To understand and prepare for Christmas, we do not start with the narrative in the New Testament, but need to understand the world that this child was born into, and this child was sent to be saviour of. We need to start in Genesis.
(A) Promised to His father and mother to crush Satan and undo the curse of God’s wrath (Gen 3:14-19)
The Bible explains how the world fell into corruption and futility through the sin of Adam and Eve. This spiritual reality describes all of life, even life today. Gen 3:14-19 records for us God's judgment on this world we live in. It promises conflict between the offspring of the woman and the offspring of the serpent (Gen 3:15), painful childbearing for the woman (Gen 3:16), conflict in relationship between the woman and her husband (Gen 3:16) and difficult work for the Adam (Gen 3:17). Ultimately, because of their sin, both Adam and Eve will die (Gen 3:19b).
Genesis 3 helps us understand that conflict, painful toil and death was not part of God's original intent for the world. The world he intended for man to live in was just the opposite. The broken world we live in now is a result of sin.
But even in this passage detailing the curse on the world, there is hope. God says something unusual in Gen 3:15. There will come an offspring of the woman, just one person, that will deal a bruise to the head of the serpent, at the cost of a bruise to the heel. He will win the victory.
Genesis 3 contains the seed and beginnings of the Christmas story.
(B) Promised to His mother the virgin Mary that her son will reign from David’s throne forever (Lk 1:26-38)
In Luke 1:26-38, we read of the encounter between the virgin Mary and an angel of the Lord. Notice how the opening verses, verses 26-27 contain a lot of details and information. This sheds light on the author's intent for this book. Luke intended for the book not to read as a narrative but an account of real events from real people.
When the angel first appeared to her, the first words were ones of reassurance (Luke 1:28). Mary was "greatly troubled" (Luke 1:29) at these words. In the subsequent verses, the angel explained that she would bear a special son (Luke 1:30-33).
This son would be:
- "Son of the most high" (Luke 1:32) -- This meant that God would have a Son and she would bear this son, who is the divine one of God.
- Heir to the "throne of David" (Luke 1:32b) -- This boy would inherit the throne of Israel's greatest king.
- Reigning over "the house of Jacob forever" (Luke 1:33a) -- This son was from the family of faith (and sinners)
- King of a kingdom with no end (Luke 1:33b)
- Mary's response to all that the angel said was one of great puzzlement (Luke 1:34). Mary was just an ordinary human, like you and me. Remember also how the people of that time had no concept of a personal God. God was worshipped in the temple, and there was no ready access. To be told that God would come in the form of a man, and she was to bear this son was truly puzzling.
The angel answered her question by pointing to the miraculous pregnancy of her old cousin Elizabeth (Luke 1:36) and Mary responded finally in obedience (Luke 1:38).
(C) Promised to His father Joseph because He would save His people from their sins (Matt 1:18-25)
We read about Mary's response to the child, and the Bible also recorded for us Joseph's response. Mary was betrothed to Joseph and her pregnancy put him in a difficult situation. A divorce could results in Mary's death. Yet, to marry her would naturally be difficult for him. The Bible spares no detail and paints the situation as it was. These were real people facing real dilemmas.
An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph (Luke 1:20) and spoke words of assurance. The angel also explained to Joseph the special nature of this child that Mary was bearing (Luke 1:21-25). This was no ordinary baby, but a special child, sent by God to save the people from their sins. This was the promised one, and all these took place to fulfil the prophecy made by Isaiah 600 years ago (Matt 1:23 c.f. Isa 7:14). Joseph heard all these, and responded in obedience (Matt 1:25).
Christmas celebrates the child, first spoken of in Genesis 3:15. This also reminds us that the Bible is really one big story that spans all of human history.
This Christmas, do you know the Christ-child that the festivities are about? Do you love this child, who came as heaven's gift?
“Long lay the world in sin and error pining, till He appeared and the soul felt its worth
a thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices!”
O Holy Night