Monday, December 23, 2019
There were those in ancient Israel who were still anticipating the coming of the Messiah. Though they had not heard from a prophet for over 400 years, the prophecies of Isaiah and others of his time still stood as the shining hope of national rescue and renewal. Four-hundred years is a long time to maintain hope in the fulfillment of a promise. Most people had forgotten the tiny details that would validate His coming. One such detail was the fact that He would be born to a virgin.
Matthew 1:18 – 23 18This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. 19Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. 20But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him 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. 21She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” 22All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23“The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”—which means, “God with us.”
Try to put yourself in the position of the average citizen of rural Israel. You have heard of the promised Messiah, and you have had the writings of faithful men who proclaimed the promise read to you in the synagogue. You have never had a reason to doubt the reality of the ancient prophets and the validity of what they wrote, and you have looked for His coming. But doubt certainly rises in your mind when someone from Nazareth tells you a rumor that a young girl is pregnant without ever being intimate with a man. You immediately conclude that this must be a deeply troubled young girl who is seeking attention. She most certainly has lied to protect some man’s reputation. Who could believe that she is really carrying the Messiah?
Yet that was the sign that God proclaimed would validate the birth of His Son – it would be a virgin who would give birth. How else would it be possible for God to dwell with men as man and still be God? An earthly father would have continued the lineage of sinners. But this baby was a child of the heavenly Father, created by the power of the Holy Spirit who overshadowed Mary’s sinful flesh. What an incredible miracle – God born as a man.
Because I know the rest of the story of His life, I believe it all to be true. But what would I have believed if I had been there? Would I have left my sheep in the field to go see Him in the manger? Would I have traveled for two years from the farthest reaches of the known world to worship Him because I saw a star?
Here’s how I know whether I would have or not – Did I get up today and prepare myself for His next coming? I have never had any reason to doubt the reality of the ancient prophets and the validity of what they wrote. I have not doubted the truth of what Jesus has said. But did I arise today in anticipation that this might be the day the Messiah returns? Do the tiny details of world events cause me to consider the closeness of His appearing? Do I live each day as I did the last or as the last day?
At His first appearing, it was “God with us.” At His next appearing it will be us with God. Forever. Look up – it may be today.