It’s Christmas all over again. Did you know that there was significant debate in the early church about whether Christmas should be celebrated? Prominent Christian leader and writer Tertullian (A.D.160-225) wrote On Idolatry the following, “Oh better fidelity of the nations to their own sect, which claims no solemnity of the Christians for itself!…Not the Lord’s day, not Pentecost, even if they had known them, would they have shared with us; for they would fear lest they should seem to be Christians. We are not apprehensive lest we seem to be heathens!” There was a concern that by celebrating Jesus at a time when others were celebrating false gods and idols might give the appearance that they were one and the same. As the false practices of the idols began to lose their meaning, the Christians gave rise to new festivals in honor of the one, true God. It is important to recall – even during Christmas in July – that we are not celebrating the holiday, but celebrating our God. We are rejoicing in the incarnation of Jesus, the one who took on human flesh in order to live, die and rise again to free us from the bondage of our sin. That type of celebrating has never been in question among believers. Praise Jesus, the Savior born to us!
“When the time had fully come…” What great words to describe the plan of salvation! Glance briefly through a few amazing moments of God’s intervention with his creation:
The Flood – God judging sin but not with complete destruction. Instead, demonstrating his justice and his patience, God allows humanity to continue, rescuing Noah and his family through the water by a boat.
The Exodus – God rescued his people from slavery in Egypt. The single greatest rescue in recorded history.
The Prophet Isaiah – God calling to his people and giving them a picture of the brokenness of the old covenant, but a promise of the wonders of his love.
Those are great moments of God giving and confirming his word. Yet none of those, or any others that we might mention, represent the moment when the “time had fully come.” None of those was the moment when the “Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1). Those were merely pictures of what God would do in sending his Son. God sent his Son into the world to rescue and redeem lost sinners such as us.
That is something to celebrate, whether in July or December. The date is less important than the event. God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law that in him we might receive the adoption as children. We are saved through the waters of baptism. We are rescued from slavery and bondage to sin. We are redeemed from our brokenness through the wonder of a God who so loved the world that he sent his Son…when the time had fully come.