December 4, 2013
(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)
We tend to bunch it all together – this thing we call Christmas. We read the story in the first two chapters of both Matthew and Luke and – in the minds of many – it happened in a matter of weeks! Actually, the first Christmas story spans more than three years – as we shall see over the next several blogs.
I’m not going to reproduce the whole passage here – even the part on which we will focus today. It’s too long. You can read the whole story of John the Baptist’s conception and birth starting in Luke 1:5 and reading through the end of the chapter, verse 80. But in the sixteen verses of Luke 1:5 through 20 we will highlight the story using verses 5, 7 and 11, 13 through 16, and 18 through 20:
There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest named
Zacharias…His wife…was Elisabeth….they had no child, because Elisabeth
was barren, and they were both well advanced in years….an angel of the
Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense
….the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias: for your prayer is
heard; and your wife Elisabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his
name John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at
his birth. For he will be great in the sight of the Lord….He will also be filled
with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb….” And Zacharias said
to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is
well advanced in years.” And the angel answered and said to him, “I am
Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and was sent to speak to you,
and bring you these glad tidings. But behold, you will be mute and not able
to speak until the day these things take place, because you did not believe
my words which will be fulfilled in their own time.”
Even this was not the start of the Christmas story, because God had promised to send One called “the seed of the woman” to defeat “the seed of the serpent” – Satan – way back in Genesis 3:15. There were many other great prophesies through the centuries such as Isaiah 9:6 and 7:
For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will
be upon His shoulder: and His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor,
Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His
government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and
over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from
that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform
Yes, it took centuries to all come to pass, but God’s timing was perfect, as Paul wrote in Galatians 4:4 and 5:
But when the fulness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born
of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law,
that we might receive the adoption as sons.
In “…the fulness of time…” all the prophesies of Christmas came to pass. Why did it include the birth of John the Baptist? It says in Luke 1:16 and 17:
And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. He
will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts
of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just,
to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.
Did you notice that “Him” in the second line above is capitalized? That’s because it refers to the incarnation – the coming into the world of the Son of God – Jesus Christ! John was the one prophesied in Malachi 3:1 – 400 years before – “Behold, I will send My messenger, and he will prepare the way before Me.” Six months older than Jesus – and the Lord’s second cousin (see Luke 1:36 – KJV) – John is called in Matthew 3:3, “…he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah, saying, ‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness; “Prepare the way of the Lord, make His paths straight”’ ” (see Isaiah 40:3-5).
So starts The Time-Line of Christmas! Let’s see where it leads us!