The Truth About Christmas
by Bob Burridge ©2010
This article continues a series of studies about the events surrounding the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ. The series begins with, Called To Bethlehem. There is also a complete index for all the articles telling The Truth About Christmas.
Part 7 An Ancient Promise Fulfilled
The birth of Christ wasn’t an unexpected event to God’s people. The problem was that those teaching the people tended to interpret God’s prophecies according to their speculations and theories. Today many still see his coming as much less than it really was.
The promise started long ago at the beginning of human history. There was a very bleak day in the garden called Eden. Adam and his wife Eve felt alone for the first time. The glory of God they’d seen in everything around them seemed to dim and fade away. Even the glory of God they had seen in themselves seemed gone too. Instead of perceiving his wonder and love being declared in them, they saw human bodies now devoid of that declaration of glory. Now that they were blind to see that important God-stamp on them, they felt naked.
Satan’s great lie had deceived them. Their eyes were opened to something new in Eden. Now they saw real evil — and they were part of it. Understandably, they were afraid. They were experiencing something they never felt before. Now they knew what it was like to be alienated from God. The one who blessed them, was now perceived as a threat.
They made little aprons out of leaves to cover their bodies now that the glory that they once saw was gone. They ran to hide when they heard God’s presence beginning to show itself again in his garden.
Eden seems like a strange place to look for part of the Christmas story. But what happened next was just as unexpected as when they realized that Satan had lied. They expected harsh judgment, but it came united with mercy and a great promise. Their alienation was not going to end God’s relationship with his human creations.
By grace, God’s undeserved favor and love, a promise was made. In Genesis 3:15 God said to Satan, that serpent that tempted Eve, “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.”
This was the first hint of God’s amazing plan: One would be born to a woman who would finally overcome and destroy Satan and sin. He would crush the serpent’s head while suffering a bruised heel. Adam and Eve’s sin wasn’t a surprise to God. It was part of his plan to reveal more of himself than Adam and Eve even knew existed. God was not only the great Creator — he’s the great Redeemer too.
Adam and Eve gladly received the promise of redemption. God opened their eyes to the coming of this Messiah, and gave them faith to trust in it. They were banished from the garden, but they found new life in the hope of a Savior. Their fellowship with God was restored, but now they understood the horrors of sin, and the wonders of mercy and grace.
You have probably seen or used those count-down calendars for kids to use for the month of December. They have little windows to open every night before bed to count down the days to Christmas. It keeps children excited about the coming of Christmas Day.
Anticipation is something we humans know very well. To keep his people excited about the coming of the promised Messiah, God kept the promise alive by revealing progressively more about the advent of Christ. He sent his prophets to expand the message and stir hope in waiting human hearts.
Long after Eden God explained his promise to Noah, and even later to Abraham. God explained that this Messiah would be born to Abraham’s descendants. In Genesis 12:3 Abraham was told that this blessing wasn’t just for his own family, It would be a blessing to all the nations on earth. God said, “… in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.”
Much more was revealed in the days of King David. His family would continue the line of hope. Messiah would be born to his descendants. And God told him that this Messiah would be an eternal King, Lord of all. In 2 Samuel 7:12-13 God said to David, “And when thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build an house for my name, and I will stablish the throne of his kingdom for ever.”
Then in verse 16 he said, “And thine house and thy kingdom shall be established for ever before thee: thy throne shall be established for ever.” David’s Psalms are filled with references to the promise of the coming of Messiah.
Later God gave amazingly detailed predictions about Christ’s coming to Isaiah. We still quote many of these verses that clearly tell about the birth of Jesus Christ. In Isaiah 7:14 God promised that this Messiah would be nothing less than God with us. It says, “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”
That name Immanuel was later given to Jesus. It’s actually the Hebrew phrase: אעמנו אל
(im-ma-nu el). The first part עם (imma) means “with.” The next part is the Hebrew ending נו (nu) which means “us.” The final part אל (el) is the common Hebrew word for “God.” Together Im-ma-nu – el literally means, “with us — God.” This promised Messiah would be nothing less than God himself here with us.
One day that promise will be fully complete: God’s people will be with God forever in glory. King David was comforted through his times of suffering by being able to say in Psalm 23:6, “I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.”
Later in Isaiah 9:6 God opened another little window to build anticipation of the coming Christ.
This is a promise we still read every year at Christmas time. “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”
God even opened a window for us to see how the Christ would take up his people’s guilt. He would suffer for the sins of those he loved, for those who didn’t deserve anything but judgment. And that’s the foundation for our hope still today. Without his death for our sins, we would still be blind to God’s mercy. It wouldn’t be revealed. God opened a window to let us see this amazing wonder hundreds of years before his birth. In Isaiah 53:4-6 God’s word says, “Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.”
Micah 5:2 even pointed to the city in which he would be born. It says, “But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.”
God gave his people all these windows of promises leading to the moment of Christ’s birth. These promises kept the hope alive through the ages. They serve as our great hope today as we look back on what God has done.
Today we look back on the birth of that promised one. We see all the windows that led up to his birth now left open for us to see in the Old Testament. We see how God helped his people by keeping the hope alive, a sure promise to rest in. And now we know — Jesus of Nazareth was that one Anointed to that special work.
That’s where the word Christ comes from. The word Anointed in the ancient Hebrew of the Old Testament is משיח (Meshiakh). We say “Messiah.” In the Koine Greek of the New Testament the word for anointed is Χρiστος (Christos), we say “Christ.”
At the birth of Jesus, the one and only hope of restoration with God came to earth. He paid sin’s debt in full for all who would trust in that promise God made long ago in Eden.
As it was then, and is now; it’s all by grace that anyone really trusts in God’s provision. Aside from his work of mercy our lost hearts would continue to believe the lie. We are born lost in sin, totally depraved in our very nature.
The Christ who was born, taught, suffered, and died is also risen. The raising of his human body after his death proves that sin was overcome. Death was its penalty. The separation of body and soul would not mean final judgment. The reason: the separation of the person from God, spiritual death, had been overcome.
This same living Savior, Jesus Christ, is here today to change lives and redeem souls eternally. He comes into the hearts of those brought to faith in him by God’s transforming power.
We no longer need to anticipate his coming to earth. He came 2000 years ago. God’s promise in Eden was kept. But we live still appreciating the many blessings his coming earned for us. But there’s still anticipation — still windows to open. They show us what to expect of the living Christ.
The Bible’s promises are the little windows in our calendar of anticipation of God’s blessings. They keep before us the hope Christ brought to us so humbly first in Bethlehem, then in that lonely and disgraceful death on the cross just outside Jerusalem. They encourage us and stir us to grateful obedience to our loving Heavenly Father.
Daily open and consider these windows of hope found in God’s word. Open the Bible every day and be filled with appreciation for God’s plan of redemption, how he overcame sin and our guilt in the Savior his love sent into our world. Let those windows of hope stir you to anticipation of his blessings in your life every day, and of the glorious eternity ahead for all who are redeemed by his grace.
Next Study: The Birth of Our Savior