Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Nativity - Prophecy

T0 appreciate all the details of the Nativity it is interesting to see just what prophecy was given in the Old Testament. If you read this story in Matthew's Gospel, you can see how he follows each occurance with a reference from earlier writings. Many things were foretold about the Messiah and his appearing. In Isaiah's writings he tells that the Lord will give a special sign, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son. Isaiah also said that the Messiah would be born of the stem of Jesse, David's father. Jesus was later referred to as the son of David because of that prophecy. That would indicate his lineage and prepare them for Mary's part in the story. In Micah 5:2 we are told where the birth would happen with this prophecy:...thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel.

Matthew's Gospel was written for the Jews and includes hundreds of references to the Old Testament. Luke's Gospel was written for the Gentiles who would have had no familiarity with the Old Testament or Jewish beliefs. Mark's Gospel is the memoirs of Peter and opens with Jesus as an adult. John's Gospel is the most spiritual and does not give the details of the nativity.

So I studied this story with Matthew and Luke, a nicely balanced telling. Matthew writes what he gathered from the years he spent as a chosen disciple of the Master. Luke was a physician and historian. His gospel is made up of first hand accounts. He no doubt spoke with Mary and could add things Matthew did not know.

The average Jewish man would have been schooled in the prophecies concerning the Messiah and his much anticipated appearance. Jewish women were not allowed to study scripture but attended Sabbath services hidden behind screens. They would have heard things the Rabbi taught as well as things that were discussed in their household. They believed the Messiah would come, that he would be born of a virgin in Bethlehem and be of the lineage of David. All this would verify the gospels.

I have to ask myself what I believe about the Messiah. Two thousand years later his name and message has spread all over the globe. It's hard to imagine the actual event happening so quietly and humbly, with so few witnesses. It would be many years before this blessed child grew to manhood and began his work. Yet I can feel the wonder of it every December. Some part of me wishes I could have been there. I'd like to think I would have recognized him. No matter. I know him now and honor him. Like a reformed Scrooge, I can say truthfully that I try to 'keep Christmas' in my heart all year long.

Tidings of comfort and joy.

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