Sermon from Sunday, December 31, 2023
Speaker: Rev. Doug de Graffenried
Scripture: Galatians 4:4-7
So tonight, how many are you going to be watching Ryan Seacrest with Dick Clark’s Rockin Eve? Who’s Ryan Seacrest? And I looked at the the list of artists that were going to be the the artists de jour for Dick Clark’s Rockin New Year’s Eve celebration. I knew one artist, Ludacris.
I realized suddenly I’m not cool anymore. I never was. But I definitely don’t know. But the whole New Year’s Eve thing and the dropping of the ball and everybody waiting for it, and the fireworks that will go off tonight and my dogs hate fireworks is all our attempt to say January 1st. It all starts brand new and we can make New Year’s resolutions like I’m giving up junk food.
And I go, wait a minute, there’s January 1st count, because when you’re watching Alabama play Michigan, you need some junk food to go along with that. I don’t know what else you people need, but I need junk food. So that’s out. So what is it we’re doing with with this, I don’t know, mania about a new year and telling time and starting time and the ball dropping for time.
What is it we’re doing? What’s going on with us?
So I will not be watching Ryan Seacrest and his stars. But in keeping with the theme of a musical New Year, we’ll have a little quiz this morning. A little quiz on Billboard’s top 100 survey. Some of you know it. Yes, I’ve stopped paying attention to it in the mid-eighties. But some of you know it. Casey Kasem used to have 80 top 40.
And you would listen to see who was the number one song of that week, what biblical passage, what biblical passage Got to number one in Billboard’s 100 song survey. And it stayed for number one, stayed at number one for weeks.
I’ll tell you, the Lord’s Prayer was recorded. It got to number two. This is commercially the most quoted passage of scripture because of this group’s song.
well, nobody’s got it. We’re going to stay here for the whole sermon. It’s the Byrds. Turn, turn, turn! Based on this passage of Scripture for everything, there is a season and a time for every matter under heaven. A time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to pluck up that which is planted.
A time to kill and a time to heal. A time to break down. At a time to build up. The time to weep. At a time to laugh. A time to mourn. And a time to dance. A time to throw away stones. And time to gather stones together. A time to embrace. And a time to refrain from embracing.
A time to seek. And a time to lose. The time to keep. At a time to throw away. A time to tear. And a time to sew. A time to keep silence. And a time to speak. A time to love. And a time to hate. A time for war. And a time for peace. In the Hebrew word, for time there is the Hebrew word.
And it basically means that you act according to the circumstance or to the situation. So the birds got it. In the late sixties, when in the midst of Vietnam, they were singing that there’s a time for war at a time for peace. And part of what goes on as we approach the end of a year and the beginning of a new year, we reflect back and we think about the times we’ve had in 2023 and we do a summation of the year.
Was it a good year? Was it a bad year? And we have our own criteria by which we judge a year, determine whether it was good or bad or middling. And we look for these things in the beginning of a new year to see how they are going to play out. Will we have a time of prosperity or a time of poverty?
So Billboard’s top 100, the most quoted passage of Scripture, turns out to be the cliche as the We’re the birds a little bit before your time. Some of you know, some of you your going birds, who are they? They were a pre they were an antecedent to Ludacris. Don’t worry about it. But there’s another song dealing with time.
It’s not biblical. It made it to number seven in 1971, as I was walking down the street one day, a man came up to me and asked me what the time was that was on my watch. And I said, Does anybody really know what time it is? And some of the old hippies in the congregation are going, We know that one.
We know that one. Chicago was that one before your time to what is your time?
What does that phrase mean? It’s before my time. Our text for this morning, for the last Sunday of 2023 is from the book of Galatians, the fourth chapter verses four through seven. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his son born of a woman born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law so that we might receive adoption as children.
And because you are children, God, his sin, his spirit of his son into our hearts crying about Father so that you are no longer a slave but a child. And if a child, then also an heir through God. Francis is the Word of God for the people of God. Thanks be to God. Amen. There are two Greek words for time.
The first Greek word is in this passage, Chronos. Chronos is the long expanse of time. How long does a sermon last? Chronos? It goes on and on and on and on. Chronos is what happens when you’re standing in the line at Walmart practicing your talent as a checker of merchandise. You know, the line was longer at the checker checking me out than to check out my stuff.
That’s Chronos. How long do we have to wait? Chronos is. Isaiah said they who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength. They show shall up with wings like eagles. They shall run and not be weary. They shall walk and not faint. How long do I have to wait? Chronos, The second Greek word for time is Kairos. It’s actually the word from which the English word crisis comes.
Kairos means it’s time to make a decision. It’s time to make a change. It’s time to do something now. Because I am so neurotic, I have sermons planned out through all of 2024, and I happen to know I’m preaching three times on Kairos. This is the only sermon you get on Chronos, and this sermon is going to go on and on and on and on and on because I have not resolved to preach shorter sermons in 2024, the fullness of time, Jesus came, God started out creating humanity to love us, to let us love Him.
And the story the Old Testament unfolds. And things didn’t go very well with humanity. So God called out a specific group of people. The Hebrews, and things got a little bit better, but didn’t even the Hebrews sort of turned their backs on God and had other priorities. And so God after the exile, there was a remnant. So God starts with humanity and the situation reduces to the remnant and finally the remnant reduces it self to the person of Jesus Christ.
And when Paul is talking about the fullness of time, as you look at the birth of Jesus from a historical perspective, you understand that there was about a 50 year window where everything came together so Christ could be born and minister, so the church could grow and eventually overcome the Roman Empire. The 50 years where we had the peace of Rome, where the Romans had built roads all over their empire through Palestine and all around the Mediterranean Sea.
