Last Sunday we were celebrating Jesus as the “King of Kings and Lord of Lords” – the culmination of the Christian year.
Today the new Christian year has begun and now our thoughts have turned to a very different being – a little baby lying in a manger who shares the same name as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. “And his name shall be Jesus”.
The Christmas story is so well known to us we almost need no introduction to it. We understand it with the benefit of 2000 years of knowledge of the story of Jesus, from conception to cross to resurrection and ascension. And we have all had years of experiencing the presence of God in our lives. Could it be that we have become so familiar with the story that we miss the depth of the incredible meaning of that story?
God’s intervention on earth did not start at the time of the birth of Jesus. We know from Genesis that the Trinity of Father, Son and Spirit was instrumental in the development of this planet, from its most basic life forms to the complex design of the human body.
And as we look through the Old Testament we see many predictions – or prophesies – that point to the future. Some of these are regularly read at Advent and Christmas, and some are quoted by Jesus himself.
The existence of sin is revealed / the serpent is blamed.
God promises Abraham that his line will bless the world.
Isaiah 9: 6-7
6-7 For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace.
The Peace of God will come to the world – the lion will lie down with the lamb.
Isaiah 40: 1-5, 9
3 A voice cries out:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD,
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
5 Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed,
and all people shall see it together,
for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”
2 But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah, who are one of the little clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to rule in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days.
How are we to understand these prophesies? With the benefit of hindsight we can understand their prophetic messages as predicting God’s future for his people on this earth.
Some, like the one in Micah, have a local and an eternal message. This was the time of the exile and already Israel had been destroyed (4 years before), and only Judah in the south was left. Micah sees that from the insignificant town of Bethlehem a great leader would come to restore God’s chosen land. The message of Micah spoke both to the future of the God’s Kingdom following the return from exile, as well as speaking far into the future (about 725 years) that Bethlehem was an insignificant town, yet from that town would come a great leader.
So historically we know that there was a current meaning to the prophetic writings as well as the prophetic meaning for the coming of the unnamed person who would restore God’s people to their rightful place in the Kingdom of God.
Doe this devalue the prophesies? Not at all, more it increases our understanding of God’s purposes throughout history.
And God’s purposes are very clear. From the very beginning God wanted to get past the disobedience of humankind. The story of Adam and Eve has one sole purpose – and that is to teach us about good and evil – made so clear in the story.
So throughout the Old Testament period, God sought to lead and guide his chosen people in every way he could – in practical ways – God brought them to Egypt when famine threatened to wipe them up. Evil took over in Egypt and they were rescued by God through Moses with the Exodus. Even then, evil rebellion came… And we could go on century after century. Each time God intervened and rescued his people.
Then came Israel and the Roman occupation. Once again the people were pulled away from their history as God’s Chosen People – and this time God intervened. He sent Jesus to live and die as an example for the people. And again evil came in and turned the very people who should have been loyal to God against God himself. It was God who was crucified on that Cross.
And God had known it would happen this way. God knew that the people would turn against him and his messenger before history happened.
So the words of Isaiah 9: 6-7 came true twice. A child was born that would lead the Children of God home to their Promised Land, and a child was born that would lead the Children of God home to their Eternal Kingdom.
Sometimes the prophesies of God are obvious, both in their time and in the future. Other times the local event is lost in history, and the future prophesy stands alone.
What we are seeing is God in action – God intervening in our lives and in our world. Why? Because God want us to have a near-perfect life – but God does not and will not force us to a certain way of life. That is God’s way of working with us. And God truly knows what he wants from us – in service and belief.
So in Advent we will look at the events:
Elizabeth becomes pregnant and John is Born;
Mary becomes pregnant and Jesus is born…
The Shepherds came, the Wise Men care…
All events prophesized in the Old Testament.
They came true – just as God knew they would; but God had to intervene!