In western culture, we are obsessed with time. Calendars, clocks, alarms, reminders. We carry around time on our wrists and have alerts that are constantly reminding us of our plans or schedules. We measure time unlike any previous generation. 

Modern day scientists and microchip engineers have split time down to infinitesimal measurements. A zeptosecond, for example, is a trillionth of a billionth of a second. That’s a decimal point followed by 20 zeroes. The only unit of time shorter than a zeptosecond is a yoctosecond, and Planck time.

In the language of the New Testament, there are two words for time: χρόνος (chronos) and καιρός (kairos). Chronos, from which we derive our English words, chronology and chronological, signifies a space of time, whether long or short, and implies duration and order. Kairos indicates a season or a period of time. Chronos marks quantity, kairos, quality.

God may take His time, but He always keeps His word.

In the genealogy of Matthew, we are reminded that the promise of God sending a messiah (Hebrew מָשִׁיַח, mashiyach, role of “an anointed one”; Greek Χριστός, title of “Christos“) took a long time, generations to be fulfilled (Psalms 2; 21; 72; 89; 110; Isaiah 7:14; 9:1–7; 11:1; Micah 5:1-5;  Zechariah 6:9–14). Jesus, generations later, was “the son of Abraham.” God promised Abraham that all the peoples of the earth would be blessed through his descendants (Genesis 12:3). It was even before then that God hinted that one day He would “strike [the] head” of Satan and defeat evil (Genesis 3:15).

It was centuries, millennia, before the angel would come to Mary and tell her about the child she would bear. She sang, “He has remembered his mercy to Abraham and his descendants forever, just as He spoke to our ancestors” (Luke 1:54–55). The promise was a long time in coming! In fact, in the four hundred years before Christ was born no prophets, no messengers were sent to the people (Malachi 4:1-6), let alone a messiah. It looked like God had forgotten. No one was coming, it seemed. 

But then, at just the right time, He came.

“When the time (χρόνος) came to completion, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:4-5).

We cannot judge God by a calendar. We cannot hold Him to our schedule. God may appear to be slow, but He never forgets his promises. At times, He may seem to be working very slowly or even seem to have forgotten His promises, but God has a purpose and plan. Peter explains, “The Lord does not delay His promise, as some understand delay, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). And when God does fulfill His promises, they are far beyond what you and I could ask, think, or imagine (Ephesians 3:20-21).

To us, in our time frame, God may seem to forget His promises, but He comes through in ways we can’t completely comprehend before it happens. Think of the coming of the promised Messiah. The divine King of Heaven was born not in a castle but in a cave. He confounded all expectations, but it was only by coming in weakness (Isaiah 53:1-9Matthew 8:17) and dying on the cross (1 Peter 2:22-24) that He could save us (Ephesians 2:11-17Philippians 2:5-8Colossians 1:15-202:13-14). God kept his promise.

God’s grace virtually never operates on our time or on a schedule we consider reasonable. He doesn’t follow our agendas or calendars.

Christmas reminds us that though it seems God may have forgotten His promises or forgotten us, even now He is in the process of arranging all things in His time (χρόνος and καιρός).

18 For you know that you were redeemed from your empty way of life inherited from your ancestors, not with perishable things like silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of an unblemished and spotless lamb. 20 He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was revealed in these last times (χρόνος) for you. 21 Through Him you believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God” (1 Peter 1:18–21).

Just as Jesus came to Bethlehem as a baby to fulfill God’s promise, He will come again for us to rule and reign as the King of kings. He promises, “I am coming soon, and My reward is with Me to repay each person according to his work” (Revelation 22:12). He promises, “The time (καιρός) is near” (Revelation 22:10). “He who testifies about these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.” Amen! Come, Lord Jesus! (Revelation 22:20)

Follow me…as I follow Jesus Christ.

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