By Greg Laurie. www.WND.com
How often do you look at your watch in a given day? Or check the time? Or ask someone else what time it is? Why do we do that? We do it because we govern our lives by time. There is a time that we get up in the morning. There is a time when we go to work or school. There is a time when we go home. There is a time when we go to bed and when we get up the next morning and repeat the process. We live our lives by the clock, and we have a constant awareness of time.
According to the Bible, we even live our lives for a certain period of time – not a moment longer and not a moment shorter. You can eat free-range chicken and organic vegetables and use all of the lotions and potions and special vitamins available, but you will not live one day longer than God wants you to live. Nor will you live one day shorter. The Bible says, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under Heaven: a time to be born and a time to die” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-2 NIV).
As one person said, “Men talk of killing time while time quietly kills them.” The problem is that we spend a lot of our lives doing things we would rather not be doing. We have control over some of these things, but not all of them. For example, the average Americans will spend six months of their lives sitting at traffic lights, one year searching desk clutter for misplaced objects, five years waiting in lines, three years in meetings and eight months opening junk mail.
As C. S. Lewis said, “The future is something that everyone reaches at the rate of 60 minutes an hour, whatever he does, whoever he is.”
We live by time, while God exists outside of time. I am not implying that God is unaware of time, because He is completely aware of every minute and second of our lives and everything that is happening in them. But God lives in the eternal realm. Therefore, we might say that God’s interpretation of time is quite different from ours.
God has His own timing, and there are times in life when it appears to us as though God is late, as though God is somehow disengaged and not paying attention. And sometimes as we look at the way the world is going, we wonder whether God is aware of what it is like right now.
That is how it was at the time of Jesus’ birth. Israel was tired of waiting. They felt it was time for the Messiah to arrive. Those were difficult and dark days in the history of Israel. In fact, the time in which they were living when Christ finally came was almost as bad as it was under Pharaoh’s rule in Egypt, because they were under the control of Rome and the tyrannical rule of the puppet King Herod.
While Herod was known for the great buildings he erected, he was also known for his paranoia. He would have anyone he saw as a potential threat to his throne killed. He had two of his sons put to death because he thought they would try to lead a coup against him. It was said of Herod that it was better to be one of his pigs than one of his sons.
The fact is that 6 B.C. was a lousy time to be living in Judea. People were wondering when God was going to intervene. They had not heard from Him for 400 years. Not a single prophet had delivered a message from Heaven. There had been no miracles and no angelic appearances – only a stony silence from Heaven. The people were probing. They were searching. They were wondering when things were going to change.
But there was a sense that something was in the air, that something was about to break. And indeed it was – because the moment was coming for the Messiah to arrive. It all started with the aged priest, Zacharias. As he was in the Temple bringing sacrifices on behalf of the people, the angel Gabriel came to him with the announcement that he would be the father of the forerunner of Jesus, John the Baptizer. The wonderful story was about to unfold.
But we need to understand that the Christmas story did not start in Luke or in Matthew. The Christmas story began much farther back. Although Jesus was born in a manger in Bethlehem, being God and being a part of the Trinity, He is pre-existent. He is eternal. When we celebrate His birth in the manger in Bethlehem, we are celebrating when He came to this world as a man. But He has always been and always will be. Jesus said, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End” (Revelation 21:6 NIV).
Isaiah summed it up well when he said, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given” (Isaiah 9:6). That gives us the story of the arrival of Jesus from both Heaven and Earth’s perspective. “To us a child is born” is the story of a birth. “To us a son is given” is the story of a departure from Heaven.
From Heaven’s perspective, the Son left glory and came to walk among us and breathe our air and live our life and then die our death. From Earth’s perspective, God came to us as a man who was deity in diapers – God almighty as a little, helpless baby.
When the angel appeared to a group of shepherds and announced, “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11 NIV), essentially he was saying, “Don’t look to the palace for the savior of the world. Look to the manger in Bethlehem. Don’t look at that self-proclaimed god in Rome wrapped in satin, but look at the baby wrapped in swaddling clothes. There is the savior of the world.” He came and gave up everything to serve us. It was the ultimate gift to humanity. His pain was our gain.
Someone wisely said that history swings on the hinge of the door of a stable in Bethlehem. This was the moment in human history that God chose to bring us a Savior. And our world has never been the same.