John 1:1-18; Ephesians 1:3-14; Galatians 4:4-7
As I get older, it seems that each New Year comes around faster than the one before. Do any of you feel the same way? Man, time goes by fast! Before you know it, Christmas will be here again. So you’d better start getting ready now!
Anyway, let’s talk about time for a moment – something most of us feel we never have enough of.
It was Albert Einstein who introduced us to the idea that time is relative. Sometimes his theory of relativity has been reduced to the example of a young man sitting for a minute on a hot stove vs. sitting for a minute next to a pretty girl. One minute can seem very long while the other seems very short.
That is not exactly what Einstein meant. But he did show us that time is relative.
Another scientist who has written extensively on time is Stephen Hawking, the brilliant physicist. In fact, he wrote a book titled A Brief History of Time. I have read a book by Hawking entitled A Briefer History of Time. I guess his shorter version was written for those of us who don’t have enough time to read his longer version. Or maybe it’s just that for people like me, it’s just too darn difficult to understand.
By the way, I understand that Hawking is an avid fan of the cartoon show, The Simpsons, and has made appearances on the show. He likes to attend table readings of The Simpsons the cartoon equivalent of a dress rehearsal.
One day Hawking was upwards of thirty minutes late to the rehearsal. As the other actors were sitting around waiting for him, one of the actors looked at his watch and quipped: “Does the man have no concept of time?” Ok, well, I guess you had to be there.
And then there are time management seminars. As though we can manage time. 24 hours a day. That’s all we get. That’s all any of us get. I think the best we can do on any given day – given the time we have – is to manage our priorities, because time itself is not something than can be managed.
With that in mind, let me read to you a passage from the book of Galatians, chapter 4. This letter written by the Apostle Paul to the church in Galatia speaks of time. Not the passage of time or the relativity of time or even the management of time. But I want you to listen for something that God did in the fullness of time. Listen!
“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children. And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’ So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God.”
I don’t want you to miss this. Another way to say, “…when the fullness of time had come,” is “…when the set time had finally arrived…” What set time? The time for God to send His Son Jesus to earth to be born of a woman. We of course celebrate Jesus Christ’s coming to earth at Christmas – a season which we are still in, by the way – and we know that the woman’s name is Mary.
And why did God choose that time? What we call the first century A.D. or what some call the first century of the Common Era. Why did God choose that time? Glad you asked. Because certainly God could have waited. He could have come today –for the first time – with all of our modern means of communication and networks and social media. But I would like to suggest to you that God came to us in the person of Jesus Christ as soon as He could. When the time was right.
We know that the Jewish people had been waiting for centuries for the Messiah – in other words the Christ – to arrive. And as Christians we understand that in Jesus, God’s Messiah has arrived. And the time was right.
When you think about the conditions that were in the world when Jesus was born, then I think you’ll see why God chose that particular time as the right time:
1. When Jesus was born, Jews were scattered throughout the known world. In every major city, there was a synagogue. This was the first place the early Christian evangelists went to proclaim the Good News that God had visited His people in the person of His Son Jesus Christ.
2. Culturally, the world was ready. About 300 years before Christ, a man by the name of Alexander the Great conquered a great portion of the known world, and established a great empire. And here’s what he did that helped set the stage for Jesus. Alexander spread the Greek language wherever he went. Greek became the international language by which the gospel could be communicated. When our New Testament was written, it was written in Greek.
3. Following this, there was the Roman Empire. The Romans – for all of their otherwise brutality – brought relative safety to the areas they had conquered. Prior to this, it was not safe to travel very far. But the peace of Rome changed all that.
4. Julius Caesar built roads that made commerce possible over all the empire. Those roads facilitated travel by the first Christian missionaries.
So things like a common language, the building of roads, and the safety of traveling by both land and sea, made first Century Palestine the perfect place and time for the Christ to be born.
So the time was right. But the question I really want to focus on today is “Why?” Why DID God send Jesus to earth? Well, I guess the short answer would be love. Certainly the love of God for you and me was the motive.
But we could also talk about our sin – and because that sin separates us from God – we could talk about our need to be reconciled to God somehow someway.
But I want you to notice something. It’s in this passage from Galatians chapter 4 that I just read to you. It’s also in our other readings today from John’s Gospel and our other reading – also written by Paul – a letter written to the church at Ephesus. Why did Jesus come to earth? Here’s what all three of these readings tell us – so that we might become sons and daughters of God.
And this is what I am asking all of us to be mindful of as we begin this new year. Because not only was the time right for Jesus to be born – when he was born – but the time is right for us – right here, right now – in the beginning of this new year – to remember who we are and to whom we belong. I can’t think of a better message today than to hear that – because of Jesus – we are now sons and daughters of God. Hey! Is that a great way to start a new year, or what!
So what does that mean to you? I mean, I really do want us to see ourselves as God sees us. It might just mean that how we see ourselves – when we see ourselves the way God sees us – that maybe – just maybe it will make a difference in how we live our lives in this New Year. Who needs resolutions? Resolutions that we find difficult if not impossible to keep anyway. We don’t need resolutions as much as we need a foundation. And part of that foundation is to recognize who we are and to whom we belong. We are sons and daughters of God, and we belong to Jesus Christ. I just think that makes all the difference in the world.
When my boys were young a movie by the name of The Lion King came out. Anybody here seen it? I think anybody who’s seen it – even some of you boys and girls – remembers this Disney movie.
There is in this movie a scene where Simba, the young lion, is being challenged to go back home and be the king he was born to be. Simba had run from his destiny. The struggle in confronting his mean uncle was just too difficult. But in that memorable scene that represents a turning point in Simba’s life, he looks in the water and sees the subtle reflection of his father, Mufasa the King. Mufasa says to Simba, “You have forgotten who you are . . . Look inside yourself, Simba. You are more than what you have become . . . Remember who you are.”
And that’s Paul’s message to us as we end one year and begin another. Remember who you are. “When the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption as God’s sons and daughters. Because you are God’s sons and daughters, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father.’ So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.”
Look inside yourself. You are more than you think you are. Because of what Christ has done in your behalf. You are a son – you are a daughter of the King.
What an amazing gift! And yes, along with this gift, there come responsibilities. And that’s a matter of choosing our priorities, and following through on those priorities. But since we now know that we are sons and daughters of the King – King Jesus – who needs resolutions? What we need are foundations.
The time is right. In this New Year – let me encourage you to remember who you are – and to whom you belong. You are a son – you are a daughter of the King…and we belong to Christ.