…in the fullness of time…
Such a curious expression. One tends to hear it mostly in Biblical contexts, but there are other references in literature. According to UsingEnglish.com and Answers.com, the phrase means the following:
If something happens in the fullness of time, it will happen when the time is right and appropriate.
Within the appropriate or destined time, as in We’ll know if it’s a boy or a girl in the fullness of time. This expression employs fullness in the sense of "a complete or ample measure or degree." [Early 1600s]
As implied by the second definition, the phrase is often used in conjunction with an anticipated birth, hence its frequent quotation on this first Sunday in the Season of Advent. The first candle lit is that of Hope, and the overall theme is patient re-examination of one’s life in preparation for Christ’s coming. Sermon themes often contrast the Advent notion of patience with the gluttony of consumerism and a selling season that seems to begin earlier and earlier in the year.
I worked for one church where the pastor took this "fullness of time" concept quite seriously, especially as it applied to Christmas Carols and Advent. He was adament that we should not sing Christmas carols or hymns until Christmas actually arrived. As a choir director, it was a challenge to balance the desires of the pastor and the desires of the congregation, who had already been hearing carols in the Malls for weeks by this time, and were ready to start singing them in church. After Christmas just seemed too late.
Speaking of Advent music, the First Sunday of Advent often features two of the oldest pieces of music in the hymnal – "O Come, O Come Emmanuel", and "Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence." The first of these is so compelling, with its simple lines, and uplifting "Rejoice! Rejoice!" refrain. "Let All Mortal Flesh", on the other hand, seems like an odd contradition. The song exhorts us to keep silent, yet here we are singing about it. There are also strange references to six-winged seraphs and cherubims that never sleep. I think most congregants can wrap their minds around "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" much easier.