Watch or Listen Here: Audio/Video
The question of God’s timing has always been an issue. Theologians, philosophers, and people of everyday pursuits have questioned events in their own lives. We all feel the burden of “why me; why us; why now; or why not.” Our lives are surrounded by wonders and doubts of every kind, mostly because we cannot humanly grasp the sovereignty, the timing and will of, God. Yet, here we are, living in a moment of God’s perfect timing. We are here, thinking of Him, sharing His love and celebrating the birth of His Son.
I challenge you to think about God’s will and His perfect timing in your life. It’s not that everything that happens will be good or desired, but nothing that happens escapes God’s notice, or God’s understanding, or falls too far from God’s ability to reconcile: our life circumstance cannot escape God, our feelings and thoughts do not escape God; our doubts and our fears do not escape God; and neither do our failures and our sins. Only we seem to be surprised or caught off guard by any of these things.
That’s why I am so confident of the purposefulness of the Christmas story. That’s why I believe that this baby was born from God, embodied the fullness of God, and was sent from heaven when he was; to just the right parents, in the right country, in the right era. The Apostle Paul wrote of it this way to the people in the Mediteranean town of Ephesus:
4 Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. 5 God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. 6 So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. 7 He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. 8 He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding.
Why would the God of the universe, the Creator of all that is, was or ever will be, be willing to see you and me without fault? Why would this same God, who was and is offended by our very nature of sin, adopt us into His family? It’s an amazing thing. Yet we read here in the book to the Ephesians that this is what he WANTED to do and it gave God “great pleasure.” As we look back through history we see this fact – Jesus’ earthly family was full of sinners with faults. Moving forward in time to church history we see a bunch of sinners with lots of faults. We look at this church, this group of people on their faith journeys, and we see it is full of sinners with many, many faults; but not to God. He has chosen you, he has chosen me, to be here on this day to be holy and without fault. This gave God such great pleasure that he paid for our freedom with the death and resurrection of Jesus, and forgave our sins. What an amazing thing. What an incredible plan. But what does that have to do with celebrating Christmas?
9 God has now revealed to us his mysterious plan regarding Christ, a plan to fulfill his own good pleasure. 10 And this is the plan: At the right time he will bring everything together under the authority of Christ—everything in heaven and on earth.
This is so reminiscent of the words of the letter to the Galatians chapter 4 – 4 But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. 5 God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children.
During this season of Advent and Christmas we celebrate the “right time,” when God sent Jesus to be born in such an unusual circumstance, surrounded by controversy and danger, simply for the pleasure of bringing us back to a complete relationship with Himself – making us His children once again.
11 Furthermore, because we are united with Christ, we have received an inheritance from God, for he chose us in advance, and he makes everything work out according to his plan.
But, let me ask you this, do you think Joseph thought the time was right? Think about Mary, young and innocent, engaged to Joseph. Do you think SHE thought it was the right time? Yet it was. It was God’s plan. As Jesus was suffering persecution for his audacious claim to be God’s Son, the Messiah sent for the world, did his disciples think it was the right time? They weren’t in on the great announcement by the angel choir that sang, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth, peace, good will to all people.” Oh, they were with Jesus as an adult. They watched him heal, and cast out demons, and even raise the dead. But did they think his death was at the “right time?” Did they believe everything would work out according to God’s plan? No! They went back to fishing, tax collecting, working. They didn’t have Christmas to celebrate – yet! But they had this Truth embedded in them -
12 God’s purpose was that the (we) Jews who were the first to trust in Christ would bring praise and glory to God. 13 And now you Gentiles have also heard the truth, the Good News that God saves you. And when you believed in Christ, he identified you as his own by giving you the Holy Spirit, whom he promised long ago. 14 The Spirit is God’s guarantee that he will give us the inheritance he promised and that he has purchased us to be his own people. He did this so we would praise and glorify him.
God’s good pleasure…God’s plan…God’s good pleasure comes down to this – to share the Good News of God’s love – from the prophets of old foretelling the miraculous birth of the Messiah, to the young virgin who gave birth during a time of extreme hardship and persecution; from the Son that was born and who lived in stark contrast to the religion and “religiosity” of his day; to his death at the hands of the leading religious leaders followed by an historical an unprecedented resurrection – THIS was God’s plan: hope, forgiveness, salvation, & the Holy Spirit of promise. This plan, this purpose, this good pleasure of God is Jesus the Christ, the Messiah, the Savior of the world. And we celebrate his birth at Christmas because it was the beginning of the fulfillment of God’s good pleasure, plan and purpose for you and for me. Hope has come – the light of the world has arrived – and we bask in his glory as it shines to every tongue, tribe and nation.
These candles are the anticipation of his coming. And this last one is the announcement of his arrival. They are symbols that remind us to believe in Him, to accept His forgiveness and salvation, and to shine the light of His love throughout the coming year. As our friends come to light this last candle, consider these things today.