And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit, and prophesied, saying:
"Blessed [be] the Lord God of Israel,
For He has visited us and accomplished redemption for His people,
And has raised up a horn of salvation for us
In the house of David His servant--
As He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from of old--
Salvation FROM OUR ENEMIES,
And FROM THE HAND OF ALL WHO HATE US;
To show mercy toward our fathers,
And to remember His holy covenant,
The oath which He swore to Abraham our father,
To grant us that we, being rescued from the hand of our enemies,
Might serve Him without fear,
In holiness and righteousness before Him all our days.
Luke 1:67-75 (NASB)
Hymn: "The King Shall Come When Morning Dawns" trans. John Brownlie
The Incarnation is a fundamentally historical event. I don't mean that in the sense that it definitely happened as a real event in history, though that is true; what I mean is that it did not happen in a vacuum. The coming of Christ was wrapped up in so much history and so much covenant language that it is impossible to grasp it with significant depth if we don't understand what came before. For the record, this is one of the reasons I feel as strongly as I do about Advent, that it is a time specifically targeted toward understanding the context into which Jesus was born. How often do we go back to the Old Testament during Advent? How often do our churches focus all their sermon series on the New Testament alone? How often do we give new believers a New Testament, maybe with the Psalms and Proverbs thrown in, instead of the fullness of God's word?
Consider Zacharias' song, sometimes called the Benedictus. Empowered by the Holy Spirit, he looks forward to the coming Christ by looking backward to the promises God made to His people and the terrible circumstances where they learned the value of those promises. I fear sometimes that we are so used to the idea that God is among us that we miss how shocking it really is that God would dwell with us. How wonderful must these words have sounded to those who first heard them!
Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: "BEHOLD, THE VIRGIN SHALL BE WITH CHILD AND SHALL BEAR A SON, AND THEY SHALL CALL HIS NAME IMMANUEL," which translated means, "GOD WITH US."
Matthew 1:22-23 (NASB)
In western churches, we celebrate Christmas tomorrow. Today, let us go back to the Old Testament and consider what it must have been like to receive the promise of Christmas for the first time.
Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Copyright by The Lockman Foundation