part of God’s plan to redeem the human race from its fallen state, God purposed
in His heart to send a Redeemer, whose name is Jesus, to this earth, to restore
humanity to its original status. The Holy Spirit inspired an Old Testament
prophet, named Isaiah, some eight hundred years before the event, to reveal
details of how it would happen. The revelation was made piecemeal.
First, we learn that it was to be a virgin birth and the child’s name would be Immanuel, which means ‘God with us.’ “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call Him Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14) A second prophecy was made by the same prophet: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6)
Micah, another Old Testament prophet, also prophesied where the event would take place. “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” (Micah 5:2) As we study these three prophecies, we note the channel through which the birth of the Saviour would come—a virgin birth, baffling human comprehension.
The names of the child had already been revealed, names God Himself was known by. Scripture therefore confirms that this child was God in person--God with us, God made man. He was God in the flesh: “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)
The whole of Israel was in a state of expectancy over the exact timing of this event. During this period, God was unhappy with the prophets who had compromised their stand—diluting the word of God---and had stopped communicating through them. For four centuries God did not utter a word through that channel. No message was transmitted to any prophet because they had proven corrupt and unreliable. God put a ban on prophecies through the famine of the word. “The days are coming,” declares the Sovereign Lord, “when I will send a famine through the land – not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord.” (Amos 8:11)
Interestingly, God did not send a prophet for the next revelation, He sent angel Gabriel to break the prolonged silence. Angel Gabriel broke the news directly to both Mary and Joseph. “The angel went to her (Mary) and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favoured! The Lord is with you.” (Luke 1:28) “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favour with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.” (Luke 1:30-33) The angel appeared to Joseph in a dream and said: “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:20-21)
Jesus’ birth happened just as the prophets and the angels had foretold. There was no need to publicise this great and historic event, it was kept low-key. The religious authorities of the day were not privy to what was happening around them. That was denied them. God chose to announce the birth to simple folks like shepherds who were in the fields tending their sheep. The choice of shepherds is indicative of the mission of the Saviour who; “... was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.’ (Matthew 15:24) The choice of the town Bethlehem where the Messiah would be born is prophetic in that He would come from David’s lineage.
That the authorities of the day were equally sidelined and bypassed was of great significance. The Pharisees, Scribes and the rulers of the law were completely ignorant of the timing of Jesus’ birth. All of them had proved unworthy to be witnesses of God’s glorious intervention on earth. Instead, it is to the mages from the east along with an elder Simeon and the prophetess Anna, that such revelations were made. (Luke 2:21-38)
A king was born and ‘was laid in a manger’, not in a palace. He came from heaven to earth to redeem humankind from its burden of sin. He could have come with all the pomp and pageantry, to the sound of trumpets and chariots but He was not a worldly king. The nature of His birth set the tone for His mission.
Jesus left His throne on high in order to show the human race how to live. The incarnation is all about God manifesting Himself in the flesh. Jesus came not only as part man, part God, but fully man and fully God. “For in Christ all the fullness of the deity lives in bodily form...” (Colossians 2:9) This good news should be a source of joy for the whole of humankind. God’s coming to earth was to set us free from the shackles of sin and to provide us with the keys to eternal life. To all who receive Him, eternal life is assured.