Dr. James C. Denison
President, Center for Informed Faith, Dallas, TX
December 7, 2010
Pearl Harbor and Advent faith
President Roosevelt called today “a date which will live in infamy.” Sixty-nine years after Pearl Harbor, millions who were not alive in 1941 join those who were in remembrance and grief. Meanwhile, today’s BBC reports that China is urging dialogue on the North Korean crisis; Reuters reports on a possible meeting between Iran and major world powers in January; and the Associated Press tells us that the United Nations has begun evacuating personnel out of Ivory Coast as that country’s election crisis escalates.
Faith has never been more needed than it is today. In this Advent “week of faith,” we’re looking at the facts behind the story of Christmas. Is this a “myth,” as atheist billboards are proclaiming? What do we know about what happened on that night in Bethlehem?
Yesterday we began with the work which Jesus did before Christmas in creating the universe and then our planet. He made the world he entered, then he prepared it for his coming. Paul tells us that “when the time had fully come, God sent his Son” (Galatians 4:4). What did he mean?
By the time of Jesus’ birth, four unique factors were in place for spreading the story of Christmas. First, there was a universal language. “Koine” or “common” Greek was spoken across the Roman world. If Paul were to retrace his missionary journeys today, he would need to speak Hebrew, Arabic, Turkish, Greek, Italian and Spanish. In the first century, however, everyone spoke the language of the New Testament.
Second, there were universal roads on which to travel. The Romans constructed some 53,000 miles of roads and bridges across their Empire on which their armies could march. The army of God used these roads to spread the good news across that same Empire.
Third, there was a universal cry for Messiah. The Jews had been enslaved by the Babylonians, then the Persians, then the Greeks. They had experienced 103 years of independence before the Romans took over in 63 B.C. The entire nation longed for the Promised One who would redeem them.
Fourth, there was a universal hunger for truth. Some worshiped Zeus and the pantheon of Mt. Olympus. Others followed the mystery cults. Some were Neo-Platonists, or Aristotelians, or Stoics, or Cynics, or Epicureans, or Skeptics. Many worshiped the Emperor. Some were Jews. It was a time ripe for the One who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6).
The 21st century will look more like the first century than any in between. English is becoming a universal language; the Internet is a global information highway; ours is a time of religious confusion and hunger for truth. Jesus was the only baby to choose the time of his birth. If he would enter the troubled and confused world of the first century, he will enter ours today. All of God there is, is in this moment.