While Joseph and Mary were in Bethlehem, the time was fulfilled for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. Luke 2:6-7
“ When the time was fulfilled…” These words have such redeeming power! In the midst of our daily life we often preoccupy ourselves with those things we think serve God and his cause. We work until we are weary to the bone and yet see so little fruit. Does everything remain as it was? Haven’t we made any progress? Have we actually helped at all, or have we merely scratched the surface of things? Is there any trace or glimpse of the goal we long for? What do all our efforts amount to in the face of all the forces of misery and evil in the world?
Left before such agonizing questions, it is good to remember the light that shines from the stable of Bethlehem, for it is here we are able to sense what it means that the kingdom of God came as a little child...
...This is how it will be with our yearning for redemption. When we are discouraged by the apparently slow progress of all our honest efforts, by the failure of this or that person, and by the ever new reappearance of enemy powers and their apparent victories, then we should know: the time shall be fulfilled. Because of the noise and activity of the struggle and the work, we often do not hear the hidden gentle sound and movement of the life that is coming into being. But here and there, at hours that are blessed, God lets us feel how he is everywhere at work and how his cause is growing and moving forward. The time is being fulfilled and the light shall shine, perhaps just when it seems that the darkness is impenetrable...
this excerpt is from Eberhard Arnold's "When the Time Was Fulfilled," a meditation from the wondrous Watch For The Light: Readings For Advent And Christmas. i thought it was out of print and then discovered not only can you get it on amazon, the publisher has dozens of other titles available for free as pdf files. i recommend visiting Plough and reading the whole essay: it's on pages 9-12. i've read it a few times and it haunts me in the best of ways.
in 2009 and 2010, i picked a word--shalom and cultivate, respectively--to orient my heart and year toward. i loved the idea, but in practice, found it to be not all that different from (not) keeping new year's resolutions.
rereading my posts i felt discouraged. the desires still resonate deeply, but where was the progress and measurable growth? this new year had barely dawned and already i felt defeated--until arnold's words reminded me that God is at work, whether i perceive it or not. his Light shines in the darkness. the Kingdom is advancing--even within this selfish, broken heart.
may God's great grace envelop you--and me--this year as we seek his face.