A Christmas Letter

A Christmas Letter

 Rev. Paul Manuel, Ph.D.

German Seventh-Day Baptist Church Salemville, PA

 

As Christmas approaches and you reflect again upon the savior’s birth, the familiarity of the story may cause you to gloss over some of the details. One such element is how the machinations of man in no way hinder the program of God. Several events in Jesus’ life followed a divinely appointed schedule and, on various occasions, he referred to that schedule (Matt. 26:18; Mark 1:15; John 7:6, 8, 30). The Apostle Paul was also acutely aware of God’s timetable (Rom. 5:6; 1 Tim. 2:6; 6:15; Titus 1:3), and he made specific mention of how Jesus’ birth was part of that plan.

 

When the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman… (Gal 4:4)

God was not the only one on a schedule. At the same time, the emperor of Rome was advancing his own agenda, and on a much larger scale.

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (Luke 2:1)

 

His decree, a prelude to greater taxation, affected everyone. It also required some, like Mary and Joseph, to register in a different part of the country. This massive government program probably made them (and others) feel inconsequential. All they could do was comply.

 

What is particularly striking is how God was in no way hindered by Caesar’s decision. In fact, God used that decision to advance His own program, ensuring that His people were in the right place at the right time. It is doubtful that Mary and Joseph would have left Galilee if not required by the imperial edict. Doing so, however, placed them in Bethlehem at the moment of Jesus’ birth, thereby fulfilling the prophet’s prediction.

 

But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times. (Mic 5:2)

 

We do not know if Jesus’ parents saw the providential hand of God in the emperor’s decree. Nevertheless, because they were attentive to God’s leading (Matt 1:24; Luke 1:38), He did not allow them to miss this important step in His plan, a plan greater and more comprehensive than that of any human government.

 

Our national leaders seem to be advancing their own agenda, with spending on a scale larger than any previously, a likely prelude to greater taxation, and you too may feel inconsequential. Whatever the outcome of their deliberations, all you may be able to do is comply. Yet, God is still in no way hindered by men’s decisions. In fact, God can use those decisions to advance His own program. Moreover, like Mary and Joseph, if you are attentive to God’s leading, He will not allow you to miss an important step in His plan, a plan greater and more comprehensive than that of any human government.

 

As Christmas approaches and you reflect again upon the savior’s birth, remember how it followed a divinely appointed schedule. Keep in mind also that this schedule has more to come.

 

…to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment — to

bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.          (Eph 1:10)

 

May this Christmas remind you how the machinations of man in no way hinder the program of God. May you enter the New Year with a steadfast commitment to and a renewed confidence in the One who is moving all of history, including your own.

 

— Rev. Paul Manuel, Ph.D.

German Seventh-Day Baptist Church

Salemville, PA

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