Of Jesus birth, Paul wrote, “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” (Galatians 4:4-5 ESV). He must have lived in another time zone! The time might have been full but it was not good. Mary was young. Surely God knew that as her time to give birth neared that Joseph, by decree of law, would be bouncing her along uneven roads on the back of a donkey in order to get to Jerusalem to pay taxes. Surely, a God who could enter the world as a baby also knew there would be no room in the inn. NO ROOM ANYWHERE. What a mess! A pregnant girl far from home in the midst of city so full of people that the only place for her to give birth was a barn!
I would not have done it that way! I would have found a better time. Being God, if I couldn’t have found a better time, I would have made a better time. The world was messy and cruel. It was a world in which death followed birth—even the birth of the Son of God. There’s bound to have been a better way and a better time.
You would think that there had to be a better way . . . better time; but when subsequent times are considered, it appears there was no good time or way. In spite of those who in every era cry, “The end is near . . . the sky is falling,” the world hasn’t changed all that much through the centuries. Oh, it’s gotten more crowded and we’ve developed more sophisticated weapons by which to intimidate our enemies and by which to kill them even as we mortally wound ourselves; but in spite of this, it’s still a messed up world in which death follows birth—even the birth of the Son of God.
I wouldn’t have done it as God did it; but alas, I am not God, though on occasion I do play the usurper. Through the passing of time and the school of experience I am learning to trust God. In becoming more trusting, I have become surer about a few things. I do believe that Jesus was born and that his birth took place pretty much as described by Matthew and Luke. I do believe it was a God-thing; and so, even though I would have done it differently, I bow to the wisdom of God who chose that time—and this time—to enter our world.
. . . But Herod is just outside the door breathing death. Herod is timeless. He was then and he is now. Was the angel correct: “. . . thou shalt call his name jesus; for he shall save his people from their sins”? Oh, YES! This was not just any child born in Bethlehem. This is the Son of God; and therefore, Herod is outnumbered.
In the midst of my wondering about the timeliness of Jesus’ arrival, I received a copy of a Christmas letter written by Neil Boggan who is currently serving as a guest lecturer at the Philippine Baptist Theological Seminary in Baguio City. He quoted Brennan Manning, noting that those who come to the manger are the “shipwrecked.” Manning, through the Neil’s voice, reminded me of Christmas’ true meaning and of the error of my timing. According to Neil, Manning wrote:
“Do you hear what the shipwrecked are saying? Let go of your paltry desires and expand your expectations. Christmas means that God has given us nothing less than himself and his name is Jesus Christ…Don’t come with a thimble when God has nothing less to give you than the ocean of himself…You could more easily catch a hurricane in a shrimp net than you can understand the wild, relentless, passionate, uncompromising, pursuing love of God made present in the manger.”
I’m wrong! The time was . . . is full, right, and ripe. REJOICE! REJOICE! Come to manger. You need not bring gifts. The Gift is there.