I like getting what I want fast. Maybe you do too. As a culture, we are addicted to speed. We grow up fast, we work fast, we learn fast, we drive fast, we cook fast, we eat fast, we communicate fast. Unless you spend some significant time outside of Western culture, it is easy to see fast as normal. It’s not.
In its defense, fast has its advantages. If we’re injured or sick, fast saves lives and limbs. If we’re traveling, fast gives us more time to work and play. If we’re in danger, fast preserves us from harm. Fast expands our horizons, allowing us to see and do more with our time.
But fast also warps us in profound ways. Fast makes it difficult to forge meaningful relationships with God and with each other. Fast deludes us into believing that we are independent agents in control of our own destiny. Fast exhausts us, emptying us of the energy we need to laugh, love, and linger over what is beautiful. Fast is a harsh taskmaster.
In Galatians 4:4-5 Paul wrote, “But when the time had fully come, God sent his son, born of a woman, born under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.” A millennium had passed since Moses first promised that God would “raise up a prophet” from Israel to speak God’s word definitively (Deut. 18:18). The people of Israel had grown tired of waiting for God’s promised Messiah. But God wasn’t in a hurry.
God awaited the “fullness of time,” patiently aligning conditions and environment. Jesus was born during the reign of Tiberius Caesar (Luke 3:1), when Rome had built a vast network of roads. Jesus was born into Hellenistic society, where Greek was spoken in every city and country. Jesus was born at a time when the Jews were scattered from Spain to Persia and everywhere in between. Paul and the other apostles--traveling on Roman roads, speaking the Greek language, and supported by scattered Jewish enclaves--proclaimed the gospel of Jesus Christ to many nations. We enjoy the blessings of Jesus today because God made his people wait.
Advent teaches us that the fullness of time is a pretty good thing. It is rarely easy to wait. When we’re anxious, we want God to answer and act right away. By slowing us down, God makes space for us to develop a relationship with him. God cultivates our faith and character. And finally, God brings about the right conditions for us to grow.
May God grant you “the fullness of time” to reflect on the blessing of Jesus’ birth this Advent season. May God grant you the patience to persevere as you wait for his answer. May God give you space to laugh, love, and linger over all that is beautiful this Christmas.
About the Author
Rev. Zachary King is the general secretary of the CRCNA. He is a member of Fuller Avenue CRC in Grand Rapids, Mich.