In the Fullness of Time
“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.”
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is a children’s story that was written by C. S. Lewis in 1950. Four children, Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy Pevensie, are evacuated from London during World War II, and settled with an elderly Professor in a large country-house. The children explore, and Lucy, the youngest of the children, climbs into a wardrobe and finds that it leads to a snow-covered land. She meets a faun, Tumnus, who tells her that the land is called Narnia, and that it is ruled over by the ruthless White Witch, who has cursed the land so that it is always winter. As Tumnus puts it, "Always winter, but never Christmas, think of that!"
Lucy goes back through the wardrobe, and to normal life, but is unable to convince the other children about her adventure.
Several weeks later, she re-enters Narnia, and Edmund follows. He fails to catch up with Lucy, and instead comes across the witch, who seduces him with magical Turkish Delight and promises of power. She persuades him to try to bring the other children to her castle.
The witch departs, Lucy arrives, and both Lucy and Edmund return together through the wardrobe. Out of cruelty, Edmund will not admit to the others that Narnia is real.
Finally, circumstances lead all four children to hide in the wardrobe, and they soon find themselves in Narnia. They discover that Tumnus has been captured, and they take shelter with a pair of talking beavers.
The beavers recount an ancient prophecy that when two Sons of Adam and two Daughters of Eve fill the four thrones at Cair Paravel, the witch's power will fail. The beavers tell of the true king of Narnia—a great lion called Aslan—who has been absent for many years, but is now "On the move again."
Thus, we are introduced to the major theme of the book. Narnia is in the grip of the evil witch but Aslan is coming to set things right.
In the book, this is made clear with the appearance of Father Christmas. “I’ve come at last,” said he. “She has kept me out for a long time, but I have got in at last. Aslan is on the move. The witch’s magic is weakening.” (p103 my edition)
Finally, Aslan the lion appears and he leads his forces to victory. The witch is killed and the four children reign as kings and queens in Narnia.
Now it is obvious, some critics would say far too obvious, that C. S. Lewis has written a metaphor for Christianity. The world was all messed up, imprisoned by the curse of Satan. We were locked in the iron grip of a prolonged winter. But Christmas signaled hope for all humankind.
Christ came to free us from sin and death and the devil. Now we might say, if Christ’s coming was so good. Why did he not come earlier? Why did God wait so long? God’s answer is that God did not wait one moment longer than necessary. As Galatians says, God sent his Son “when the fullness of time had come.” God sent Christ at exactly the right time in exactly the right place. Any earlier would have been too soon, any later too late.
Think of all that went on before that first Christmas. Most of what has happened in the universe happened before Christ--all the billions of years of the creation of the heavens and the earth, the long evolution of stars through which God created the basic materials of being, and then the creation of our particular star, the sun, then the long evolution of life on earth. Finally, just a short minute ago in geologic time, we appeared, humankind appeared. All human history is just the last blip in the history of the universe, but there were some things that had to happen in human history. We had to develop farming and writing and civilization. God was working through all this preparing history for Christmas. God worked with individuals like Abraham and Isaac and Jacob. God worked with the nation of Israel for a thousand years. The revelaton of Jesus Christ in the New Testament built upon the revelation of God in the Old Testament. The revelation of the nature of God that was given to the prophets was continued in Jesus.
All this shows us something about how God works in the world. God has a purpose, an aim, an intent, but God’s aim is adapted to the conditions of the world. For example, why did God not send Christ in Abraham’s time? Or, why did God not send the Messiah when David was King of Israel? Because neither Abraham nor David were capable of receiving the Christ. So God worked with Abraham in the way Abraham could receive it and God worked with David in a way that David could receive it. God adapted his aim to the times.
You might say, Why does not God just break into time and space and do what he wants? The Bible teaches that God does not act that way. God always acts in continuity with history. The revelation of Christ is built upon the previous revelation to Israel.
But it was not only Israel. The whole world was being prepared from Christmas.
In 350 B.C., Alexander the Great became king of Macedon. He conquered about half of the known world. And, because of Alexander’s influence, the world became Greek in culture, philosophy, art, and language. The Greek language became the common language of the Eastern Mediterranean. Thus, when Christian missionaries started to spread the gospel, they did not need to go to language school. Everybody spoke Greek.
Further, the Roman Empire had united the Mediterranean world under one government. The Romans also built a network of roads. Rome is famous for her roads. Thus, communications in the Mediterranean were better than they had ever been in human history. Thus, the gospel could spread quickly throughout the area. Again, several Mystery religions existed in the first century that looked a lot like Christianity. The Mystery religion of Isis and her husband the dead and risen Osiris looked a lot like Mary and her son Jesus. In the religion of Mithraism, there was a baptism in blood, a literal baptism in blood, and a sacrament wherein a cup of blood was drunk. We can see that these mystery religions are a preparation for Christianity. In the pages of the NT, we read how the way was prepared by the coming of John the Baptist. The way was prepared, and when the fullness of time was come, Jesus was born in Bethlehem.
The birth of Jesus was made possible because God had been working in all history to be bring about the right time. Now had you been able to do interviews with people living in the centuries before Jesus, and had you asked them if they could see God working in their time, they would probably have said, no. they would have said, “I see no evidence of God. I only see chaos and turmoil.” But, in the midst of that chaos and turmoil, God was working to prepare time for Christ.
This has application for us. Sometimes we see only turmoil, in our own lives, and we say, where is God? Things do not seem to be going anywhere. We may not be having much success in our lives. We may be frustrated by a lack of opportunities or wrong decisions we made long ago. We are anxious maybe even in despair. Our personal lives seem mired in a winter without Christmas
But that first Christmas gives us a different picture. When Jesus was born, Herod the tyrant ruled the holy land and he was a Roman lackey. Most Jews thought that was as bad as it could get. But God worked to move those circumstances toward his purpose. God was still there. That is the message.
Christmas did not happen by chance or fluke. It happened at the appointed time, for an appointed purpose, in an appointed way.
That gives us hope because that teaches us that there is no situation where God is not at work, there is no situation that cannot be changed for something better than we ever thought possible. We have said that God molds history. That means that God must begin with what is and work from that. But God can take what is and bring about results no one could ever have imagined.
The Jews of Jesus time expected a Jewish messiah to save the Jews from Roman domination. They were looking for a messiah in the image of their great king David. They never, in their wildest dreams, expected that the messiah would be crucified like a criminal and therefore would save the whole world. Paul in Romans chapter 5 talks about how God has done much more—he repeatedly uses that term—God had done “much more” in Christ than anyone could have hoped or dreamed.
Even so, in our own lives God can do “much more.” God can change you, God can change your situation. God is always at work in your life to achieve his purposes. So we do not need to be anxious or bored, rather, we should live with anticipation and expectation. We should look forward to what God will do in our lives today.
Because God is active in history, because God is present in every event and aims to move every event toward his purpose, because God is who God is, we can pray with confidence, faith, and expectation. Christmas is a great incentive to prayer. Look what God did on Christmas. Imagine then what God can do in your life.
Prayer is not about changing God’s mind and getting God to do what we want. Prayer is about finding out what God is doing and committing ourselves to what God is doing.
Christmas shows us that God acted then, in that time, and thus we know that God acts now. Just as Christ came at the right time, so God continues to work in our lives at the right time. In fact, perhaps today is the time in your life for God to move in a special way. Perhaps God wants to solve some problem in your life today. Perhaps Christ wants to give you today the answer you have been seeking. Perhaps God is telling you that today is the time for you to commit your life to Him.
If you have questions or comments, email Tony Grant
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