4 -When the time had fully come, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under law,
5 – to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.
6 -Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, the Spirit Who calls out, ?Abba, Father.?
7 – So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.
One of my favorite historical fiction writers is Jeff Shaara. He?s written books about virtually all the conflicts that America has fought in?from the Revolutionary war through WWII. Shaara has a novel way to write a novel?he tells the story of these real conflicts through the eyes of real people?which makes history seem…well, more like a story.
For example in his books about WWII Shaara helps us to see this world-changing conflict through the eyes of Generals like Eisenhower, Patton, and Rommel?and through those of ordinary soldiers like Sgt Jesse Adams and an unnamed commando who landed on the Normandy beaches ahead of the main force to do vital reconnaissance.
Since WWII was a world war?it would be very hard to tell the entire story of that vast conflict in one book?so Shaara has spread the telling out over three books. I?ve read the first two. Here?s a look at their covers. He just finished the last volume. It arrived on bookshelves a week or so ago. I have it on good authority that it will be in a package with my name on it under the Christmas tree this year. I can?t wait to read it! Here?s a picture of it?in case any of my loved ones need help finding it at Barnes and Noble!
In his first volume Shaara told about the battles in North Africa?the first time American GI?s came into the fray. Here?s a shot of American units preparing for the battle of Kessarine pass. I enjoyed that first book because I had never heard much about that part of WWII. In his second volume Shaara focused on the part of WWII we HAVE all heard about because it is probably the most important battle ever fought on this planet of ours. I?m referring to June 6, 1944?D-DAY?that day allied forces secured a beachhead in France and began the destruction of Hitler?s massive European fortress.
The thing that most stood out to me as I looked at D-day through the eyes of those men who both planned and fought in this gigantic battle is the intricate TIMING of it all. I say this because success on those five French beaches depended on accurately coordinating so many factors. I mean the TIMING had to be perfect on several levels! For example, the WEATHER had to be good so the ships would be able to safely offload their troops onto landing craft out in the channel. The MOON had to be full so that paratroopers and pilots not to mention the captains of the more than 5000 ships that were used to ferry men and equipment…the moon had to be full enough so that everyone could see where they were going. The TIDE had to be high enough for the landing craft to get over the obstacles Rommel had placed along that 50-mile stretch of beach. Faulty but believable INTELLIGENCE had to be sent out so the Germans would think the landing was taking place many miles north in Calais with General Patton in charge. The Allies invented an imaginary army equipped with imaginary equipment for Patton to lead. This is a picture of one of Patton?s fake?inflatable tanks that helped with this ruse.
24,000 paratroopers had to hit their jump zones at night so as to secure roads and bridges for the 175,000 soldiers who would be landing on the beaches the next morning. This is not to mention coordinating the attacks of all these soldiers in a multi-national allied force…which meant Eisenhower had to stroke the egos of several generals and politicians to make this invasion actually happen. In many ways this was more complicated than the battle itself.
As I considered how all these factors had to come together?it hit me that it was a miracle that D-DAY worked. Otherwise in our history books the ?D? in D-DAY would stand for ?defeat? or ?disaster? instead of ?disembarkation.?
I?ve spent all this time talking about the D-DAY invasion because Christmas is the annual celebration of another miraculous invasion?that day of days when Jesus came to invade our world.
Now?to be sure?Jesus? coming didn?t LOOK like your typical invasion. Yes?like the Allied forces He came into an occupied land?a land ruled by the conquering Romans….but there were no ships, no troops, no instruments of war on that ?D-day.? An impressive and powerful army did show up?but they brought song books instead of swords. They left shortly after singing the Invader?s praises. And speaking of the Invader?well, he seemed very ?un-invader-like.? He was just a small, newborn baby wrapped in nothing but rags and laid in a feed trough in a small hamlet called Bethlehem. Other than some shepherds who came to pay their respects, the only people with him when He arrived on our shores were His mother, a Galilean peasant maiden, and a carpenter from Nazareth who had obediently assumed the role of foster dad. I mean?the way Jesus came?well, it didn?t look at all like an invasion. But as the words to a famous poem go,?All the armies that have ever marched, all the navies that have ever sailed, all the parliaments that ever sat, and all the kings that ever reigned…have not affected the life of men on this earth as much as that One Solitary Life.?
If you are our guest this morning then you should know that this Advent we are focusing on the answers to certain questions?questions that help remind us of the SIGNIFICANCE of Jesus? coming and this morning the question we?re seeking answers to is this: ?Why did Jesus invade our world?the WAY He did?? and ?Why is it something we celebrate?? I have two answers that I want you to consider.
(1) First, the manner of Jesus? coming showed God?s perfect TIMING.
