“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son...” - Galatians 4:4
Advent moves us forward toward the in-breaking of the kingdom of God on Christmas Day as we pray in the words of the hymn writer: “Come thou long expected Jesus, born to set thy people free; from our fears and sins release us, let us find our rest in thee.”
The incarnation, the Word made flesh, breaks into our world in the fullness of time. The God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Mary enters human history at its darkest, most turbulent time. When we find ourselves stumbling blindly searching for a light to guide us through the darkness, searching for a way forward, “The Word becomes flesh and dwells among us.”
God’s final answer to evil, injustice, hatred and all that would divide us is spoken in the unlikeliest of ways, through the unlikeliest of people, and the in most unlikely and difficult of circumstances. Reading the biblical Advent and Christmas narratives makes this obviously apparent.
God speaks His most eloquent word of redemption, and reconciliation, in the coming of a child shivering in the night: “Emmanuel, God with us.” The Pharisees, Sadducees, Zealots, and Essenes all had their own ideas of the way forward, and they defended them against all comers so much that they missed God’s desired and preferred future and redemptive purpose for all creation.
I am sure they believed that there was no way God could answer in such a humble and undignified way. They had read and interpreted the scriptures. They knew what scriptural “holiness” looked like.
In their eyes it looked nothing like a peasant girl in Nazareth saying to God’s purposes, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). It looked nothing like a wild man screaming his fool head off standing knee deep in the chilly waters of the Jordan River, “Repent, for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” It looked nothing like a wandering preacher from Nazareth standing in the temple proclaiming, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor” (Luke 4:18). Scriptural holiness looked nothing like offering God’s forgiveness, hope, love, and promise to just anybody, especially those on the margins. It wasn’t supposed to look like a Messiah hanging on a tree.
When will we learn that God’s ways are not our ways. God’s timing is not our timing. Could it be that the fullness of time is upon us now? We spend so much time fighting to prove that we are right and on God’s side. We have put so much of our hearts and souls into our own understanding, our own process of what God’s desire is for creation. I often wonder if we’ve once again missed the coming of Christ. Polarization, division, and strife have blinded us so deeply.
In the fullness of time God revealed to the world His way forward. “And the Word became flesh” when Mary gave birth to her first-born son. Indeed, in the fullness of time LOVE came down on Christmas Day … or is love just another of those words we have spoken the meaning out of time and time again? Is love just another word that reverberated with the famous or infamous words of Inigo Montoya in the movie The Princess Bride,“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”
I pray that during this Advent season and into Christmas, we would allow God to speak the true meaning of love into our hearts, minds, and souls.
Merry Christmas, Bishop Leonard E. Fairley