Christ Before Christmas

The Scriptures made clear his family history: of the line of Abraham (Genesis 12:2), Jacob (Numbers 24:17), Judah (Genesis 49:10), Jesse (Isaiah 11:1), and David (2 Samuel 7:12).

He must be born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14) in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2).

He would eventually be rejected by his own people (Isaiah 53:3), sold for thirty shekels (Zechariah 11:12), forsaken by his disciples (Zechariah 13:7), and silent before his accusers (Isaiah 53:7).

At his death, his hands and feet would be pierced (Psalm 22:16); he would be crucified with thieves (Isaiah 53:12); no bones would be broken (Psalm 34:20); the soldiers would gamble for his clothes (Psalm 22:18), and he would suffer thirst (Psalm 69:21).

Then he would be buried in a rich man’s tomb (Isaiah 53:9), resurrected (Psalm 16:10), ascended (Psalm 68:18), and now sit at the right hand of God (Psalm 110:1).

What are the mathematical chances that Jesus could fulfil just 48 of these OT Messianic prophecies? One in 10×157. To count this number you would need to count 250 per minute for 19 million times 19 million times 19 million years. I’d say the odds are rather good that Jesus was and is the Messiah, God’s Savior.

From the beginning of time this has been true. How were people saved before Jesus? By Jesus. God is not bound by time as we are; all time is present with him. And so for him, Jesus’ death on the cross could pay for the sins of Abraham as well as yours and mine (see Genesis 15:6).

And now, God’s plan for our salvation has come to us. The Savior has come to the earth, to those who need to be saved. He is available to you this morning. No matter what you’ve done, where you’ve been, or what you think of yourself, God loves you. You matter to him. And his Savior has come to forgive you and give you eternal life.

The babe of Bethlehem is the only hope you have of salvation and eternity. And the only hope you need. Just ask him.

Seek your God in Jesus (14, 18)

Now to the last astounding claim for the Christ of Christmas: he reveals God himself. Verse 14 says that in Jesus we see the very glory of God; verse 18 says that Jesus makes the Father known to us. To find God, come to the babe of Bethlehem.

This was true all across the Old Testament. Here we come to a concept which will be foreign to many of us: “the angel of the Lord.” He was a common figure in the Jewish Bible: he kept Abraham from sacrificing Isaac at Mt. Moriah, and promised that God would bless him and his descendants (Genesis 22). He rescued Hagar in the desert (Genesis 16), appeared to Jacob at Bethel (Genesis 31), and spoke to Moses at the burning bush (Exodus 3:1-2). Wherever he appeared he was worshiped and feared as God.

However, “the angel of the Lord” was distinct from God the Father. In fact, twice in Zechariah he prays to God and stands separate from him. So this “angel” is divine, part of the Trinity, but not the Father. And he cannot be the Spirit, for the Spirit is always invisible and unseen in Scripture (cf. John 3:8; 14:17). Add the fact that this “angel” never appears after Jesus came at Christmas, and it seems clear that this “angel” was Jesus himself.

This is what the early believers thought, including Irenaeus, Justin Martyr, Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria, Origin, Theophilus of Antioch, and Cyprian. I agree.

What does this mean? It was Jesus who revealed God to Moses at the burning bush; commissioned people into service such as Moses, Gideon, and Samson; interceded for the people (Zechariah 1, 3); comforted them, as with Hagar in the desert and Elijah in the cave (1 Kings 19:7); delivered the Jews from Egypt (Exodus 3); and changed the lives of every person who met him.

In short, Jesus revealed God the Father. As he did in the manger. As he still does today. If you want to find God, go to Bethlehem. Jesus is waiting for you.

Conclusion

What a shock—that the Christ who created, sustained, saves, and reveals God to the entire world would consent to enter that world as a helpless human baby. If he would go there, he will go anywhere. Even here. Even now.

Listen to Frederick Buechner: “Those who believe in God can never in a way be sure of him again. Once they have seen him in a stable, they can never be sure where he will appear or to what lengths he will go or to what ludicrous depths of self-humiliation he will descend in his wild pursuit of [us]. If holiness and the awful power and majesty of God were present in the least auspicious of all events, this birth of a peasant’s child, then there is no place or time so lowly and earthbound but that holiness can be present there, too. And this means that we are never safe, that there is no place where we can hide from God, no place where we are safe from his power to break in two and recreate the human heart because it is just where he seems most helpless that he is most strong, and just where we least expect him that he comes most fully” (The Face in the Sky).

If a baby in a feed trough is the creator, savior, revealer of God to the world, then our creator, savior, and revealer is with us today. Now, where is your feed trough in a cow stall? What is that place where you need God most? Look there, right now. He’s waiting for you.