And if we could just get devoted to call the Romans and find out how to build a road. But that’s another sermon for another time, the Romans allowed the Jews a special status. And because of the diaspora, because of the spread of Judaism after the exile, there were all these Jewish enclaves around the shores of the Mediterranean synagogues, so that when the Christians arrived, there was a community seeking God and thirsting for God.
And it was a community of dry kindling. And the flame of the Holy Spirit landed and the church exploded. So God moves from humanity to his people to a remnant to Jesus. And then the Spirit takes the apostles and the church and moves it out into the world. In the the movement, the Christian movement, within 300 years had conquered the Roman Empire and led down to you and me today, that Chronos, that big picture led to that focal moment.
Jesus Christ, the one who was existing before creation. The one that John said in the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God. This one that Paul said that he didn’t think equality with God was something to be grasped onto or held on to, but he emptied himself, taking on the form of a slave, being born in human likeness and being found in human form.
He humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death, even death on the cross. Are you getting the movement? It’s a reduction movement. God, who created God, who preexisted in the person of Jesus became a servant and a servant died. And because he died, the cause advanced. Therefore, God has highly exalted Him and given him a name that is above every name that is the name of Jesus.
Every knee should bow in heaven here on Earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God, the Father, because Jesus consented to become human, because He condescended to come to Earth, because He limited himself and became obedient, even in the death God exalted him. There is a movement here of time. There is a movement in Chronos.
It’s the movement between reduction and and advancing. Things have to compress before they change or before they move ahead. Let’s talk about your life. It’s reduced. Let’s go back. I’m going back ten generations for you. Do you know how many relatives you have in ten generations? 1022. That’s how many relatives you got when you go. Parents, grandparents, great grandparents, Great great great grandfather made minimum thousand 22 and all these grandparents and great grandparents found each other, fell in love, married each other, had kids and again and again.
And again. And again and again. Do you know what kind of a miracle you are That you’re here the way you are and who you are? Do you know the statistical impossibility of you yet? Here you are. I see you. You’re looking back at me wondering, is he finished with Chronos yet? We only get some kairos, get to the benediction.
But your family was large and large and large and large and large. And it becomes you. Now, here’s some hard part about the fullness of time. And you for you to advance. For you to fill your fulfill your purpose in Christ, for your life. Plan to be His for you and not yours for you. Jesus said this very I truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain.
But if it dies, it bears much fruit. If we’re going to replay this reduction and advancement in your life, you have to die to yourself, to your wants to your plans, to your use of time. And you have to say, here I am, Lord, transform me and use me.
You thought New Year’s resolutions were hard.
That’s denying yourself taking up your cross and following him. Because when you deny yourself, you take up your cross and you follow him. You then experience the fullness of time in your life. You experience the play a role model of God, the fullness, the completeness of God, and you experience the fullness and completeness of time in your lives.
Time is one of those things that it only exists in relationship to something else. And we find ourselves. We talk about time. The word we we always use is we’ve got to wait. And the church just finished with the waiting of Advent. We got the Christmas Jesus said about his coming in his return that he wanted us to watch and wait and work and endure.
And in watching and waiting and working and enduring, we would find life. So what is your time? Is it rich? It’s full. And then Joel poses the question about time that is interesting for all of us where the prophet is speaking on behalf of God and God says, I will repay. I will restore the years that the swarming Locust of Eden, the hopper, the destroyer, the cutter, I will restore the years that’s experiencing the fullness of time where God makes up for the hard parts, where God restores and redeems the time that life took away from us or that we didn’t use well.
So as we in 23 and we start 24, what needs to happen for you two for you to experience the fullness, the richness of God? What do you need to be true for you to say? I have experienced the fullness of time, Jesus tells her. The writer of Luke tells the story about Jesus in his travels, and it’s in the eighth chapter of Luke’s Gospel.
As he went, the crowds were pressing in on him. Now there was a woman who had suffered from a hemorrhage for 12 years, and though she had spent all she had on physicians, no one could cure her. She came up behind him, touched the fringe of his clothes, and immediately the hemorrhage stopped. And Jesus asked who touched me?
When all denied it, Peter said, Master, the crowd surrounding you is pressing in on you. But Jesus said, Someone touched me, for I noticed that power had gone out for me when the woman saw that she could no longer remain hidden. She came trembling, falling down before him. She declared in the presence of all the people, why she had touched him and how she had been immediately healed.
And he said to her daughter, Your faith has made you well. Go in peace. The Greek says Your faith has saved you because Luke uses the words saved and made well interchangeably. But for this woman, her fullness of time came in that moment where she needed to touch Jesus. Her fullness of time came when she realized that doctors couldn’t heal her, that home remedies couldn’t heal her, that advice from friends couldn’t heal her.
What she needed was Jesus. The fullness of time comes when we understand that for our life to be full and rich, filled with joy and peace, we need Jesus. We need Jesus. What does your look like life look like in 2024, as you claim that need for Jesus and as you invite him fully and richly into your heart and in your life?
Come into my heart, Lord Jesus. It’s in those moments that you and I will experience our own fullness of time, and that we will all experience the fullness of God’s love in Jesus Christ. Would you stand and pray with me? Heal our hearts, Lord, guide our steps. Let us trust that you have prepared a journey for us and that all we need do is follow you.
We give you our hearts, we give you our lives, We give you our hopes and our dreams. So that in giving these to you, we might experience your fullness in our lives. Amen.