Christ’s birth was in the fullness of time. God had announced His coming first to Adam and Eve in the Book of Genesis when He declared that one born of a woman would come to be bruised in the heel by the serpent, but that the one born of woman would bruise the head of the serpent. Centuries past and that one did not come. But when the fullness of time came, “God sent forth His Son born of a woman.” There are many things which made the first Christmas time the opportune time for His appearance.
Down through the ages God had sent messages through His prophets regarding the coming of the Messiah, so that when He did appear there would be no possibility of confusing Him with another.
He had declared that He should be of the seed of Abraham and a direct descendant of David. During all the intervening years the Jews had scrupulously kept the records of births and so could easily trace their ancestry back to Abraham. All then which would have been necessary to have shown that Christ was not the looked for Messiah would for someone to have shown that his ancestry could not be traced back to David and to Abraham.
It was also declared that He should be born of a virgin and so if He had not been born of a virgin, then it would be manifest to all that He was not the intended Messiah of the Jews.
It was declared when He should be born. This was so clearly understood of the Jews that when the Wise Men came to inquire of Herod whom He was that he could summon the Jewish Scholars and they would inform them that the King of the Jews was to be born in Bethlehem of Judea. It never ceases to create a sense of wonderment in me that God should have said within 700 years before the time of this birth that He would be born in Bethlehem and then should have caused the Roman Government to determine to take a census that would make it imperative that Joseph and Mary should go to Bethlehem and that then Christ should be born.
So that the prophecies which were made hundreds of years before were so specific that they could be used as a test of the validity of Christs’ claim to be the Messiah, the Son of God.
But we have also the preparation made by the Greeks. As you well know, the Greeks had become a world power and had taught their language to peoples around the world. So that one could travel anywhere within the Roman Empire, and having a knowledge of the Greek language, could converse with the populace or could stand and preach and be understood by the multitudes.
But even beyond this the Greeks had made further preparation in that being a scholarly people they had established libraries in many of the important cities. Among the books to be found in these libraries were copies of certain Jewish books of history, poetry and prophecy, which had been translated into the Greek language and made available to the populace. So that many who had read them knew of their prediction of the coming One into the world, whom the Jews expected to be their Messiah and King.
But following the Greek rule there had come the Romans. Their contribution to the preparation of the word for the coming of the Messiah was not intellectual, but it did make possible the use of the Greek knowledge and Jewish religion by making available a great system of roads, which made it easily possible for these who desired to do so to move from that portion of the world to another over fine roads, provided with protection and places to remain during their journey.
Of course the most important contribution was that which was made by the Hebrews. They had deeply ingrained within them the anticipation of the coming of the Messiah and they had a belief in our God who was wise and powerful. With this faith in our God and this anticipation of a Messiah, they had been scattered along these Roman roads into every community and had established their places of worship called Synagogues. Because they were a peculiar people and because they refused to worship idols, but held to a faith in an unseen, but powerful God, they attracted much attention to themselves and so when one came preaching this, our God and the fact that He had sent His Son into the world, there were those in each city who had already heard of this God and of the expectation of the coming of His Son.
We must not forget, when we are thinking of the preparation for His coming, of the fact that there was a home provided for Him to come into. Mary had to be a fit person to be His mother and so must have been ordained of God and prepared. Certainly it was necessary that Joseph should have been a man of faith and been prepared to have cared for this Christ Child as God would have had Him cared for. He could not have been born into just any home. It surely was an honor, but it was also a great responsibility and surely God must have prepared that home.
Again followers had to be prepared too. John the Baptist came and prepared the way for Him preaching, “Repent ye for the Kingdom of God is at hand.” Surely as we know that many of his followers became the followers of Christ, we must know that he came also to instruct these followers and to prepare them for His coming.
He called many but just a handful followed Him. But, Oh, what He did with those who were willing to follow. At this Christmas time, thousands upon thousands will read the story told by Matthew and Luke as well as, passages from John. These were humble folk who were describe as ignorant and unlearned men. But under the influence and the power of Christ they left their all and followed Him, and He made of their characters never to be forgotten and authors whose writings have influenced the world as none others ever have or ever will.
Then there came a persecutor of Him and His followers to hear His call. He became the greatest Christian the world has ever known, the apostle Paul who wrote so simply that little children can grasp his meaning, and yet so philosophical, the greatest scholar of every age has been made unable to plumb the depths of the meaning of his words.
