The Fullness of Time: Christmas 2023 Granite State Edition

“But when the fullness of time had come,
God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law,
to redeem those who were under the law,
so that we might receive adoption as sons.”
Galatians 4.4-5, ES

This Christmas, amid the turmoil in the world, we may feel that we’re on the edge of another “fullness of time” moment. How should we best posture ourselves at this critical juncture?

With New Hampshire’s unexpectedly-controversial first-in-the-nation primary on January 23rd, we recognize a fast-approaching crossroads in a country coming apart at the seams. The turmoil of the elections is also reflected in the culturally divisive issues that will continue to play out in our state legislature this upcoming lawmaking session, as proposed bills impacting life, educational freedom, and gender come up for debate.

God’s people have been no strangers to having to wait for God-ordained “fullness of time” moments. Will we fully cooperate with Him and be patient as he unfolds His plan at His pace this new year?

To provide some context, the roughly 400-year period between the Old Testament prophet Malachi’s ministry and the arrival of Jesus lasted longer than the United States has existed as a nation. The Israelites had every reason to be discouraged. Although they had been freed from Babylonian exile since the 6th century BC, the nation had not coalesced and thrived as their post-exilic leaders had originally hoped. And then, in the early 60’s BC, the Roman Empire became their newest captors. Although the vassal-king Herod undertook massive building projects aimed at placating the Jews such as the expansion of the Temple in Jerusalem, true God-followers would have abhorred Herod’s stop-at-nothing cruelty and his extremely “political” leadership. When would breakthrough come for God’s people? Where was the long-awaited Messiah?

In our own American story, we remember how close we came to dissolving as a country only seventy years into our national existence. With Confederate victories commonplace during the first half of 1863, the battle of Gettysburg in July would serve as a “fullness of time” moment for Union forces that would change the tide of the war in their favor. At the epicenter of that moment was a New Englander, Maine’s Colonel Joshua Chamberlain, on a hill called Little Round Top. Sick from dysentery and malaria, with little remaining ammunition, and outnumbered and surrounded by the advancing Confederate troops, Chamberlain and his men miraculously repulsed the Confederate charge with fixed bayonets and a flanking maneuver that tricked the enemy into retreating. Several of Israel’s supernaturally-tinged Old Testament battle victories come to mind.

Like God’s people of antiquity, and like our fellow Americans of just seven generations ago, this Christmas we 21st-century Granite Staters find ourselves again in need of a breakthrough of Biblical proportions. We need a distinctly God-initiated interruption of our story.

We are perplexed by our culture’s militant rejection of what to us is the common-sense defense of the vulnerable: the protection of innocent life in the womb; the safeguarding of young hearts, minds, and bodies from destructive, sometimes-irreversible “solutions” to complex identity & sexuality issues; and the prioritization of parental authority in the formation of our children.

We fear disruption, upheaval, and even violence related to the upcoming presidential election of 2024, even while some wonder if our election process maintains any integrity in the digital age.

We struggle to make sense of disruptive events on our own southern border and conflicts on foreign shores, be they in the Ukraine & Russia, in Israel & Gaza, or in Armenia & Azerbaijan, to name a few. The related, polarized conflagrations on our own streets and campuses shock us.

Lastly, we mourn the apparent death of any national capacity for rational debate on the merits of issues, a capacity seemingly laid to rest by media sound-bites and a surprising lack of intellectual curiosity and understanding by a social-media driven public.

How will we move from partisan bickering to effective, morally sound solutions in any of these areas?

Just as Christ came at the “fullness of time,” and just as God has faithfully provided courageous leadership like that of Col. Joshua Chamberlain so many times over in our country, we can trust that He is still weaving His overarching redemption story into the fabric of our national narrative, including right here in the Granite State.

The same prophet who 460 years before Christ’s birth foretold that the Messiah would come to refine God’s people (see Malachi 3.1-6) also said:

“For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name will be great among the nations,
and in every place incense will be offered to my name, and a pure offering.
For my name will be great among the nations, says the Lord of hosts.”
Malachi 1:11, ESV

So we find ourselves at another “fullness of time” moment, leaning into God’s promise that He will make His name great both in our nation and in every nation of the world.

While we certainly can’t control when God decides to act or how He’ll act at such a time, we can control our engaged obedience in the waiting.

This Christmas, as expectant as the Jews were for the Messiah and as Civil War-era Christians were for a just end to fraternal bloodshed, we too are waiting for a God-ordained “fullness of time” interruption of our national story. In the meantime, we must remain vigilant in prayer, actively engaged in the issues, and increasingly obedient in the stewardship of our own souls, relationships, and resources.

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