“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son” (Galatians 4:4).
The word “fullness” speaks of something that is complete and fully developed, like a ripe apple ready to be picked or like a pregnant woman feeling labor pains, ready to deliver her baby. It describes the moment in history when the stage was perfectly set. At that moment, not earlier and not later, God sent forth his Son.
Think of how unlikely it all seems:
A decree from Caesar Augustus.
An angel appearing to Mary.
A virgin becoming pregnant.
An angel coming to Joseph in a dream.
A baby who will be called Immanuel.
A mysterious star in the east.
A group of Wise Men showing up in Jerusalem.
Angels appearing to shepherds.
A trip to Bethlehem.
An inn that was full.
A stable that was available.
A babe wrapped in rags and placed in a feeding trough.
A star that led the Wise Men to the right house in Bethlehem.
Gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
A dying king who tried to kill the baby.
A desperate journey to Egypt.
Another journey to Nazareth.
Pretty amazing stuff if you stop to think about it. What are the chances that all of those things that had to happen in exactly the right way would have happened? That a pagan emperor would issue a decree at just the right moment in history, when the Pax Romana was in full force, when the world was yearning restlessly for deliverance, that angels would show up to a young man and a young woman, that they would believe the angels, that the virgin would become pregnant, that Joseph would decide not to divorce her, that the star would shine in the east, that the Wise Men would travel hundreds of miles seeking the baby, and all of it would finally focus on a stable outside an inn in the “little town of Bethlehem,” where the most incredible event in history took place.
C. S. Lewis says it this way:
The central miracle asserted by Christians is the Incarnation. They say that God became Man. Every other miracle prepares the way for this, or results from this.
He is entirely right about that. Sometimes we focus on peripheral questions (how did Jesus turn water into wine?) that distract us from the central truth of our faith. We believe God became a man. That the Creator became part of the creation. That the infinite became finite. That Almighty God took on the form of a man and was born as a tiny baby. This is the central truth of our faith.
When everything was just right, God sent his Son to be our Savior.
That’s what Christmas is all about.
Lord, thank you for arranging all the details centuries in advance. You set the stage, then Christ was born. Open our eyes so that we may see him clearly. Amen.