Church, we go back in time to celebrate Christmas on December 25 because the early Christians put it there to alter the Roman Saturnalia festival into “the sun of righteousness” celebration: Jesus come with the light of God’s love into this sin darkened world. So December 25 is a great time to celebrate the birth of our Savior and Lord.
Some find the undatable aspect of Christmas to be concerning, but it seems to me that there is comfort in it. The Son of God became incarnate and was born into real time. St. Luke takes pains to anchor his birth in real history (Luke 2:10-11). But Jesus came not only for that time and those people. He came into the world to offer his divine and human life for all time and all people. How did the angelic birth announcement put it? And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
In contrast to many world religious systems, Christianity is for all and for all time, not primarily one people or generation. For all people, all time. (And by the way, if it seems that the end of the Galatians 4 passage is less than inclusive, check out online the prevailing inheritance practices of the time and see how very inclusive the living God is!) It all comes together through God’s love in the One who is Jesus, Savior and Lord for all people and all time!
Rejoicing on Dec. 25 – and beyond – in Jesus,