Every year I get surprised by how early Christmas decorations appear in shops and I really don’t know why! The lead in time for Christmas retailing seems to start earlier each year.
However, that time is nothing compared with the lead up time to the very first Christmas. One of the highlights from our 2 Samuel series was the reminder about how ancient God’s plans to save humanity really are. The lead up to the first Christmas spanned too many generations to number.
In 2 Samuel 7:16, around 1000BC, God promised David:
“Your house and kingdom will endure before Me forever, and your throne will be established forever.’ ”
This promise, as incredible as it was, was really just a continuation of God’s faithfulness to his people. Many hundreds of years before David, God promised his ancestor Abraham:
“I will keep My covenant between Me and you, and your future offspring throughout their generations, as an everlasting covenant to be your God and the God of your offspring after you.” (Genesis 17:7)
When we travel even further back in time we discover the reason for these great promises stems from the way humans first treated God. In Genesis 3, when humans sinned against God and rejected his good plans for us our relationship with God was totally fractured. The consequences were far reaching for every human experience since then – life consists of difficult labour and toil, we find sickness and we struggle along the way until we all face death.
As we go back to the origins of the human condition we not only discover that we caused the problem but we are reminded how desperately we need God to intervene and help us. God’s promises to Abraham and David are part of his incredible rescue plan in the long lead up to the first Christmas.
Fast forward past David to the time of Isaiah in the late 700s BC and we find God’s faithfulness to his promises reflected in Isaiah’s prophetic words:
The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; a light has dawned on those living in the land of darkness….. For a child will be born for us, a son will be given to us, and the government will be on His shoulders. He will be named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. 7 The dominion will be vast, and its prosperity will never end. He will reign on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish and sustain it with justice and righteousness from now on and forever. (Isaiah 9:6-7)
Journey further through history and Isaiah sheds light on how salvation will come:
He was pierced because of our transgressions, crushed because of our iniquities;
punishment for our peace was on Him, and we are healed by His wounds. (Isaiah 53:5)
At the end of the Old Testament God reminds his people of the devastating future ahead for those who continue to rebel against him but:
for you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings,
and you will go out and playfully jump like calves from the stall (Malachi 4:2)
Finally, after the long long wait for the first Christmas, 1000 years after David, the Angel Gabriel announced the fulfilment of God’s Christmas plans:
Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 Now listen: You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will call His name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the on of the Most High, and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. 33 He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end. (Luke 1:30-33)
The first Christmas came as a surprise for some but the reality is that it was written on the pages of history for centuries in advance. The birth of Jesus meant the arrival of God - Christ the Saviour to save all who trust in Jesus.
Now that is something definitely worth the wait! It is also definitely something worth sharing with others this Christmas. May our long lead up to Christmas bring many great opportunities to share the true message of Christmas with others.
(If you are interested in thinking more about the great salvation plans of God why not join either our Christianity Explained or our Introduction to the Bible course running in the new year?)