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The Fullness of Time

By December 26, 2016 No Comments

In Galatians 4:4-7 (NRSV), Paul wrote,
“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children. And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our[a] hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God.

The fullness of time is a fascinating concept.


As Pastor Mike explained in our Christmas Eve service, God’s idea of the fullness of time is a bit of a head- scratcher for most of us. Was this really the BEST time to send the Savior into the world?

A woman with child and not yet married but engaged, in a time when that caused no small amount of scandal.

A woman traveling close to the time of the baby’s birth to a strange city that had no lodging, not even for a traveler clearly ready to go into labor. No social services available. Add to that the idea of travelling on a camel, donkey, or some other form of jostling transportation for pregnant woman close to giving birth.

No hospitals or state of the art neonatal units to ensure the Savior of the world would be born smoothly and given a good Apgar score.

No clean, disinfected environment or family close by to help Mary and the new baby. Not great timing, healthcare wise, from our 21st century perspectives.

Then King Herod decides to kill all the baby boys and Joseph and Mary flee to Egypt and become refugees. Not good political or economic timing either.

Or to enlarge the concept further, was the 1st century Palestine really the best time and place for the Savior to be born, live, and grow up? Why was Jesus born in a day and age when he couldn’t connect with more people via social media? Or in a region where overlapping religions would compete and battle each other?

The timing of God is surely puzzling, especially to our 21st century eyes. The concept of the fullness of time is particularly difficult for historians, who spend their time weighing and connecting change over time, context, causality, contingency and complexity. Why did God choose that time and place? Why those people, that stable, those shepherds, those political rulers and those scholars?

And yet, “in the fullness of time, God sent His Son.”


Rebecca Koerselman

Rebecca Koerselman teaches history at Northwestern College in Orange City, IA.

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