Each year as Christmas comes I find myself shaking my head at what God has done. I cannot fathom, in my earthly thinking, how God’s one and only Son could give up the perfection of heaven to come and live as one of His created beings. How he could experience this lowly life in order to give his life for me! While I cannot fathom it I truly rejoice in His decision. No greater love has ever been expressed!
And yet, not only do I find myself in wonder about the fact He came, I also find myself stunned by the manner in which God sent His Son. I’m especially bewildered by the timing. Why send Jesus during the Roman empire times? Why not do it now when He could have announced it on the internet? Can you imagine God’s Facebook page? “Something big is about to happen… my Son is coming to visit… not me, but you!” What a tweet that could have been. And yet when I look at it a little deeper I realize the timing does make sense. Consider the following:
- Alexander the Great had conquered the world and Alexander had established Greek as kind of a universal language. Thus, when Jesus was born, it was one of the rare times that almost all the people of the world could communicate with each other.
- After Alexander the Great, Rome conquered the world. Now, it was no picnic for the Jews to be under Roman oppression but Rome made it possible for worldwide travel. Good roads were built, visa’s from one country to another were unnecessary. This was the time of “Pax Romana,” peace established through Rome’s military strength. So it was a rare time of peace when missionary travel, like for the apostle Paul, was very easy. Also, during this time the Jews were spread around the globe. When Jesus was born, because of persecution and because of the poor economy in Palestine, the Jews had settled in almost every land. So, in nearly every village there was a little pocket of people who believed in one God and that He was going to send a Savior. And so the soil had been cultivated in almost every region of the world for the reception of the gospel.
That’s why Galatians 4:4 says, “But when the time had fully come, God sent his son…” It wasn’t when I would have done it but but it was no accident that God picked out that one day in history. His timing was exactly right. When Jesus was crucified, over His head was a sign that read, “King of the Jews.” And that sign was written in Greek, Latin and Hebrew; a reminder that Christ was dying for all the peoples of the world, at exactly the right time.
But there was one last minute detail that needed to be worked out. The prophet Micah, in Micah 5:2 had predicted that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. Mary and Joseph were residents of Nazareth. Nazareth was 80 miles away from Bethlehem. Charles Swindoll wrote: “Augustus thought he was hot stuff, prancing about the palace, demanding that census. In reality, he was little more than a wisp of lint on the prophetic page. A pawn in the hands of the commander of `operation arrival.’” Mary and Joseph, at just exactly the right time, had to take a trip to Bethlehem. And while they were there, the time came for the baby to born, exactly as God planned.
I don’t know about you but just the timing of Jesus’ birth blows me away. Because it makes me realize how amazing God is. His choosing of that day in history demonstrates His perfect knowledge of the human condition, of my condition. God knew exactly what I needed. I’m not a mistake maker needing counseling or encouragement. I’m a sinner needing a Savior. And that is what God has provided… at exactly at the right time.