As Christmas and New Year's comes around every year, most of us have the sense that time is passing, and we are watching it happen. But few know where it is going or what it is about. The most important thing for us to know regarding the passing of time is that all of it is about two key events in history and life, namely, the first and second Coming (or Advent) of the Lord Jesus Christ. As a result, no matter when a person has lived throughout history, they either have been or are waiting for one of the Lord's comings. Once we begin to understand that fact, the passing of time and life itself will begin to make sense. Joyfully, there is a plan in place that we can understand. Without such a plan and purpose for time, life can end up just becoming a series of meaningless events that come and go. Sadly, that is the way most people see life and even the holidays.
When life doesn't make much sense, and the passing of time becomes weary and dreary, people get depressed and despondent. This Christmas, many are being gripped with a crisis of meaning and purpose that are reflected in some shocking statistics. As an example, a current Wall Street Journal article reports, "Drug and Alcohol Deaths at U.S. Workplaces Soar", was written that reflects our society's growing pain. The article goes on to state that drug and alcohol deaths in the U.S. have jumped more than 30% in 2016 alone as the struggle with a deadly opioid epidemic migrates to the workplace. Without a meaning and purpose to life and the passing of time, people don't know where to turn. This, of course, is not a new problem in America. It is part of the human condition and our broken lives. In the Bible, King Solomon spoke about this emptiness of life in Ecclesiastes 1:2-4 without God's purposes when he wrote,
"Meaningless! Meaningless!" says the Teacher. "Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless." What does man gain from all his labor at which he toils under the sun? Generations come, and generations go, but the earth remains forever." (NIV)
This epidemic of meaninglessness has especially gripped our youth today, who are often told that life has no purpose, and the passing of time has no goal or direction. The young and our society in general are also finding out that technology can be very lonely and empty in the end. A smart phone and all our toys and distractions can't add meaning to life or bring joy to our lives.
Now according to the Bible, the Lord brings ALL time and life to a clear and amazing focus or fullness only twice in history. This again happens at the Lord's first and second comings. The world is currently celebrating the Lord's first coming this Christmas as we look to His second coming in the near future. The Apostle Paul wrote that the Lord had shaped history to prepare for Jesus' coming that first Christmas in Galatians 4:4-5 when he said,
But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, in order that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. (NAS)
The Apostle Paul is telling us that the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ that first Christmas was THE purpose and meaning to time, history and life up to that point. In other words, all the events of history were designed and used to bring about a preparation or "fullness" of time for our Lord's birth in Bethlehem. This "fullness of time" would eventually lead to our Lord's ministry, death on the Cross, Resurrection, the evangelization of the West and the transformation of Western Civilization leading to the birth of our Nation as well.
To make all of these amazing events unfold, the Lord created and used all the leaders, nations and events of the world to be His servants to prepare the way for His own coming. Before His birth, the Lord used Alexander the Great to bring a common Greek language to the known world, followed by the Roman Caesars to unify everyone with good roads for the Gospel message to be spread. It was under this common Greek language, with great Roman roads, that the Apostles wrote the New Testament and spread its message under the peace, protection and cover of the "Pax Romana", or Roman Peace. The world had been prepared for Jesus' coming. Since our Lord's coming was in the "fullness of time" things exploded, fulfilling the Lord's astonishing purposes. As the Lord's purposes rapidly unfolded, the Roman Empire was totally changed from paganism to Christianity in just a short period. The growing Christian Faith shaped Europe and Western Civilization over the last 2000 years in a way the world can scarcely imagine from the days of the Caesars. No, Jesus conquered the Roman world because His coming was in the "fullness of time."
Now what many people seem to forget is that this principle of the "fullness of time" is again underway. Nothing has ever changed with the Lord. Every leader, nation and event of history and time are being shaped into a glorious tapestry of love waiting for His return. That is the wonder of Christmas! The joy, hope, peace and love of the Christmas Season are NOT just about His first coming, but also the anticipation of His return. Sometimes it seems that the Church has forgotten that message and gotten lost with the emptiness of our cultural sirens that have no message, just distractions. The Church is THE herald of the Lord's coming in the "fullness of time." That is the message of the hour for the Lord's people. Time and life are NOT meaningless; it is all focused on two, glorious comings of the Lord Jesus Christ. That is the wonder and power of the Lord's sovereignty to shape the entire course of history to bring about His redemptive love story to the world. It is a story that is not often told and needs to be shouted from the rooftops right now as His return is drawing closer.
You see, this very moment the world speaks a common language called English. That language came not through Alexander the Great, but from the British Empire and her colonies like America that made English the language the of the world. In addition, instead of the old Roman world, Europe and the United States, Rome's descendants, became the agents of the communication revolution that has united and allowed that common language to be everywhere. The fact that a person in the USA can call people with a typical smart phone all over the world and have a conversation in English is just amazing and beyond words. It is a miracle created by the Lord so that the entire world would hear the Gospel in a language they can understand. Yes, in the "fullness of time" the Lord is preparing everything for His glorious return.
Once we begin to see the Hand of the Lord at work in time, history and our lives things change. We move from despair to discipleship. We begin to see a future and a hope, not meaningless events of daily living. The moment we get tuned into the "fullness of time" this Christmas, we can begin to celebrate its ultimate meaning. That is our birthright and destiny as human beings, as Christians: to leave the emptiness of the world behind and join the people of God in a celebration that will never end.