The Entire Christmas Story in One Verse
by Ray Pennoyer
It was understandable, I guess, when the group seemed momentarily taken aback when I opened my Bible and suggested reading “the entire Christmas story.” You see, the night was already winding down at our church home-group meeting, and in the Gospel of Matthew that narrative runs a hefty 48 verses and in Luke it is longer still at 120 verses. No, I assured my friends, I wanted to read the entire Christmas story in one verse. (Well, technically two verses covering one sentence.) Though it does not mention shepherds or wise-men or inns or stables, it is nonetheless profound and compelling.
I’d like to share that verse here and then “unpack” it just a bit, section by section. It comes from the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Galatians, chapter 4 verses 4-5:
4 But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.
But when the set time had fully come…
Why did Jesus come just when he did? What about all the centuries of human history that came before, a history that featured entire empires rising and falling? And what about the centuries that were to follow? Would there not have been a more opportune time? In the 1970 rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, the character of Judas Iscariot questions Jesus about his strategic timing. Stepping of out of his 1st century setting and speaking more like a modern day publicist, Judas asks Jesus:
Why’d you choose such a backward time in such a strange land? If you’d come today you would have reached the whole nation, Israel in 4 B.C. had no mass communication!
Why, then, did Jesus come precisely when he did? Without providing us with all the answers, Paul assures us that the time was precisely right. That is, according to our calendar at approximately 4 B.C., in the small Roman province of Judea set in the East Mediterranean, “the set time had fully come” for the divine plan to move into high gear.
God sent his Son…
Who is Jesus Christ? This is perhaps the most important question that the human race has had to grapple with. “Who do you say that I am?” Jesus asks Peter at a pivotal moment in the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke). And that question is even more strongly highlighted in the Gospel of John as the author leads us step by step to the point where he hopes that we can exclaim with the disciple Thomas, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28). The extraordinary mystery of the Christmas story is that the baby conceived in Mary’s womb, and humbly born in a stable in Bethlehem, was God in the flesh…
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