The way Jesus ?invaded? our world put a spotlight on how long and how carefully and how wisely God had planned to save us from our sins. And His plan came off perfectly! Jesus ?landed? at the exactly right time and in exactly the right ?beachhead.?
Let me review a few of the factors that show God?s wisdom and careful planning.
A. First, when Jesus came it was a time of PEACE.
And understand?this was unprecedented. The world of that day had never known a time like this when for the most part all conflict ceased. There had always been wars!
- Wars between Babylonians and the nations they conquered.
- Wars between the Medes and the Persians and the Babylonians.
- Wars between the Greeks and the Persians.
- Wars between the Romans and all the nations they conquered.
Even within the world-domineering Roman empire there had been constant conflict.
- There had been Julius Caesar?s crossing the Rubicon, an ?attack? that led to the end of the Republic.
- Then came Caesar?s assassination which was followed by the civil wars in which Antony and Augustus defeated Brutus and Cassius.
- Then there was war between Antony and Augustus.
But once Augustus defeated Antony and became the sole ruler, intra-roman wars ceased.
Augustus also successfully conducted conflicts on the various borders and against the pirates who ruled the seas. With all these victories Augustus established what is known as The Pax Romana.. It lasted from 27BC all the way until AD 180. And, Jesus, the Prince of Peace, was born in this time of an unprecedented absence of conflict. He invaded our world when mankind had laid aside its arms for a little while. Roman law prevailed for over two centuries and under this law the Apostles and early missionaries of the Gospel found protection and security. Whenever rioting occurred as a result of their preaching, there were Roman magistrates to quell the rioting. Remember? On more than one occasion Paul was spared brutal treatment by simply announcing that he was a Roman citizen. So?there was peace?peace that allowed the Gospel to spread unimpeded literally all over the world.
B. Another example of God?s perfect timing is the fact that when Jesus came, the great cities of the world were united by a vast system of HIGHWAYS.
These roads were so carefully constructed that some of them are still in existence. Along these roads Paul and the early missionaries traveled quickly with their good news. Understand, these Roman roads meant there were no rigid borders between provinces?no border checkpoints, no need for passports but instead an ease of movement all around the Empire. And with the pirates gone, ships also made it possible for quicker, safer?more direct?travel.
C. There was also RELIGIOUS FREEDOM at this point in history.
For the most part, Augustus respected the customs and religions of his empire and gave them autonomy?which meant that at least during this chapter of history, Christians did not fear persecution. And this allowed the church to build a firm foundation?one that would survive and even thrive in those future years when persecution did come.
D. Here?s another example of God?s perfect timing. There was a universal LANGUAGE.
Up until this point the world was filled with all kinds of languages and dialects. Mankind hadn?t had a common tongue since the days of Babel. But along came a man named Alexander the Great. He instituted a common language?Greek. It was the most flexible and versatile language people had ever used and by the time Jesus was born, everyone in the world spoke and read a little Greek. Legal documents were written in Greek. I studied Greek in seminary because the New Testament was written in Greek. Well, you can imagine how this hastened the spread of the Gospel.
E. And then, last but not least there was Augustus? CENSUS.
As I said last week, with this proclamation, Augustus was unknowingly serving as God?s errand boy. After all, his census brought these two peasants to Bethlehem?fulfilling Micah?s prophecy?so that Jesus was born exactly where God had said He would be born. Well, the way God brought all these various factors together helps us to understand this phrase in Galatians?where Paul says that Jesus came ?when time was full.? Only omniscient, omnipotent God could bring all this together so perfectly. Only our eternal God could work through the millennia to bring His plan to fruition. In his book, I Never Promised You a Disneyland, Jay Kesler talks about this. Here?s an excerpt:
?When most people think of Christmas, they think of camels, swaddling cloths, and a manger. But I think of a Ford Motor plant. One year I toured a plant and watched them assemble cars.
It was an eye opener. I?d always had the idea Ford would guess how many cars they needed and make that many. They decide to make green cars one day, and they?d make two or three thousand. Then they?d switch to some other color. But of course that?s not the way they do it.
All over America, people walk into Ford dealerships, look around, kick a few tires, and then order a car, a certain model with specific equipment, color, roof, transmission. The dealer fills out a computer card, and then an order is placed with Ford. In one city they make the correct transmission. In another city they make vinyl roofs. And in another, mirrors. All these places start feeding their products toward the Ford plant. The Ford plant has a man who puts on steering wheels. The cars come down the lines, and when the green cars come, you can bet he doesn’t get a red steering wheel to put on. At exactly the right time the green steering wheels are there. He reaches out and grabs one and sticks it on. That?s what happens with each part. The mirror, the roof, the seat covers?every part shows up at precisely the right instant. Now, if man is capable of designing such an ingenious system to bring thousands of events and people together with precise timing just to make a car, well imagine what God can do in preparing his visit to earth! That?s what I think of at Christmas. The number of things God brought together at one time in one place and so incredible, it makes the Ford plant look like the corner gas station. Some people have the idea that Jesus was a remedial action?a last-minute Band-Aid stuck on a wounded world. They think that God had tried everything else, so he decided to try His Son. But the Bible says Jesus came in the fullness of time and everything was as fully prepared for Him as possible. All the pieces of history fell together. God?s preparation was staggering.?
