In The Fullness Of Time: The Christmas Story
“But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son.” —Galatians 4:4
Most biblical historians teach that Jesus, son of Mary and Joseph, was probably born in Bethlehem of Judea in the fall of the year, not during the winter season. At the time of Christ’s birth, 5 BC, the mighty Augustus Caesar was 57 years old and had been serving as the emperor of the entire Roman Empire for more that 20 years. His real name was Gaius Octavian, born 63 BC. He ruled Europe, the Middle East and Asia with an iron fist from 27 BC to AD 14. In a small geographical area of the Middle East called Palestine, comprised a land about two hundred fifty miles north to south and less than a hundred miles east to west. It was south of the Syrian territory and north of the Egyptian region. This small little Jewish ethnic province was situated right beside the Mediterranean Sea between two great continents—Asia and Africa. A long-term powerful and cruel governor, Herod the Great, ruled over this land called Samaria, Judea, and Edom.
Saint Paul writes in Galatians 4:4 that the almighty God of the universe sent His only begotten Son to this blue planet in what He identifies as the fullness of time. What did He mean by using that phrase? What kind of a world was it at 5 BC? I strongly suggest that it was a world in great trouble, great darkness, and much pain. Specifically, as it relates to the Jewish people living in the Middle East, the Christmas story occurs at a time of heavy burdens, much confusion, and much darkness. It was a depressing world. Everything looked hopeless.
In respect to government, politics, and taxation in the known world, all peoples lived under the huge demands of Rome and the Roman emperor, Augustus Caesar, and his provincial governors. Roman soldiers were stationed in every province and region of the empire. Ethnic groups had very little independence in life. In respect to religion and philosophy, there was an ongoing melding of Greek literature, language, and philosophy with a strong belief in the Greek and Roman pantheon of gods mixed with what was called the “mystery religions” of the day. In addition to all this paganism, many of the first, second and third century Christians, Jews and other groups had to contend with emperor worship.
During this time frame, literally thousands of Christians died because of their refusal to deny Christ and pledge their worship to the Roman emperor. In reality, the philosophies of famous Greek professors—Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle—and the lifestyle provided by the Romans offered little hope for a hurting and broken world. In many major cities of the empire, huge coliseums were built and bloody entertainment was provided for the masses. Many of the major seaport cities built and operated ungodly heathen temples of worship, which served as brothel houses. Historians suggest that over one thousand cult prostitutes worked at the temple of Aphrodite in Corinth. Rome made sure that all ethnic groups remained civil, paid their taxes, and conducted their business under the authority of the Roman soldiers and governors.
In addition to the multitude of burdens placed on the people by the Romans and by Herod the Great, the Jewish religion was totally corrupted. A corrupt Sanhedrin looked after the Jerusalem temple and oversaw the finances and Levitical ceremonies and sacrifices of the day. Why did God send His son to Planet Earth at this time?
First, in the fullness of time, God sent forth his only Son to this world to give this darkened world light! In 5 BC, politics was cruel, religion was corrupt, and society was in darkness. Multitudes were hurting. John the Beloved writes, “In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.”
Referring to John the Baptist, Saint John wrote, “He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh in the world.”On one occasion Jesus said, “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12)
Saint Paul wrote in II Corinthians 4:6, “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts.” Our precious heavenly Father sent His only Son to give us light so we could properly order our footsteps and know how to walk and live victoriously in a darkened world.
Second, in the fullness of time, our heavenly Father sent His Son Jesus into our world to deal with our sins. The philosophies of the Greeks and the religions of the Romans and the legalism and rituals of the Jewish faith did not properly deal with sin. So many good people carry the sins of their past into their future. Holding on to our sins will always destroy our lives. Saint Matthew 1:21 declares, “And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.” When John the Baptist was baptizing people in the river Jordan, he saw Jesus coming toward him and shouted, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” Notice, “which taketh away” the “sin” of the world.
The great apostle Paul wrote in Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” And, in Galatians 1:4, he writes “Who gave himself for our sins.” And I John 2:2 informs us, “And he is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” Please believe this! In the fullness of time God sent His Son to forgive us and cleanse us from all sin and unrighteousness. Will you give him your sins today? Our merciful Father sent His Son Jesus to deal with our sin problem and the sin problem of the world. Confess your sins and He is faithful and just to forgive. If we will sincerely confess our sins, He will forgive and set us free.
Third, in the fullness of time, God sent forth His Son to give us abundant life by the power of the Holy Spirit. Saint John 10:10 says, “The thief cometh not, but to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” What is the abundant life? It is the Christian life lived in and by continued real faith in the cross, the shed blood of Jesus, and His resurrection and by the power of the Holy Spirit. After the resurrection and before the ascension, Christ pleaded with his disciples and followers; “And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem until ye be endued with power from on high” (Luke 24:49). Then we read in Acts 1:8, “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”
So, dear friend, never forget, in the fullness of time, God sent forth His dear Son to this dark and broken world to (1) give us light (2) free us from sin and (3) empower us to live an anointed life for Him. Let us stay strong in the Lord by maintaining our faith in what Christ did on the Cross, and may we proclaim good news in the power of the Spirit to a hurting and broken world. The message of the cross, the anointing of the Spirit, and the true Christmas story still changes lives today.