Yet the world was prepared for the coming of Christ.
But I wonder if there are not some striking parallels between His day and ours.
As Rome had prepared what seemed to me, rapid routes of travel in his day. So today we have a new method of travel which makes it possible for one to leave our homes and in the space of a few short hours be anywhere upon the Globe. Many of our Missionaries who came home from Africa and China on comparative show boats, considering this day of travel, will return in a matter of hours. Not only that, but some boards are even now using planes to enable their Missionaries to reach more quickly the out of the way places of the world. So that we can be sure of a rapid method of spreading the Gospel.
More than that, people in the Philippines, Japan, China and the thousands of islands of the sea have learned the meaning of an American, and God alone knows how many millions of hearts have been prepared to receive the Gospel from us because they have been taught a few English words and have come to know something of the gentleness and kindness of us Americans through their contact with our men and boys.
We have today at hand a great God given method of dissimilating this Gospel. Our great printing presses are prepared to send out the message in a multitude of languages. We have at our command the ministry of the wonders of radio. Think of what it means that Dr. Fuller on the “Old Time Gospel Hour” has over 400 stations which are broadcasting his messages. These stations are in Europe, South America, Japan, China the Philippines and Australia, to mention only a few.
But all of these great inventions and this unfounded opportunity will have no value unless we can match them with the one essential necessary and that is followers of Christ.
We need to have homes today who will receive the Christ into them. Where little children are made acquainted with Him and come to know Him and where they are challenged to dedicate their lives to Him in loving service. Oh, how we need mothers like Hannah who ask God for a child and then even before they are born dedicate him to God for service. Mothers and fathers who will have family worship and pray God to raise up and send our ministers, doctors, teachers, nurses and will be willing for their very own to go. I cannot keep from wondering today if Christ were to come to earth would He feel welcome in our houses. Is the language of that home, its daily schedule, its interest and ambitions and its use of time and money such that we would be embarrassed to have Him as our guest? I am wondering if He would not feel strangely out of place in many of them. (Home, Susan Wesley, 14 children, John and Charles came from that home)
He might have come that Christmas morning years ago and lived and died and the world never have known of Him unless some had followed Him. He is here and now calling for followers. He is calling you and me. Will we hear?
Our church has suffered a severe loss in the passing of one of our dear elders. Individuals have lost their physician, the mission committee has lost a doctor for their work. But far more important than that Christ has lost a servant. Yonder in Taichu China there are some hospital buildings and there in Nashville there is some of the money necessary to re-equip that hospital. Those thousands of people around Taichu are needing a doctor and will be awaiting his coming. But Christ is asking who will go for me, whom shall I send? Surely there is a challenge to some of you young men to say to Christ “here am I, send me, I will go for you.”
The world is waiting as never before for the good news of the Gospel of Christ, but it must be taken by human beings and we human beings must be willing to pay the price to make the sacrifice to be His followers. But many will say, I am not able, I do not have the qualifications necessary. Christ, as far as I know, never has laid down but one qualification and that is love for Him. Men said, “We will follow you but” and He always answered, “Ye must love me more than father and mother, yea even more than self.” The one thing He asked of Peter was, “Do you love me?”
Oh, how many thousands He has taken of less ability and made them great because they love Him.
Look at Martin Luther, a humble, obscure monk, who lead a reformation which shook the whole of Europe and almost the entire world to its very foundations. A Sunday School teacher walked into a show store in New England and led a shoe salesman to Christ and that shoe salesman yielded his life to Christ and became a great Dwight L. Moody who led thousands to Christ on both sides of the Atlantic. God called a big league ball player to follow Him and made of him Billy Sunday.
Dr. Toney tells the story of a man who helped he and Dr. Alexander, his singer, with the tent around one of their meetings. When they finished in this town and prepared to leave he persuaded them to let him go along and care for the tent and be a sort of janitor and night watchman, because of his insistence, they finally consented but they found that soon he had become a great soul winner as he spoke to people about their souls.
Beloved, the Gospel train is ready to move. We have all the opportunity one could ask. We have a world prepared for Christ, but that Gospel train must be manned. There must be engineers and firemen, brakemen and conductors.
Will you at this Christmas time say to the Lord, “I am prepared to follow you, will you receive me and consecrate me to your service? I am not much now and may never be, but I am willing to be made into a servant of yours.”
© First Presbyterian Church