Now?I share this not just to make you praise God for His perfect timing?but in the hopes that it will encourage us all to trust God?s perfect timing in our own lives.
I mean, one thing that Christmas should help us to understand is the fact that God not only knows WHAT is best for you and me?He also knows WHEN it is best.Jesus? coming?His invasion into our world?should help each of us to trust God?s providential care. It should help us learn to wait on His perfect timing.
In Henri Nouwen’s book, Sabbatical Journeys, he writes about some friends who were trapeze artists and called themselves The Flying Roudellas. One thing they told Nouwen was that there?s a very special relationship between the flyer and the catcher on the trapeze. The flyer is the one that lets go, and the catcher is the one that catches. As you might imagine, this relationship is important-especially to the flyer. When the flyer is swinging high above the crowd on the trapeze, the moment comes when he must let go. He arcs out into the air and his job is to remain as still as possible waiting for the strong hands of the catcher to pluck him from the air. This trapeze artist told Nouwen, ?The flyer must never try to catch the catcher. He must wait in patient, absolute trust. The catcher will catch him. But He must wait.?
In life there will be times when we feel like we are just hanging there and we wonder what is taking God so long. In those times of waiting, we will be tempted to take things into our own hands but we must learn like the trapeze artist to trust our Catcher, to say with the Psalmist, ?I trust in You, O Lord; I say, ?You are my God.? My times are in Your hands.? (Psalm 31:14-15 a) We must cling to Jesus? promise in Luke 18:7 where He said, ?God will always give what is right to His people who cry to him night and day, and He will not be slow [according to His perfect timing] to answer them.? When we experience seemingly endless times of waiting we need the patience of the man who prayed, ?God, I cannot grasp Your mind, but with my whole heart I trust Your love.? God?s timing is ALWAYS perfect! At Christmas we not only REJOICE in that fact. We learn to REST in it. We learn to trust that in His perfect timing God really will work in all things for our good. We learn to have faith that He Who began a good work in us will be faithful to complete it in the right way?at the right time.
Here?s another reason we celebrate the way Jesus invaded our world.
(2) We celebrate because Jesus came with the perfect MESSAGE.
It was just what mankind needed to hear, and as further testament to God?s excellent timing, for the first time, people were truly READY to listen. You see, when Jesus came there was a moral and religious vacuum in the world?a vacuum that made people hungry for the message Jesus He was born to bring. Several things contributed to this hunger.
First, the world was one where slaves made up a substantial part of the population. Slavery made life cheap, and cheap life produced a low morality and low morality…well, it makes people feel hopeless. It adds nothing but sorrow to life. Let me put it this way?on that first Christmas morn, many people felt as if they were swimming around in a morally polluted sea, and there was this longing to be morally clean again. You may remember that when Paul preached in the synagogues, he often found Gentile seekers there, not so much in search of Israel?s God as in Israel?s morality.
There was also widespread religious doubt and cynicism about the old ?gods.? Many people finally wised up such that they realized the false gods of the past were indeed false. Experience taught them that man-made gods couldn?t meet man?s needs. ?gods? of wood and stone couldn?t help humans be moral. And they were powerless when it came to satisfying this inborn longing we all have for fellowship with our Creator. I mean, worshiping a god of stone was like hitting a stone wall when it came to satisfying this hunger all people have for God.
In short, the year when Jesus was born was a year in which the world was longing for its Creator to act. Humanity was HUNGRY for God. It?s like the lyrics that Amy Grant sings, ?Tears are falling. Hearts are breaking. How we need to hear from God. You?ve been promised. We?ve been waiting. Welcome, Holy Child!? Like the people of Europe HUNGRY for the Allies to free them from the Nazis, when Jesus was born, mankind HUNGERED for the message He came to bring.
