Some people claim that there could be no more opportune time for the coming of Jesus than the time God actually chose. The Roman Empire, they argue, brought about unparalleled peace and stability, an opportunity to travel as never before, and an intermingling of cultures that brought an openness to new ideas – just the sort of world in which the gospel could quickly spread. It’s a beguiling argument, but it doesn’t work, for the fact is there are many other times in history for which an equally strong case could be made. If Jesus had come today, for example, how much more of an impact could he have made? Using modern technology, he could have relayed his message around the world in seconds. Instead of preaching to relatively small crowds for most of his ministry, he could have addressed whole continents live by satellite. Surely if any era can claim the tile, the fullness of time, it is today?
Yet God didn’t chose today or indeed any other date or time we might care to suggest – God chose that day in the region of the Emperor Augustus when Mary and Joseph had gone to Bethlehem to be taxed. Why Then? We cannot say for we don’t know the workings of God’s mind. Is timing is of his choosing, no one else’s. There is a lesson here concerning not just the birth of Christ but the whole of life. We may wonder sometimes why our prayers are not answered as quickly as we would like. Equally, we may find that God is calling us to grasp the moment when we want to hang back, reluctant to commit ourselves. Advent reminds us that God’s timetable and ours may not be the same, and it asks us if we are ready to put God’s timing first?
Do you feel impatient with God sometimes, or do you feel, on the contrary, that God is pushing you too fast? Perhaps it is time to consider his timetable, rather than your own. Perhaps this could be your prayer this week?
Loving God, help me to recognize that what may seem the right time may be the wrong time, and what may seem to be the wrong time is in fact the perfect time. Teach me to seek your guidance, and to respond as you direct. Amen (Nick Fawcett)