Why putting the Christmas pudding together reminds Simoney Kyriakou of God’s perfect timing
It has taken nearly 20 years for me to adapt a Christmas pudding recipe to match the tastes of my family. As it falls to my lot to make the puddings each year along ‘acceptable lines’, I know it takes about a year to get it right.
Firstly there’s the fruit, using the proper spices and soaking it throughout the year. Then comes the suet: vegetable only, but not so much that the pudding gets stodgy. And the bread has to be soft, seeded bread. The mind boggles!
Then there is the adding and mixing of more juices, chopped apples and pungent tangerines, softened almonds, brown sugar and luxurious molasses.
There is the usual fight to tie the string around the bowls before many hours of boiling, until, finally, the puddings are ready to be ‘put up’ until Christmas. Yes, it’s a year-round process to get it right in this family!
God took a lot longer than a year preparing the right conditions for his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to burst into our world and change everything (well, to be precise, no time at all, because God knows everything and ‘a thousand ages in his sight are like an evening gone’).
But, from the formation of the world, through the various covenants with Abraham, Noah and Moses, and the sweeping history of kings and battles, prophets and priests, the Lord waited until a definite moment before he sent Jesus.
The apostle Paul describes it as ‘in the fulness of time’, or ‘at the right time’, God sent his Son Jesus to be born of a woman (Galatians 4:4). This phrase always thrills me — ‘at the right time’. And it was. All the ingredients for the spread of Christianity like wildfire across the world were there, at that exact point in time.
There were, of course, all the prophecies reaching their historical and political climax. These started with Genesis 3:15 and stretched all the way through the Scriptures, speaking of the promise that a child would be born of David’s line.
Christ had to be born in Bethlehem according to Micah 5:2. And, in about the year AD 6, the Roman governor Quirinius was commissioned by the Emperor Augustus to take a census of the lands of Syria and Judea, forcing all people to go back to their birthplace.
This meant that Mary and Joseph, descendants of King David, had to leave Nazareth and go to Bethlehem, where in a stable Mary gave birth to Jesus.
Think about the geography. There was Israel, with a shoreline on the Mediterranean, the busiest sea of the time. The land was criss-crossed with trade routes into Africa, Asia Minor, Europe and beyond. People from every land came to Palestine’s ports to ply their wares and then head back to their own lands.
Think about the languages. Many Israelites at the time of Jesus’ birth were natural polyglots, conversing in Greek, Roman, Aramaic and Hebrew, not to mention various tribal dialects. Any news of this new teacher, this great man of God, would spread easily among Greeks, Romans and others visiting Israel.
Think about the astronomical events. The heavens had been converging in patterns that mesmerised the mystics, drawing their attention to a special star in the sky, and beckoning the wise men to start their travels, convinced that this star would lead them to the King of kings born into this world (creationtoday.org has an interesting discussion of scientific debates surrounding this star).
Consider the enemy, the Roman conqueror, with his particular mindset to fight, conquer and civilise. Rome’s was an empire of occupation and instruction, education and civilisation.
The Roman Empire stretched from Alexandria in Asia Minor to the borders of Scotland. With it came a common tongue, new trade routes and an easy way to spread new beliefs.
A few hundred years earlier, the narcissism of Alexander of Greece would have stifled the swift spread of Christianity. Before then, the crushing fear of the Persian Empire could have prevented the message leaving the borders of Israel.
Prior to that, there was no way of getting the gospel out to the ends of the earth, as Israel was a tiny entity fighting for its existence. If Christ had come later, the disintegration of the Roman Empire could have made it harder for so many people to hear of the saving power of Christ.
Moreover, Roman historians chronicled the life of Christ and spread of the gospel — something that would not have easily happened during the ‘Dark Ages’, after the fall of the Western Roman Empire.
God knew what elements needed to be put together to create ‘the right time’. He sent his Son into the world just then, so that the message could rapidly spread that ‘Christ Jesus came to save sinners’.
This Christmas, spare some time to consider God’s perfect timing and Christ’s perfect salvation.