When the Fullness of Time Had Come (Repost)

{This was a post from last December, but the tone is of anticipation, eagerness, and encouragement. I wanted to share it again to remind you to wait on our faithful God to keep His promises}.

We are in the season of Advent now. You may have lighted some candles on your advent wreath at church or at home. You may also be doing an advent study this month.

Advent means the coming or arrival of something important. It is a time of anticipation. Eagerness. Excitement. Waiting.

Followers of Christ are waiting for Him to come again. We know He will. We have His Word to read; we can study and learn while we wait.

We have the Old Testament with the Mosaic law. The history of God’s chosen people. Prophecies pointing to Jesus.

We also have the New Testament detailing Jesus’ birth, life and ministry, His death, and His resurrection. The early church and the spread of the gospel.

Stop reading for a moment and do something for me. Grab your Bible and sit it on the table or on your lap. Now flip to the end of Malachi, the last book in the Old Testament. Hold the entire Old Testament in your hands, from Genesis to Malachi. Look at that group of pages in your hands.

Now flip all that over to the left side. What remains on the right is Matthew to Revelation – The New Testament. Hold that group of pages in your hand for a moment.

Lay the pages of the New Testament over to the right side. Your Bible should be lying open now. You’re looking at the end of the Old Testament on the left and the start of the New Testament on the right.

Did you know there were roughly 400 years between the recorded history of Malachi and the recorded history of Matthew? Imagine that as the gap you’re looking at in your Bible right now with the Old Testament on the left and the New Testament on the right. Some refer to this as “silent years” because God was silent during this time. He gave no inspired messages to His prophets. Why? What was happening? What was God doing? Why wasn’t He talking to His people?

One thing is clear as we look back on that period from our current standpoint: God was preparing events in history to get the world ready for the birth of His Son.

Galatians 4:4 says, “When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law.”

When the fullness of time had come.

Many Israelites had been faithfully waiting. God had been working. At the time of the writing of Malachi, the Jews were under the rule of the Persian empire. When Matthew opens, Rome is the dominate power having conquered most of the civilized and known world at the time. What does that matter?

When the fullness of time had come.

With the Roman Empire came a common language – many of the people could understand the stories told about Jesus.

The Empire built a vast and well-maintained road system – the apostles could travel from place to place to share the Good News.

There was also common form of money in use and an established and far-reaching government and laws.

The world was ready for Jesus because of the influence of the Roman Empire – enemy of the Jews. Dominant over Jewish life. In His providence, God allowed Rome to prosper and spread, and then He used its infrastructure to tell about His son.

When the fullness of time had come.

God always does what He says He will do. He keeps His promises. He is working.

When the fullness of time had come.

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Image Credit: Harper Collins Christian

The Quiet Advent Calendar

The frenzy is already building.  Can you feel it?!  The frenzy that is the Christmas season – only 31 more shopping days to go!  Who’s left on my gift list?  What am I going to bake to take to my in-laws’ house on Christmas Eve?  I didn’t even start decorating yet!!!

Oh my goodness!  No wonder we rarely enjoy the season anymore.  It’s too crazy busy.

Let’s take back the holiday season this year.  Let’s focus on the real reason we celebrate – the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ.  Let’s prepare our hearts for the Advent season.

I’d like to invite you to “The Quiet Advent Calendar” from my friend, Julianne Gilchrist.  Join me in 24 days of delighting in this season of Advent.  I’m excited for this Advent Calendar because, as I’ve gotten to know Julianne over the past 6 months, I’ve discovered that she’s all about slowing down, breathing in, and just being with God.  Her concern is helping people learn to hear God’s voice above the hum-drum of life.  And I can see her desire for sacred space built into “The Quiet Advent Calendar.”

If you plan to join, let me know, and we can walk through it together.  Just click on “The Quiet Advent Calendar”, fill in your name and email address, click Send Me The Quiet Advent Calendar, and settle in and get ready.

I can’t wait to get started.

That Christmas Morning Feeling

Christmas is my favorite holiday! The food. The decorations. The tree. The lights. The get-togethers with family and friends. The church programs.  The music!

Y’all! The music!

