WAITING ON CHRISTMAS
Part 2: The Prophecies
“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign.
Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and shall call his name Immanuel.”
There was a yearning sort of silence in the air. The people were all filled with anxious anticipation for a long-held hope—one that they figured was soon to come. The scriptures all pointed to it, but alas, where is this promised Messiah? Where is the child to be conceived by the virgin as a sign from the Lord that the renewal of all things had come? When will Immanuel (which means “God with us”), finally arrive?
It had been 400 years since God has spoken through a messenger of God or through a prophet, the last of which was Malachi.
In those days, the land was filled with utter abandonment—not of socio-political or geographical desertion but one of spiritual decline. The priesthood, the very people that were to represent God and mediate before men, would be the source of this corruption. They proliferated a god-less religion, outwardly exuding pious ritualism but inwardly far from God; their worship was stale and routine.
In the land could be seen the effects of such spiritual decline: divorce was rampant, social injustice was widespread, and offerings to the temple were neglected. People were doing whatever they wanted and deemed “right” without any care for others. It was indeed a sinful time in Israel (as was with every other epoch before that).
The faithful people of God had expected a renewal of all things after the completion of the Jewish Temple at 516 B.C.—after the valiant efforts of godly leaders like Haggai and Zechariah; but this yearning for a better day did not produce any hope. The temple was indeed rebuilt but the presence of God was not in it.
Instead of a renewal, repentance had grown cold and people’s hearts got calloused. God had not shown and exemplified His covenant blessings over Israel and soon enough, the land would be stagnated in spiritual apathy.
God was silent.
There needed to be an expectation for a better day—one that would rekindle the people’s hope and harken their yearning for a spiritual renewal. Its as if God had withdrawn His presence from them; realizing that the languor cannot persist, the faithful people of God were anticipating a time in which Israel would renew its commitment to God’s covenant. These faithful few desired God’s presence to be back in their lives and in their land.
It was a time for a much needed wake-up call for Israel.
“Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts” Malachi 3:1
The prophet Malachi predicted the coming of two people: one to prepare the way and the other, that which is the Way for mankind’s renewal. He prophesied the coming of John the Baptist and Jesus Christ the Messiah, referring to each as a “messenger” of God: the first messenger to prepare for the second, and the main Messenger as the sign Himself, to point to the timeless covenant of God with His people.
The prophecies foretold the coming of this long awaited Messiah just as Isaiah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, and the rest of the prophets foresaw. They had been living in expectancy for the turning of the tides of history and the dawning of a new day while yearning for this Savior. Countless faithful people have had their hopes in this soon and coming King to redeem Israel. Will God finally speak after a 400 hundred year silence?
Yet, as Micah 5:2 states:
“But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,
who are too little to be among the clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
one who is to be ruler in Israel,
whose coming forth is from of old,
from ancient days.”
The Ruler would come from one of the poorest, humblest, and least-known cities in all of the land. He would come unexpectedly but once He came, there would no longer be silence but the Word of God would speak a thousand words aloud of the glory and the Good News that was to come. Finally, the silence was broken and God spoke the Word. The prophecies were fulfilled!
Closing Verse for meditation:
1 Peter 1:8-13
Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories.
It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.
Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
You’ve heard it that Jesus Christ, the Messiah, has already come. What significance does this bring to your life? Do you daily live in conscious worship and intent, knowing that Christ, Immanuel, is with you every moment—every day? Do you hope in the Lord for the renewal of broken and declining matters in your own life, just as Israel did? Like the prophets of old, are you in eager expectation of what Christ can and will do in your own life?
To continue this devotional series, please see Part 3: A Not-So-White Christmas: The Advent