When the Old Testament prophet Malachi put away his pen few would have guessed that it would be some 400 years before God would raise up another prophet. During that time the world changed and Israel along with it.
Babylon fell to the Medio-Persian Empire which fell to Alexander the Great and the Greeks. When Alexander died his empire was divided between four of his generals. Two had significance for Israel, Ptolemy who ruled Egypt and northern Africa and Palestine, and Seleucus who held Syria to the north. The two battled often and fiercely and Israel was seemingly always caught in the middle, occasionally rebelling and gaining a short-lived sense of independence.
While these battles were taking place Rome was gaining power and spreading its influence. Pompey, a Roman general intervened and captured Jerusalem and Rome occupied Israel. They appointed Herod the Great to govern, setting the stage for God to begin to more fully reveal His plan.
It began with a priest named Zacharias. He and his wife Elizabeth were “advanced in years” and had no children. As Zacharias took his turn to enter the temple and burn incense the angel Gabriel appeared to him, telling the priest that God had heard his prayers and that he and Elizabeth would soon have a son who they were to name John. John would “go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah to the hearts of the fathers back to the children.”
Some six months later Gabriel carried another message, this time to a young virgin girl named Mary, telling her that she had found favor with God and that she would conceive a son and name Him Jesus. Now Mary was engaged to Joseph, and he soon discovered that Mary was pregnant, and Joseph knew that he was not the father. So he planned to send her away secretly, so as to not disgrace her. But before he could do so an angel came to him, telling Joseph much the same thing Mary had been told, including “you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”
So Joseph married Mary and shortly thereafter took her to his family’s home town of Bethlehem because the Roman emperor, Caesar Augustus, had ordered a world-wide census. It was at that time that Jesus was born.
And we prepare, more than 2,000 years later, to celebrate His birth. We remember the story of the baby in the manger, the star, the angels, the shepherds and the wise men. We decorate our homes, exchange gifts, sing special songs. We experience, at least for a time, comfort and joy.
Yet the story doesn’t end in a manger in a barn in an overcrowded Bethlehem. That is simply the beginning of the fulfillment of the promise. And what was yet to come was also foretold, by the prophets of old and in the story of that first Christmas itself. Some of the foretelling was blatant. When Mary and Joseph took Jesus to the temple in “Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord,” they were met by an old man, righteous and devout, named Simeon. This man told Mary, “this Child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed, and a sword will pierce even your own soul.”
Some of the foretelling was less obvious, like Jesus’ humble birthplace and the fact that shepherds were the first to learn of His birth. And there are the words of the prophet Isaiah that foretold the sorrow and grief that Jesus would endure on our behalf.
As we celebrate once more the birth of our Savior, let us also remember what it was He came to accomplish and take advantage of the opportunities this special season presents to share that good news.
From now through the end of the year I’ll be sharing scriptures dealing with the birth of Jesus during Midday Prayer Time around 10:30 AM and 2:30 PM.
Mon 12/03 Luke 1:26 – 33
Tue 12/04 Luke 1:34 – 38
Wed 12/05 Luke 1:39 – 45
Thu 12/06 Matthew 1:18 – 21
Fri 12/07 Mathew 1:22 – 25
Mon 12/10 Luke 2:1 – 7
Tue 12/11 Luke 2:8 – 14
Wed 12/12 Luke 2:15 – 20
Thu 12/13 Matthew 2:1 – 6
Fri 12/14 Matthew 2:7 – 12
Mon 12/17 Matthew 2:13 – 18
Tue 12/18 Matthew 2:19 – 23
Wed 12/19 John 1:1 – 5
Thu 12/20 John 1:6 – 13
Fri 12/21 John 1:14 – 17
Mon 12/24 100 Hours of Christmas Music
Tue 12/25 100 Hours of Christmas Music
Wed 12/26 Isaiah 53:1 – 4
Thu 12/27 Isaiah 53:5 – 8
Fri 12/28 Isaiah 53:9 – 12
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