And even Jesus? birthplace symbolized the fact that He came to satisfy that hunger. Remember? The word ?Bethlehem? means ?house of bread.? What better place for the BREAD OF LIFE to come into our world! I mean, Jesus came to fulfill God?s promise through the prophet Isaiah when He said, ?Come all you who are thirsty and hungry…and I will give you bread that will satisfy the hunger of your soul!? (Isaiah 55:1ff)
Well, people today still long to hear the message Jesus came to bring for the same basic reasons. In the depth of their souls all people still hunger for the PERFECT MESSAGE of Christmas. This is why stadiums filled to overflowing for a Billy Graham crusade. This is why when he shared the basic unadorned Gospel message thousands of hungry souls would respond. It?s why we rejoice this time each year as we sing,?In thy dark streets shineth, the Everlasting Light! The hopes and fears of all the years are met in Thee tonight!? And they are! Let me remind you why! Let?s review exactly WHY Jesus? message is PERFECT?why it?s just what we need to hear.
First. We all know deep in our hearts that certain actions are wrong?but we still do them. This is because as a fallen and falling being?we are all slaves to sin?s POWER. This is what Paul talked about in Romans 7:14-15, when he said, ?I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate, I do.? We feel guilty for the wrong that we do?but on our own we are powerless to change.
We are also slaves to sin?s DESTINY?death. The words of Romans 6:23 ring true. It terrifies us to know that ?The wages of sin is death.?
And here?s one more bit of bad news. Sin ruins any chance of our having a relationship with God. We know He?s there. All we have to do is look at the intricate beauty of this world and know in our hearts that there is a God and He loves us but our problem is?God is holy and a holy Being won?t mix with a sinful one anymore than oil will with water. Our sin separates us from God and we know it. We long for the relationship with God that Adam and Eve once had?but on our own there?s nothing we can do to get it back.
Just as Europe was enslaved to Hitler?s power?we are enslaved by sin?s power. We long to be freed?but on our own we can?t. So, the news that Jesus has come is wonderful news?FREEING news! As Romans 8:2 says, ?Jesus set us free from the law of sin and death.?
Murdo McDonald was a pastor in Scotland during that war. He was taken prisoner by the Germans and since the American prisoners of war didn?t have a chaplain, he elected to stay with them in their camp which was close by the English camp. The prisoners in the English camp kept in touch with the outside world through an underground radio. A Scotsman met daily with McDonald and across the barbed wire fence, he told him about news received from the BBC. McDonald then relayed the news to the men in the American camp. Their conversations were in Gaelic?which of course the Germans couldn?t understand. Early one morning someone woke McDonald, shouting in his ear: ?The Scotsman wants to see you?it?s terribly important!? McDonald put on his clothes as quickly as possible and ran to the barbed wire fence where the Scotsman spoke two words in Gaelic that meant, ?They?ve come!? It was D-day! The word spread rapidly. The reaction was incredible. Men shouted for joy, hugged one another, leaped into the air, and rolled on the ground with abandon. Freedom and deliverance were on the way! News spread throughout both camps and every prisoner rejoiced. They?d been longing to hear those two words for so very long!
Well, as I said, that?s why Jesus? message is so wonderful. It?s the PERFECT message because it?s exactly what we need to hear. We long to be free and Jesus alone makes that possible. As Paul says in our text, Jesus was fully human, born of a woman, born under the law, just as you and I were. That is to say like you and me Jesus was subject to God?s demand for perfect obedience. The big difference is He kept God?s law perfectly because He was not a slave to sin.
He fought our battles with temptation and won! And because He did?since Jesus was SINLESS in thought, word, and deed, He could and did pay the price for your freedom with His own death on a cruel cross. He took the punishment that we deserved. He died YOUR death?MY death. This was God?s plan. Jesus CAME?He was literally BORN to DIE. And because Jesus was obedient even to death on the cross, when we admit our sin to God and ask for His forgiveness, God gives it. In that simple faith-filled prayer, our sins are washed away and from then on God sees us as pure. As Colossians 1:22 says, ?Now God has reconciled you by Christ?s physical body through death to present you holy in His sight, without blemish and free from accusation.?
So?the PERFECT message of Christmas?is that Jesus came to make our FREEDOM possible!
Booker T. Washington said that every morning of his young life, he along with all the plantation slaves, were awakened by the crow of a rooster. Long before daybreak the unwelcome noise would fill the sod shanties, reminding Washington and his fellow workers to crawl out of bed and leave for the cotton fields. The rooster?s crow came to symbolize their dictated life of long days and backbreaking labor as slaves. But then came the Emancipation Proclamation. Abraham Lincoln pronounced freedom for slaves! The first morning afterward, young Booker was awakened by the rooster again. Only this time his mother was chasing it around the barnyard with an ax. The Washington family fried and ate their alarm clock for lunch. Can you imagine their joy?to know that they were finally free?!
Well, this is the same kind of JOY that Christians celebrate each Christmas. We rejoice over the fact that in God?s perfect timing, Jesus came. He came proclaiming the perfect message.
LET US PRAY