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By Dr. Peter Cook

"When the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son " (Gal.4:4)

In the Epistle reading for the Sunday after Christmas, I like Paul's comment: "when the time had fully 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." What it suggests is that God had a keen sense for the right moment in historical time. Only when the historical conditions were just right did he initiate the incarnation of his Son.

Looking at the extraordinary emergence of the Pax Romana, under Emperor Augustus Caesar at the time of Jesus' birth, one might be forgiven for complementing God on his timing. Looking ahead a mere 40 years, what better time was there for the early spread of the gospel. For the first time in the ancient world, a relative ease and safety of travel for Paul and his friends. The stable and mostly wise government exercised by Roman officials. A brief historical window of tolerance, by means of which that strange Jewish sect of Christians, as Followers of The Way, were allowed to enjoy the same licence to practice their faith that Rome accorded to troublesome Jews with their religion.

As John puts it: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." And yet this same "Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father." God's Word both incarnate, and Word proclaimed. A Word with the power to create a new name which Isaiah had promised God would one day announce. We are now children of God. As Paul explains, we have received adoption as sons: "And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, 'Abba! Father.'"

When we think of the coming of God's Word we must think of a Word whose supreme power creates both the historical space and time for its own proclamation and hearing. As the Wisdom of Solomon puts it: "For while all things were in quiet silence, and that night was in the midst of her swift course, Thy Almighty Word leaped down from heaven out of Thy royal throne, as a fierce man of war into the midst of a land of destruction, and brought Thine unfeigned commandment as a sharp sword...and it touched the heaven but it stood upon the earth." (ch.18:14-16).

Ploughing in the New Year - Or Continuing without Duty

The great Russian writer, Leo Tolstoy, once asked a simple peasant what he would do if he were told that tomorrow would be the Day of Judgment. "I would plough," said the peasant: "It's that time of year." Best answer he could have given.

In like manner, there was once, in Colonial times, a day of darkness. It seemed as if the sun had forgotten to rise. People rushed to the churches to pray, for they believed that God's Last Day had come. In Connecticut the Legislature was in session. One trembling legislator moved an adjournment, so that members might go and prepare themselves in like fashion.

"I move," said another member, "that candles be brought so that we may go on with our work. If it is not the Day of Judgment we have no reason to adjourn. If it is the Day of Judgment, let it find us doing our duty."

Who knows what 2007 might bring. The final return of Jesus Christ? Judgment passed on our Episcopal Church? Strain or testing of individuals or within our families? Whatever it might be, let each of us be found busy about our Christian duty and witness.


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