December, 2010

Reflections on Christmas

Nothing can capture for me the mystery and the beauty of Christmas better than the carols we sing. They have the power to recreate in my imagination the scenes of the first Christmas. …

One carol we sing at Christmas asks the question,

“What child is this, who, laid to rest,
On Mary’s lap is sleeping?
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet,
While shepherds watch are keeping?”

And the chorus answers,

“This, this is Christ the King,
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing:
Haste, haste, to bring Him laud,
The Babe, the son of Mary.”

I am sure the shepherds asked the same question when they went into the stable on that first Christmas Day: “What Child is this?” But no one had an adequate answer. Mary, you remember, “kept all these things and pondered them in her heart,” (Luke 2:19 KJV). She did not know what the answer was.

You never can answer that question until you have the full record unfolded in the Gospel accounts of the silent years in Nazareth and the coming of age of Jesus, his baptism by John, the trudging up and down the hills of Galilee and Judea with his disciples, the teaching, the miracles, and finally, the last crowded dramatic week in Jerusalem that culminated in the cross and the blazing glory of resurrection.

And then it still was not over. There was the moment in Jerusalem when the Spirit was poured out upon the waiting disciples. The whole city was gathered to hear the great sound of a rushing wind in the wonder of Pentecost. It is only then you begin to get a full answer to this question, “What Child is this?”

Reflections on Christ’s Coming

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. – Galatians 4:4-7

Man’s bondage under the law continued for about 1,300 years…. But at last the fullness of time arrived (Mark 1:15) – the date set by the Father when the children should attain their majority, be freed from their guardians and inherit the promise.

Why is the period of Christ’s coming termed ‘the fullness of time’?  Various factors combined to make it such.  For instance, it was the time when Rome had conquered and subdued the known inhabited earth, when Roman roads had been built to facilitate travel and Roman legions had been stationed to guard them.

It was also the time when the Greek language and culture had given a certain cohesion to society.  At the same time, the old mythological gods of Greece and Rome were losing their hold on the common people, so that the hearts and minds of men everywhere were hungry for a religion that was real and satisfying.

Further, it was the time when the law of Moses had done its work of preparing men for Christ, holding them under its tutelage and in its prison, so that they longed ardently for the freedom with which Christ could make them free.

– John R. W. Stott