I have always been fascinated by the phrase, “in the fullness of time.” One of the questions in a New Testament exam when I was in seminary read, “In the fullness of time God sent His Son -- Please comment.” I commented, to the extent of a whole blue book. I wrote about the Pox Romana that maintained an uneasy peace over most of the civilized world during the reign of Augustus Caesar, about the Roman roads that made travel comparatively easy, about the common knowledge of Latin that made communication possible from one end of the empire to the other. I even talked about the decay of the old religions and the human hunger for spiritual truth and inspiration.
Looking back now, I would not take back any of what I wrote; in fact, I would add to it. I would extend the time of God’s preparation—back through the life of David the shepherd king, through Ruth, his Moabit-ish great-grandmother, even further. I think from the time the angel with the flaming sword was posted at the gate of Eden behind the banished Adam and Eve, God was preparing the way back for the children of humanity.
We are an impatient generation -- we want everything immediately. We never walk when we can ride, or ride when we can fly. We have forgotten the art of saving up for something; the modern way is to buy on credit and enjoy while we pay. We have instant cereal, instant coffee, instant potatoes, instant digital snapshots. Computers and I-pads provide instant access to information. We seem to have discarded completely the joys of anticipation. One of the framed slogans we delight-in expresses today’s mood: “Lord, give me patience -- NOW!” But God says, “When the time is ripe,” “in the fullness of time,” “first the blade, and then the ear, then the full corn in the ear.”
God does not hurry. His salvation does not come in an instant, in a flash of lightning or a crash of thunder. Slowly, imperceptibly, day by day, year by year, He accomplishes His purpose. When the time was ripe, He came into the world as anyone comes, a baby in his mother’s arms. In the fullness of time, He grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and people. How long ago He preached His message and announced His kingdom, and the end is not yet! He does not compel our obedience, but surely, inevitably, in the fullness of time, His purpose is accomplished.
Let us be glad for these weeks of preparation for the coming of the Child, who is Himself the beginning of another preparation -- the preparation of Easter triumph. Let the message of Advent to us be: “Be patient! My word shall not return to me empty but shall accomplish the purpose for which I sent it.”
Shalom, Pastor Dan Congleton, Interim Pastor