Before the Manger

baby-21990_640-1How stunning it is that people everywhere on the planet know the story of this ancient and humble birth, with the young mother said to be a virgin, the visitation of wise men from other countries, and the fulfillment of an ancient prophecy. What a surprising, cunning and shocking God we worship!

At the very beginning of human history, God promised Adam and Eve that their offspring would crush the head of our enemy (Gen 3:15). This was the first of many cryptic promises God made, and the first of many clues as to His plan to save us.

It appears the Good News began before the manger.

Andy Stanley recently gave a message, “Who needs Christmas?” and began by suggesting the Christmas story, rather than beginning with a pregnant virgin, begins with an elderly couple, Abram and Sarah. They were convinced they would never have children, yet God promised otherwise (Gen 15:1-21). Stanley went on to tie together the story of Israel’s beginning; Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph—becoming a nation, but one enslaved, for hundreds of years (hardly a blessing to the nations), to their first “deliverance” under Moses, to the odd and unexpected choice of a shepherd boy to be Israel’s greatest king, and then to the complete collapse and captivity of Israel and Judah.

Then during that dark time in the nation’s story (when her people were forgettable, not remarkable) Isaiah was given a prophecy to deliver about the coming Messiah, a child (!) who would take the government on his shoulders and be called “Mighty God” (Isa 9:6).

While it might have encouraged the broken people, they had no idea that it would be hundreds more years before that child was born. Nor could they have foreseen how much worse the lot of their people would become before this promise was fulfilled. Surely God views time and darkness differently than we impatient and demanding humans.

After the reigns of Assyria, Babylon, Persia, the Greeks, and, finally the Romans—all nations more great than the lowly and broken Israel, the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary, saying, “You will give birth to a son…He will be great…and will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end” (Matt 1:21).

Strange promises, at dark times, and unlikely choices of people… reveal the genius and creativity of our Author, Creator and Savior.

Human history, and certainly human suffering will never make sense to us unless we can see from God’s perspective, knowing His faithfulness and character. The same God who promised redemption for his people long before the manger.

May your Christmas season, whether merry and bright, or complicated and hard, remind you of the One who has promised to deliver us and bring us to our true home for the holidays.

Oh come all ye faithful…oh come, let us adore Him.

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