The Advent of the Gospel: Perfectly timed in imperfect circumstances
When God says, the Advent of Christ (the coming of the Gospel, Colossians 1:5-6) was perfectly timed (Galatians 4:4; Titus 1:1-3), do we believe His sense of timing is best also for our lives? Mary was greatly inconvenienced by the trip from the Galilee to Bethlehem during her third trimester (Luke 2:1-7), yet it all made sense in the end. Oftentimes the timing of God is a great disrupter in our own lives. Yet we can trust Him that nothing is really left to luck. As we put our trust in Him, especially during the seasons of our lives where nothing seems to make sense, we, like Mary will find that the mundane (and the discomfort) is weaved seamlessly into Our Father’s divine purposes.
Maybe we feel we have missed opportunities with God and with others. Maybe we even feel it’s too late. The Advent of the Gospel is a fresh reminder that with God, it’s never too late to turn back to him. In fact, the Gospel has been bearing fruit and increasing (Colossians 1:5-6) for over 2000 years, down to Advent 2019. It will continue to grow until the Second Advent of Christ, when He comes in might to finally deal with the power of sin, death and the devil.
For deeper reflection:
The story of Christmas takes on many shapes in the Bible. The obvious one comes from the Gospels of Matthew and Luke but other books of the Bible speak of the coming of Jesus as well. The Apostle Paul has his own way of describing the birth of Jesus. In Galatians 4:4 and in Titus 1:1-3 he underscores the perfect timing of God to send Jesus to save us. In Colossians 1:5-6 Paul talks about the “coming” of the “Gospel.” The word for “coming” is actually the word from where we get “advent” in English. So the coming of the Gospel in Colossians 1:5-6 goes deep into the meaning of Christmas. The Advent of the Gospel is dynamic, it bears fruit and increases throughout the world!
Isaiah 40:9-11 describes the “good news (where we get the word “Gospel”) in powerful terms for us: The Gospel is no less than the coming/advent of the Lord and the revelation of both His might and His gentleness. The description of His “arms” of “strength” is stark reminder that the coming of Christ is to deliver us from the most powerful of enemies: sin, death and the devil. Nothing short of the might of the Almighty God, creator of Heaven and Earth will deliver us! The coming of the savior is also through the gentle leading of the good shepherd. He comes to us and embraces us in his “arms” as the loving and gentle God that He is.
In all these images (and so many others) the perfect timing of God is emphasized. God is never too late or too early. A scientist in our congregation reminded me this week of the ‘Goldilocks Principle’ when it comes to the placement of planet earth in the Solar System: not too far (too cold) and not too close (too hot), but just right. The Advent account in Luke (Luke 2:1-7) alludes to this idea of precise timing and plan of God. The coming of the Gospel is not relegated to luck, but follows the careful plan of God, even if this plan means great disruptions for us! This was clearly the case for Mary, who in her third trimester, had to go on an administrative errand from the Galilee to Bethlehem. Luke seamlessly weaves the mundane with the divine. She is “betrothed” to “Joseph” yet she is pregnant. How can that be? The child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. “In those days” (Luke 2:1) is matched by the “the time came for her to give birth (Luke 2:6, Greek the ‘days were fulfilled’). So the sense of fulfillment according to plan is conveyed in the original text. Her ill-timed journey (and most certainly very uncomfortable) becomes perfectly timed. Why? Because the coming of the Lord Jesus, the descendant of David, was prophesied by Micah 5:2 as coming from Bethlehem, the city of David’s origin. God used the Emperor Augustus’ edict to make sure the Advent would be timed perfectly and at the right place. This is what Paul means when he says that at the “proper time” (God’s own timing, Titus 1:3), the promise announced “ages ago” (=before eternity began, literally) would be fulfilled. This sort of high-level control of the events speaks loudly of God’s providential guidance in the coming of Jesus. As His followers, by faith, our Heavenly Father won’t leave anything to chance in our own lives either.