The promise of Christmas: Why we still celebrate the birth of Jesus 2,000 years after it happened
Why do we still celebrate the birth of Jesus 2,000 years later?
Let’s take it one step further: Why has humanity held out this event as supremely important for even thousands of years before that?
Before you assume I’ve simply forgotten what year it is, in order to understand what I mean we must understand just how long the road history, and all of creation for that matter, has journeyed to get us to this point in the first place.
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In fact, we have to travel back in time, all the way to the book of Genesis, the first book of the Bible, and to the Garden of Eden. This is where the promise of Christmas first began. In fact, theologians call Genesis 3:15 the protoevangelium – the first mention of the Gospel. Said another way, it’s where Humanity began anticipating the arrival of One from God who would bring peace and righteousness to earth.
It is here that God told the serpent that a descendent of Eve would appear one day and crush him! The promise was then made more specific to Abraham. God called Abraham to be a father of a people who would bring a blessing to all the world (Genesis 12:1-3) eventually through Abraham’s great-grandson Judah (Genesis 49:10), and his descendent Jesse and Jesse’s son David (Isaiah 11:1).
Then the prophets began seeing more details: The Messiah would be born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14) in the town of Bethlehem (Micah 5:2). When he came, he would be proceeded by a forerunner (Isaiah 40:3-5) and enter Jerusalem riding on a donkey (Zechariah 9:9), speaking with the voice of a prophet like Moses (Deuteronomy 18:15-19).
The Jewish people knew these and many other references to the coming Messiah, and they were eagerly waiting for His arrival. When King Herod called the Jewish leaders together to ask where their Messiah-King was to be born, they answered without hesitation: “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet [Micah]” (Matthew 2:3-6). The greatest hope for the Jewish people, since their return from exile in Babylon, had been for God to send the Messiah and deliver them from their oppressors.
But it wasn’t just the Jewish leaders who were waiting. When the angel Gabriel revealed to teenaged Mary that she would be the Savior’s mother, she didn’t ask, “What Savior?” She was a bit perplexed about the “how” but not about the “what,” of the coming of the Son of the Most High, the Son of David. As soon as she understood the “how” – by the power of the Spirit of God – her questions were answered. It was time for the long-awaited Savior to be born! And not just for the Jewish people, but for all of creation, since the beginning of time.
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The Apostle Paul wrote about this to a new church in Rome not long after Jesus’ death:
“We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.” (Romans 8:22-23)
We are no longer waiting for the birth of Christ, of course, but we have the joy of welcoming Him into our lives, our homes and our churches afresh every Christmas. And we have the privilege of helping others welcome Him into their lives for the first time.
Today, in the midst of all the season’s festivities and traditions you may be enjoying, let us take a moment to remember just how long the world waited for its savior, and give him our gifts of welcome and worship as we celebrate his birth, this and every Christmas until he comes again.