But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. Galatians 4:4-5 (KJV)
One day years ago on the way home from church I spotted a bumper sticker that simply said, "I HATE YOU".
Christmas was God, finding a way to give a gift with a whisper that simply says, "I love you."
What kind of gift is this child of the manger?
Paul said that it was “in the fullness of time" that Jesus came into this world. That expression points more to our need than our progress. At the PRECISE moment of our greatest need, according to God's plan, Jesus entered time and space to be our gift.
From an historical view, all the conditions for the reception of the gospel were in place. Several important circumstances show how God was working to move mankind into a "ready" position.
The conquests of Alexander the Great had spread the Greek language throughout the known world. Thus, the path was paved for the spread of God's written word.
The Roman Empire and its "law and order" made travel between cities safe. Evangelists like Paul could spread the good news quickly.
Pagan religion was at its' height, leaving people empty and "thirsty" for something that satisfied.
There are times I do not understand what the Father is doing. Things happen in my life which cause me to question His care; yet He is moving me in the course of His plan.
In preparing to give my son a surprise for his birthday, we had to keep him in the dark for a while. Then, on that precise moment, when the surprise would be most effective, and good for him, we turned on the light! God is moving history towards His own conclusion. He is precise, and so was the gift of Jesus.
I would have done it differently. Had I been God, I'd have shown-up in person, called a meeting and said, "Ok, everyone who wants to be in my family - step over here." And those who didn't - ZAP! - gone forever! But God didn't consult me....He gently broke into history, on a bed of straw. He lived and died, and rose again, and He said I could too!
God knew PRECISELY what gift we needed.
God sent His Son. A literal translation would expand the meaning of this verse: "God sent forth FROM HIMSELF His son." This points to the fact that Jesus existed in heaven long before He was born on earth. The fact that God is Father presupposes the existence of a son. God knew we would need a sacrifice to pay the price for our sin. Jesus became that sacrificially-prepared gift.
The Bible (Hebrews 1.1-2) says:
"IN THE PAST GOD SPOKE TO OUR FOREFATHERS THROUGH THE PROPHETS AT MANY TIMES AND IN VARIOUS WAYS, BUT IN THESE LAST DAYS HE HAS SPOKEN TO US BY HIS SON, WHOM HE APPOINTED HEIR OF ALL THINGS, AND THROUGH WHOM HE MADE THE UNIVERSE."
That speaks of a pre-incarnate Jesus. Before He became Mary's son, he was the creator of this earth. In Revelation (13.8) Jesus is described as the "Lamb slain from the foundation of the earth." Isn't that something? You and I prepare Christmas lists - God did too!
A little boy was looking for the "perfect Christmas gift" for his mother. He asked the sales clerk to see some cookie jars. At a counter with a large selection of jars, he carefully lifted and replaced each lid. When he came to the last one he seemed dejected, and asked the clerk, "Don't you have any that don't make noise when you lift the lid?"
Jesus didn't make a lot of noise when He came the first time. He came in an ordinary way ("born of a woman, born under law"). He was just like you and me in that sense, fully human. He had to go through childhood like I did; and struggle with young adulthood, like I did; and die like I must, so He could save me like I can't.
His whole purpose was to "redeem" us. That word is from the marketplace, meaning to buy back something that was lost to another. Jesus was the perfect gift, in that, He accomplished exactly that which was His purpose.
Those who've accepted the gift have been redeemed, adopted. Paul calls it "full rights of sons." This points out the grisly fact that there is something wrong with each of us. We are not natural sons of God. We may be of His creation, but because of sin, we are not God's children.
It takes adoption for a stranger to be part of the family. Dr. Richard Selzer wrote a book entitled, "Mortal Lessons, Notes on the Art of Surgery." He shares an experience that speaks so powerfully of how God has personalized the gift of Christ toward each of us...
I stand by the bed where a young woman lies, her face post-operative, her mouth twisted in palsy, clownish. The tiny twig of a facial nerve, the one to the muscles of her mouth has been severed.
She will be thus from now on. The surgeon had followed with religious fervor the curve of her flesh, I promise you that! Nevertheless, to remove the tumor in her cheek I had to cut the little nerve.
Her young husband is in the room; he stands on the opposite side of the bed. And together they seem to dwell in the evening lamplight, isolated from me, private.
“Who are they?” I ask myself, “he and this wry-mouth I have made” gaze at and touch each other so generously.
The young woman speaks, “Will my mouth always be like this?” she asks.” “Yes,” I say, “it will; it’s because the nerve’s been cut.”
She nods, and is silent. But the young man smiles, “I kind of like it,” he says; “It’s kind of cute.”
All at once I know who he is. I understand; and I lower my gaze. One is not bold in an encounter with God. Unmindful, he bends to kiss the crooked mouth, and I am so close I can see how he twists his own lips to accommodate to hers, to show that the kiss still works.
The kiss does still work, beloved.
Sin twisted everything we are. It has mangled what God created. Yet, in Christ, God has reached down to where we are - twisted homes, marriages severed like cut nerves. He has reached down to touch lives that are crooked with the emptiness of life in darkness. Like the husband accommodating his own lips to the scars of his wife, the Lord came to a twisted world.
And He loved us.
What shall we do? Say thank you!
That's all He's waiting for.