Summary: When God comes, it seems inconvenient to us, but it is the right time. And when we cannot get Him to arrive when we want Him, that simply is not the right time.
While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. The time came? Whose time? What kind of timing is this? A child deserves to be born in the surroundings of home, not in some strange place scores of miles away. A young woman wants to give birth to her child with her own mother standing by to fuss over her and her own father pacing the floor outside, trying to contain his tears and be manly. But while they were there .. in Bethlehem, following some bureaucrat’s orders, paying taxes, of all things. The time came. Most inconvenient.
But then much of what God does is inconvenient. It’s not according to our timetable, it is not done for our convenience, and it certainly has nothing to do with our preferences. The Scripture says that “His ways are not our ways”. God is generally inconvenient. He works in a mysterious way; and sometimes, as one of our members loves to say, He works in a mischievous way! The time came.
What time was it, exactly, when the word became flesh? Why this moment, why this place and this time? The gospel writers take pains to report the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, the hometown of Israel’s greatest king, David. They want us to know that this one who is born tonight is not an accident, but was of the house and lineage of David, immersed in covenant history, a part of God’s ongoing plan. He is not an afterthought. He is not an experiment. He is not trial-and-error salvation. His coming was in the heart of God from the day we fell from our created perfection into our universal imperfection. What God purposed in Genesis and labored on at the Exodus, what God wrought in David and struggled with when Israel fell to its enemies, all of that came to climax now. Let the promised one be born in Bethlehem, so that all would see instantly that the sure mercies promised to David were coming to pass. If Caesar is cooperative and decrees that all go to their ancestral homes, so be it. All the better. God uses what we think is our idea and uses it for His purposes. The time had come.
How many times have you and I thought that things were off course, out of kilter, and that the timing just was not right for the things that were happening? I know that many times in the last fifteen years here I have proposed things, asked you to do things, and you have said “no”. I went home and grumbled, only to learn later that if you had said “yes” at that time, it would have been a mistake. Now never saying, “yes”, that would be a mistake too, but sometimes we just have to wait until the time comes when God can use what is happening around us for His intentions.
The gospel also takes pains to report the birth of Jesus in a particular time in the world’s history .. when Rome’s military power and Judaism’s spiritual power had reached high level of frustration. The relationship between Rome and that little province of Judea was not good. And in only a few years it would erupt into violence, with Roman power overwhelming Judea and destroying the Temple. Had Jesus been born much sooner, there would not have been the spiritual readiness for His message; but had He been born much later, there would have been no stability in which for Him to do His work. He came at the right time, when frustration was high but not yet total. The time came.
How often we feel frustration at not being able to do all we want to do! We cannot get our Christmas shopping done, too many interruptions. We cannot organize our Christmas party, bank account’s overdrawn. We cannot get on the road, traffic’s backed up. We are in such a hurry. But I have almost learned .. not quite, but almost .. that I don’t have to make everything happen. I don’t have to plan every detail. I don’t have to worry about minutiae. I have almost learned that some things take care of themselves, and that in the providence of God, the right time will come.
These days are difficult for us as a community of faith. To lose two of our finest men, our most senior deacons, in a few days’ time, is hard. It’s frustrating. We were not ready, we are not ready. Some are already saying, “Everybody is dying off; the place is falling apart.”
But look what God is doing among us! Do you not see forty new members this year alone? Do you not see debts paid and programs initiated and souls won to Christ? The Lord left Ed Mitchell and Carroll Reed among us for a time, but the time came when we could carry out their vision. And we will, by the help of Christ.