Theology Tuesday – Christmas in Time
“In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town” (vv. 1–2).
Over the centuries, a number of extrabiblical traditions have become part of our celebration of Christmas. Santa Claus, Christmas stockings, jingle bells, and so on are evident every year in December. Of course, there is nothing necessarily wrong with these traditions in and of themselves. However, because we live in a highly secularized society, even Christians must guard against the temptation to let these traditions overshadow the true reason for Christmas, which marks the turning point of history—the incarnation of the Son of God Himself (John 1:1–18).
This incarnation is no fairy tale but a real event that we can locate in space and time. Luke tells us in today’s passage that the birth of Jesus took place during the reign of Caesar Augustus (Luke 2:1–7). Under Caesar Augusus, who ruled from about 27 BC–AD 14, the Roman Empire reached the zenith of its military, cultural, and economic influence. Augustus ushered in what has been called the Pax Romana, an era of great stability and peace because of the reach of the Roman Empire.
It is surely no accident of history that Jesus, the Prince of Peace, was born in an era of peace that lasted only for a few decades. His birth at that time helps prove that only He can bring about the peace between humanity and God that is required in order for them to have a true relationship. For generations, people around the world have found peace with God in Christ, who has achieved a level of recognition worldwide that far surpasses that of Caesar Augustus.
Elsewhere in Scripture, we read that the incarnation occurred in “the fullness of time” (Gal. 4:4). Basically, the sense is that Christ came at the perfect time, the point God had determined before the ages began. He entered time and space exactly as the Lord foreordained, fulfilling God’s perfect plan of salvation.
The Bible insists that the Son of God entered history at a specific point and remains united to a human nature in the person of Jesus Christ forever. This is radically different from the Hindu concept of incarnation, which says the gods enter history repeatedly in different forms. Moreover, the incarnation of Jesus is inseparably tied to history itself. We must be prepared to defend the historicity of these doctrines and others, as God’s acts in history are fundamental to Christian truth.