Oklahoma Conference of the United Methodist Church

Finding reason in this season


"But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons and daughters."

—Galatians 4:4-5

By Bishop Robert Hayes Jr.

It’s sad to me that this holy time of year has, for so many people, become focused on themes such as Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and a host of other subjects that have nothing whatsoever to do with the Christian observance of Jesus’ birth.

The real joy and beauty of Advent and Christmas will never be found in swarming shoppers, fighting to be first in line for a purchase, playing parking-lot bumper cars, or giving gifts to those we know will reciprocate. Only when we look away from the cultural mayhem associated with the holiday will we rediscover God’s gift of the Son.

God has given us this gift to redeem and free us. During these few weeks, we again must decide to open or reject that gift.

Every December, I intentionally pen this column to point toward the true message of the Advent and Christmas seasons. I do that because I know how easily we get caught up in other, gaudy themes contending for our attention. This year, I invite you to join me in returning to the simplicity of the story that has never grown old.

It’s a story that fascinates and captivates my heart and imagination each and every time I read it.

God’s timing

When Paul wrote to the Galatians, what did he mean by "the fullness of time"? Simply stated, the birth of Jesus occurred when God was ready—not humankind.

For thousands of years, the hopes and expectations had grown about Messiah’s coming. But with each passing century, so did questions of God’s faithfulness. Then, in God’s appointed year, at a specified place, and involving a host of unlikely characters, God acted!

We do not know why God chose to send Jesus during the reign of Augustus Caesar. Was it accidental, coincidental, or perhaps providential that the most ingenious of the Caesars sat on the Roman throne and ordered a worldwide census that required the Son of God to be born in Bethlehem of Judea?

And consider Mary, the mother of Jesus and the Maid of Galilee. The angel Gabriel visited her with a startling announcement: "Hail, O favored one, the Lord is with you! Do not be afraid, for you have found favor with God!"

Mary was stunned. Surely the angel made a mistake, mixed up addresses or perhaps even Marys. She lacked the education, culture, or background seemingly required for this task. But God chose her.

Why this place?

Then reflect on where Jesus was born. Bethlehem. Five miles north of Bethlehem was the finest religious center of that time: Jerusalem. Why not there? Could it be that Bethlehem fulfilled the prophecy? Great leaders of the faith, from Rachel to David, also had been born there.

And the story gets better. The exact spot where Jesus was born? In a barn!

Do I need to remind you of the sights, sounds, and smells of a typical barn anywhere in Oklahoma? What place could be less desirable for the birth of a human being? Circumstances dictated this birth, for the Gospels report there was "no room for them in the inn."

Regardless of what our songs and legends declare, a manger is a dirty, crusty trough for feeding livestock. Surely the God of heaven and earth could have selected a better place.

But God didn’t.

Who other than God could have written, directed, and produced such a beautiful story? At the core of all those developments, could it be that God wanted to prove no beginning was too humble or hostile, too crude or lowly for the King of Kings? Could it be that God is reminding us there is no situation from which God cannot bring joy?

All this evidence tells me that God can do anything, with anybody, anywhere.

And that’s where we come in. This story revives my joy for Advent and Christmas. You and I serve the One who can take the ordinary in any life and turn it into a revelation of Glory.

That’s the truth for us in this season! God was revealed to us in a way never before known. We realize God comes into our midst in ways we least expect even now.

Do you see Jesus this season? Do you sense His presence? Will you open God’s gift and receive Him?


Making Disciples of Jesus Christ for the Transformation of the World

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