We recognise the truth of that statement and a few years ago a modern song-writer took it up. But is that how we relate to life? We sometimes talk about an idea "whose time hasn't come". And we assume - almost fatalistically - that we will die "when our time is up". But Solomon wasn't being negative or fatalistic. He was expressing a strong and positive conviction, "there is a time for everything" - the Good News Bible puts it, "Everything that happens in this world happens at the time God chooses."
Of course, our choices aren't like that. For much of our life we "don't have time to do things" - or at least "not enough time." "Que sera sera. Whatever will be will be," we console ourselves - a fatalistic rather than a Christian view of history.
And in the land of Israel - in today's Bible reading - important political events were taking place. Jewish historian Josephus (he lived from about 38 to 100AD) records in his book The Antiquities of the Jews the appointment of Cyrenius (or Quirinius) to Syria "being sent by Caesar to be a judge of that nation, and to take account of their substance..." (Ant. 8.1). In his Wars of the Jews he mentions a Jew named Eleazar, descendant of the Judas "who had persuaded many of the Jews not to submit to the taxation when Cyrenius was sent into Judaea to make one." This Eleazar and his armed resistance fighters, the Sicarii, were preparing to defend their last strong-hold - the fortress of Masada (Wars 7.252-255). "In those days..." Yes, it was a particular historical period - the political makers and shakers of history were there. Their presence anchors the events of Bethlehem firmly in our human history. Their presence - and the political decree for a taxation-census - also helped to guarantee that Mary and Joseph would be in Bethlehem, "the town of David" (Luke 2.4).
Bethlehem was not a large town, though full of significance for the Jews. And right now, a sizeable group were making their way there. Henry Alford has commented, "There is a mixture here of Roman and Jewish customs... In the Roman census, men, women, and children were all obliged to go and be enrolled... But then this census was made at their dwelling-place, not at that of their extraction. The latter practice springs from the Jewish genealogical habits..." So it appears that Jewish stubborn insistence on a census by tribes and families may well have made the information less accurate and helpful from the Roman point of view!
I am sure there are mothers - and fathers - here who have their own particular associations with that phrase, "at that time..." With our first I recall Alison becoming restless. At one o'clock in the morning she was vacuuming and doing meal-preparation. I didn't understand it then, but by three she was asking to be taken to the hospital. The time came... For the later children I felt I had a few more clues as to when the time was coming. I can ask the fathers, what were the signs that told you that your wife's time had come? And mothers, did you know?
We try to imagine what that journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem must have been for Mary. The distance is about 110 kilometres as the crow flies, but the rough Palestinian roads made it much further than that - and even more so if they took the usual diversion to avoid Samaria. It was not the time for such a journey. It always looks such a peaceful gentle scene as artists have portrayed it - Mary on a donkey, Joseph walking alongside.
We imagine the conversation as, again and again, Mary says, "Joseph, stop! I can't go on! How much further to Bethlehem? You'll have to find some nearer place. I don't think I can make it!" "Dearest Mary! We'll wait here a while in the shade of this tree. It is not only Caesar's command that calls us on - God's promise calls us too. It is his child you bear!" She made it. But by now all the best places had been taken. The time came for her to have her baby, and there was no better place to lay him than in a cattle feeding-trough, a manger.
But I'm not married yet. How can this happen?
"The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God" (vv. 34-35).
And now it is God's time - not just Mary's time to give birth, but God's time to begin his mighty work of salvation. As the angel announced to the shepherds that night, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger" (vv. 10-12).
Every child is special, but this child is unique - only one of a kind - the Son of God. Each of us is here on earth for some purpose, but Jesus came to be and to do what no other person could ever do - to be the Saviour of the world.
A few years ago there was a political slogan, "It's time!" A couple of elections later the losing party had reshaped it as "Time's up!"
But this is not essentially the politician's time. It is even more than a mother's time. Christmas is about God's time and your time - God's time to set in motion his plan for salvation and forgiveness, your time to respond to God, to receive his forgiveness, to be saved.
"There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven," wrote Solomon. Paul wrote to the Galatian Christians that "when the time had fully come, God sent his Son..." (4.4). God has done his part, now it is the right time for us to respond to him - with faith and love and obedience and worship, with unselfish care and sensitivity and generosity...
That has all the makings of a Very Happy Christmas and the Newest and Best New Year yet!