Pastor Steve Ellison: Recognizing the Babe in the Manger
At the time of the first Christmas faithful Jews were looking in anticipation for the promised Messiah, but I imagine most had grown weary and were totally wrapped up in their own lives.
After all, it had been about 400 years since they had heard from the Lord. When Jesus came as promised, even those who were faithfully anticipating the Messiah were likely to be looking in all the wrong places.
I find no reason to be critical of them. I suspect that you and I would have been very much like them. It had been a very long time since God had spoken to them. They had been living under the domination of foreign totalitarian governments for several hundred years. These rulers were often cruel and demanding.
If I am honest about my own heart, it seems to me that my search for the Promised One would have dimmed in light of my concerns for survival. I suspect that if I had been looking at all, I would have been looking for a victorious warrior to run the Romans out of my country.
After all, a part of Old Testament prophecy about the Messiah looked forward to the coming of Victorious King at the end of time. Regardless, I would have been exactly wrong, but it did not have to be that way.
After His crucifixion and resurrection, Jesus walked along the Emmaus Road with a couple of disheartened and discouraged disciples who did not recognize Him. Luke 24:27 describes their conversation, “Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.” (NASU)
Very soon afterward, Jesus suddenly appeared to other disciples and said, "These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled." Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.” (Luke 24:44-45 NASU)
Scripture is living and active. We can read and understand in a superficial way, but real understanding requires the illumination of the Holy Spirit. With the aid of the Holy Spirit, our reading of the Old Testament makes it possible for us to recognize the Babe in the Manger.
Genesis 22:18 promises that the Messiah would be a descendant of Abraham. Matthew 1:1 tells us that Jesus fulfilled that prediction. Genesis 49:10 tells us that the Messiah would be from the tribe of Judah. Luke 3:33 and Revelation 5:5 tell us that Jesus meets that requirement.
Daniel 9:24-25 predicts the time of the Messiah’s birth. Luke 2:1-2 confirms that Jesus was indeed born at that time. Micah 5:2 predicts the birthplace of the Messiah. Matthew 2:1 confirms that Jesus was indeed born in Bethlehem, the predicted place.
Isaiah 7:14 predicts that the Messiah would be born to a virgin and that His name would be Immanuel. Matthew 1:20-25 confirms that Jesus fulfilled both of those prophecies.
These are just a few examples of the dozens of Old Testament prophecies fulfilled by Christ. These and others help us to recognize the long awaited Messiah. The Jews living 2,000 years ago needed a way to tell this baby from all the other babies. Unbelievers today need the same evidence that Jesus is indeed the promised Messiah, the Christ, the Redeemer, and the Savior of all who trust Him.
Other people, far more competent and knowledgeable than I, have calculated the odds of any one person fulfilling all the Old Testament Messianic prophecies. Their conclusions have been unanimous: the odds are astronomical. It takes just a little faith to recognize the Babe in the Manger. The evidence is convincing.