The whole season is just so bright and happy and jolly.

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Merry and bright – The Hooks Home

Christmases were very merry and bright when I was little – I guess I couldn’t help but love them.

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Christmas Eve at my grandmother’s house with 4 generations!  I’ve spent all my 38 Christmas Eves at her house 🙂                                                                                                                       Photo Credit: Tiffany Murdock Manley

But, the big draw, especially when I was little, was the presents and Santa Claus! Christmas morning – that was the goal the whole season long.

What was under the tree? What was in the stockings? What was wrapped in all those boxes? Who had the present in the biggest box? Who had the present in the heaviest box? Who had the present in the weirdest shaped box?

What was I going to get? Would I get everything I wanted? Would I get something awesome I hadn’t even asked for?

I do remember being disappointed on Christmas morning when I didn’t see a gift that had been on my list…despite all the other gifts I did receive.

I do remember feeling sad when the biggest or heaviest box went to someone else.

I do remember feeling the let-down when I realized there were no more gifts left to unwrap…even as I sat surrounded by all the new toys, games, clothes, or electronics I had already opened.

In my defense, I’m sure I wasn’t the only kid to experience this. Happens every December 25. I imagine many adults can relate to this feeling as well. I know I’ve spent more Christmases than I care to admit feeling sad about something related to the gift-giving part – even as a grown-up.

It definitely helped to have kids. Once we experienced Christmas with our own children, I more fully appreciated how it felt to give.

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Christmas afternoon at my parent’s house now includes 2 sons-in-law and 4 grandchildren!                   Photo Credit: Tiffany Murdock Manley

Still, there was that empty feeling once all the gifts were opened.

Christmas.was.over.

There were 365 days until we’d do that all over again, until we’d have that…feeling.

A-ha! It was the feeling! That was it! That Christmas morning feeling! The anticipation. The eagerness. The excitement. THAT was what was so hard to let go. It had been building up for 24 days or more and once it was over…there was an emptiness. A quietness. A sadness. A let-down.

How do you make that last?

We tried spreading out the present-opening part. We’d open gifts with extended family later on Christmas day and eventually did some present opening the day after Christmas.

But, eventually there are no more gifts to open – no matter how long you extend it.

How do you make that Christmas-morning-feeling last?

The past few years, I’ve been praying about it, and God helped me see that I have to desire Jesus more than gifts. I have to want His presence more than I want presents.

That takes praying and being receptive to the changes God wants to make in my heart. It doesn’t mean I’ll stop liking presents or Christmas morning or my mom’s sausage balls or hearing Bing Crosby sing “White Christmas.” It just means I’ll realize Jesus is more valuable than those things.

It has helped me to do an Advent Bible study; I’ve done one the past two years. It helped me focus on the real reason I celebrate.

This year, before we started our Advent study, I prayed for God to give me a heart like Simeon and Anna (Luke 2: 25-38).

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Photo Credit: Pinterest

I want the Holy Spirit to be upon me like it was upon Simeon, to guide and direct me into the presence of the Lord. I want to serve day and night as Anna did. She never left the temple and her reward was to see the Christ child.

To wait in eager anticipation like Simeon and Anna – that is what I want. To wait to see the promise of God fulfilled in Jesus. That is the excitement I want! That will give me the Christmas-morning-feeling all year ‘round.

I prayed for that this year from the first of December until Christmas, and I believe God answered that earnest prayer of His servant girl. Christmas was happy and bright and exciting for me this year. Opening presents was a jolly time, but I didn’t experience the degree of let-down that I sometimes do when the last piece of shredded gift wrapping paper is thrown in the trash. I was happy, but I was also calm…at peace. The value wasn’t in the gifts; it was in God’s promise. We know that He keeps the promises He makes with His people – the Bible is full of evidence for that. So this Christmas, I focused more on God‘s presence than on presents.

Of course, I will have to continue to pray for this daily, especially when next Christmas rolls around, but I know God will fill my heart with His Son if I ask him to do so.

My prayer this day and every day, for me and for you, is that God would give us hearts like Simeon and Anna.

Always eagerly waiting.

Always faithfully serving.

Always gratefully praising.

Until we see our Christ.