The Wonder of Christmas
1 Peter 1:20-21
There is so much to take in when a person considers the wonder of Christmas. Over the next four Sundays of December we will be talking about the Wonder of God’s Promise, the promise of a Savior. We will look at the Wonder of the Incarnation of Jesus. Incarnation simply refers to Jesus becoming flesh and dwelling among human kind. We will reflect on the Wonder of the Manger. Think about it, God born in an animal stable and laid on a bed of hay in an animal’s feeding manger. Then finally, we will stop to consider the Wonder of the Star. Why does God use a star to bring these men from the east to Bethlehem? Does He draw people to Him today? The Wonder of the Star.
Today I want to take just a few minutes to talk about the Wonder of the Promise. Merilee sang about this precious promise. We read what Gabriel said to Mary that day he appeared to her. We are struck with awe and wonder at not only the angel’s proclamation but even Mary’s reception of it. But the Wonder of Promise goes back so much further in time than Gabriel’s appearance to Mary. In fact, turn with me to 1 Peter 1. Here we read that God’s plan of salvation was in His mind even before the creation of the world!
1 Peter 1:20-21
20 He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you
21 who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.
Do you see that? Jesus was foreknown before the foundation of the world. When I think about this, I am struck with awe and wonder. We all know that the passion of Jesus Christ that was put on display in His death on the cross stands as the most important event this world has ever known. But to think that this event was planned in the mind of God long before the world began is wonder all right. This literally goes beyond comprehension of our mortal minds. God planned the reconciliation of sinners before there were any sinners. God created humans for fellowship with Him knowing full well that we would be drawn into sin and rebellion against Him. But He had a plan.
~ The Messiah will Crush the Power of Sin
We see this plan in the Garden after Adam and Eve made that fatal choice to disobey God and listen to Satan the deceiver. God told the serpent that day that not only would he be cursed, but that one day, there would be a descendent of the woman who would crush his power.
I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel."
Think about this for a moment. One of the significant consequences of a cross death is the bruising of the victim’s heel. From the continual pushing up and relaxing of a person hung on a cross, simply trying to breathe, they receive significant bruising on the heel. As Jesus took the curse of sin, Jesus’ heel was bruised. But because of the Jesus’ death and resurrection, the power of Satan is crushed, signified by bruising of his head.
From this first prophetic promise in Genesis 3:15, we have a powerful prediction of the Savior who would come and crush the power of sin over us. This promise of a Savior was made just over 4,000 years before Christ came.
There are many promises like this pointing to a Savior. They were given to God’s prophets throughout time. These prophecies, or promises, talk about the things people should watch for, the signs that would be given, all so that believers would not only recognize but believe in the Messiah. It is amazing to think that the writings of the Old Testament were completed more than four hundred years before Jesus the Messiah came and that there are well over 300 prophecies throughout the Old Testament. Let’s look at a few more examples.
~ The Messiah Born in Bethlehem
The prophet Micah in Micah 5:2 tells us that the Messiah will be born in Bethlehem.
But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.
What is amazing about this promise of the Messiah’s birth in Bethlehem is that Mary and Joseph lived in Nazareth. But because of the Joseph being from the lineage of King David, he had to report to David’s ancient hometown for this census or registration for taxation purposes. What do you suppose would be the odds of Micah just guessing not only a Bethlehem birth, but that the Messiah would be born from the lineage of King David from ancient days?
Those familiar with the promises of Scripture knew about Micah’s prophecy because they studied the Scriptures. When Herod approached these Scribes and Pharisees about the birthplace of the Messiah, they knew exactly what to tell him in Matthew 2:4-6.
and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, "In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet: "'And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.'"
The place of the Messiah’s birth was promised by Micah’s prophesy 450 years before the birth of Jesus. John 7:42 tells us about a time when some people were questioning whether Jesus was the Messiah and they refer to the promise of a Bethlehem birth, where King David was born.
“Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the offspring of David, and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David was?"
Oh, the wonder of the promised birthplace of Jesus.
~ The Messiah will be born of a Virgin
Isaiah the prophet lived almost 800 years before the birth of Jesus. In Isaiah 7:14, we are told that a sign of the Messiah is that He will be virgin born.
Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
A young virgin woman will miraculously birth a son and He will be called Immanuel meaning “God with us.” Do you remember the situation with Mary and Joseph? When Joseph found out that she was pregnant with a child, he was going to divorce her quietly the Bible tells us. But an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph and told him not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife because what was conceived in her was from the Holy Spirit. Then the angel reminds Joseph of the promised virgin birth in Matthew 1:22-23.
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: "Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel" (which means, God with us).
Let me ask you, was Isaiah the prophet just lucky talking about the virgin birth of the Messiah 800 years previous to His birth? Is it just coincidence that the angel who appeared to Joseph used this promise of the virgin birth to relieve Joseph of his concern over her pregnancy? Not Likely! O, the wonder of the promised virgin birth.
~ The Messiah will be a Prophet like Moses
1200 years before Jesus, God revealed to Moses that one day a Prophet like him will rise up from among the people of Israel. This promise of God is found in Deuteronomy 18:15.
"The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers-- it is to him you shall listen.
You might think that is a pretty generic statement, how do we know that it is about Jesus? After Jesus’ ascension, Acts 3:20-23 records Peter’s sermon in the Temple courtyard. In Peter’s sermon to the people, he affirmed that Jesus is the one who fulfilled this promise from Deuteronomy, made by Moses, 1200 years earlier. O the wonder of God’s promise of Jesus the prophet like Moses.
~ Other Promises
We could go on and on with many more promises of Scripture, but, because of time, we will not look at the many prophecies or promises concerning the Messiah, Jesus. But let me just mention a few more. Prophecies about how:
~ The Messiah will be tempted by Satan
~ The Messiah will be rejected by His own people
~ The Messiah will be betrayed by one of His own for 30 pieces of silver
~ The Messiah will enter Jerusalem on a donkey
~ The Messiah will remain silent when falsely accused
~ The Messiah will be crucified
~ The Messiah will die as a sin offering
~ The Messiah garments will be divided by casting lots
~ The Messiah will be raised from the dead
~ and so many more.
I am going to be honest with you. I am not sure we can totally grasp the astronomical odds of all these promises of the Messiah being fulfilled by this One we call Jesus. If we count the promise of a Messiah made by God to Satan in the Garden, we have promises over a 4,000-year time span. We have promises made to and through many different individuals. To me, one of the many wonders of Christmas is that these are all fulfilled in Jesus Christ.
So, what is the probability of this happening? Prophetic statements made over thousands of years about a Messiah all fulfilled in one person we call Jesus? People that work with statics and numbers know that the odds are against this happening and yet it did.
1 person fulfilling 8 prophecies: 1 in 100 Quadrillion
1 person fulfilling 48 prophecies: 1 in 10 to the 157th power
1 person fulfilling 300 prophecies: Only Jesus!
(Peter Stoner – “Science Speaks”)
Do you know that the odds of you being hit by lightning, or becoming president of the United States, or a meteorite landing on your house is much greater than the odds that all these prophetic promises could be fulfilled in the Jesus?
Do you understand the enormity of this? People who try to debunk the validity of Scripture fail to see the power of God working from eternity past to accomplish His plan of making a way for you and me to be saved. There is one probability that has the odds of 1:1. The odds that you will die and face an eternal destiny is 1 in 1. Now, I don’t know about you, but knowing my odds concerning death and the curse of sin, I think I can trust in the fulfillment of God’s salvation in Jesus Christ.
Do you know Him as your Lord and Savior?