Christmas Series: God is Finally with Us
“But when he had thought this over, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a Son; and you shall name Him Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” Now all this took place so that what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet would be fulfilled: “Behold, the virgin will conceive and give birth to a Son, and they shall name Him Immanuel,” which translated means, “God with us.’” (Matthew 1:20-23, NASB)
Over the past six months, I’ve touched a few times on how we can see God the Father alluding to Jesus and the coming cross over and over again throughout the Old Testament. The first we see it is in Genesis 3, “And I
will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” Or when we focused on Genesis 15, where God made the old covenant with Abram as groundwork for the new covenant that Jesus’ blood would afford us.
And as we get closer and closer to Christmas, I think it would be cool to mark the places in the Old Testament where Jesus’ birth, life, and eventual death were already laid out for us. Did God give a date and time where Jesus would be born? No, but He did give us plenty of signs in the form of prophecy for us to be sure that Jesus actually was the Son of God, not just some guy claiming to be.
Some prophecies of the coming Christ are more apparent than others. For instance, as we’ve noted before, God’s promise in Genesis 3 is a little vaguer than others. Did God say that the woman’s offspring would crush the head of the devil? Yes, but it doesn’t give us any more detail other than the fact that it would happen; which is probably why, when Eve gave birth to her firstborn son, she named him Cain, which means, “I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord.”
Could it be, that Eve was more like us than we admit? Is it possible that Eve, upon the birth of her firstborn son, thought to herself, “This must be the man God spoke about when He cursed the serpent! I gave birth to a son, therefore this must be THE son God said would crush the devil’s head!” Truth is, it’s very possible that Eve believed she would get to see the Redeemer with her own two eyes. It’s not altogether absurd that Eve thought Cain was that Savior, because maybe– like we sometimes do– Eve thought God’s promise was more instant-gratification than it turned out to be.
And sometimes we do that. We get a promise from God and expect it to take days or maybe weeks. We forget that Abraham waited close to 25 years for his promised son, Isaac. We forget that Joseph waited roughly 14 years between his prophetic dream and becoming second in command over Egypt. In the same way, it took 15 years from anointing to coronation before David became King of Israel.
Eve never got to see the promise that her offspring would crush the one who tempted her, instead, it took 42 generations. Yeah, you read that right– GENERATIONS. But before you mistake the birth of Christ for some kind of random occurrence or assume that God chose on a whim when Jesus would be born, take a look at Matthew 1. I know, I know, I skim over it too. Genealogies tend to make my eyes glaze over, but if you’re just trying to burn through this endless list of hard-to-pronounce names, you might miss this little tidbit at the bottom: “those listed above include fourteen generations from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the Babylonian exile, and fourteen from the Babylonian exile to the Messiah.” (Matthew 1:17, NLT)
So, after long generations of holding our collective breath and waiting, it was finally time for the long-awaited promise to be born. After 42 generations had come and gone, it was finally time for Abraham’s promised seed to be born in the flesh; the same promise that God made Adam and Eve at the fall of man.
The time of Jesus’ birth is certainly intentional, and the circumstances were as well. “Behold, the virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and she will name Him Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14, NASB) This verse is the scripture our key verse refers to when it shows the prophecy was fulfilled. In Isaiah, where it says “virgin,” it doesn’t only mean a woman who hasn’t had sex, but it goes even farther to say a woman who wasn’t even married.
That, of course, was Mary. Mary may have been pledged to marry Joseph, but her pregnancy delayed that marriage. At first, the delay was that Joseph didn’t trust Mary when she said God had given her a baby, assuming she had been unfaithful with another man. And then, even after God brought Joseph on board, he still waited to marry her so that no one would doubt that Jesus was actually Joseph’s by blood.
And why was Jesus to be called Immanuel, or “God with us?” I think that has a lot to do with the waiting that had to happen before Jesus could be born. I think it was to be a sign that, after all that waiting, we could have a reassurance that Jesus was the promise humanity had been eagerly awaiting. A reminder that Jesus was the answer and the Savior promised at the fall. But even once Jesus was born, it would still be over thirty years before we’d make it to the cross, and so Jesus’ name was designed to remind us that God was actually with us.
Not in heaven, enjoying His power and might.
Not in a throne room, reveling in his riches and glory.
Here. With us. Finally with us.
Unlike Eve, who had given birth to a son and hoped to God that this was the man He spoke about in Genesis 3, we could finally be sure that God was actually here with us in the flesh.
And ultimately, that’s what I want to focus on this Christmas: that we don’t celebrate Christmas because it’s fun or feel-good. We don’t celebrate Christmas because of the child, but because we are reassured that the child would become a man, and the man– being God– would go to a cross to save us. At the end of the day, the finished work of Christ was not that He was born, but that He died. In turn, we celebrate Christmas not simply because He was born, but because it marks the moment in time where God finally came to be with us. We celebrate because, in His birth, the possibility of the cross and redemption becomes ever clearer.