Most Christians are quite familiar with the Nativity story as described in the New Testament. Both Matthew and Luke record various details about this holy event in their gospels. By weaving their writings together, we develop a more complete and wondrous account of Jesus’ birth.
But did you know that the Christmas story is also told in the Old Testament? Most of us today are not as familiar with this version, yet it is just as beautiful and spectacular as the other.
This morning we are going to spend a few moments learning the Nativity story as told by the writers of the Old Testament. They prophetically provided remarkable details written hundreds of years before the events actually took place. They told a story of something that, at the time they spoke, had not yet happened. Yet their rendition was completely accurate and compatible with that of Matthew and Luke.
The message this morning will include passages written by Moses, Samuel, Solomon, Isaiah, Micah, Hosea, Jeremiah, and Daniel. When pieced together, their prophetic words foretell the magical story of Christmas - the advent of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!
I. The Lineage of His Birth (Genesis 49:10 & 2 Samuel 7:12-13)
Moses declared that the Messiah would be a descendant of the tribe of Judah. Judah was the third son of Jacob, who was the son of Isaac, who was the son of Abraham. Thus, Jesus was of the line of Abraham. In various places the Scriptures refer to Him as the “Lion of Judah”.
Furthermore, Samuel stated that the Messiah would also be a descendant of King David. He would be in the line of royalty, and is rightly called the “King of Kings” and “Lord of Lords”. His kingdom, the Kingdom of God, is eternal.
II. The Method of His Birth (Genesis 3:15 & Isaiah 7:14)
It was commonly understood that the male provided the “seed” which, when implanted in the female’s womb, resulted in the birth of a child. Moses referred to “the seed of a woman” in order to underscore the fact that Jesus had no biological father to provide the seed.
More specifically, the great prophet Isaiah flatly stated that Jesus would be born of a virgin. The word "virgin" is understood to mean exactly that - a woman who has not had any physical relationship with a man. He would be called Emmanuel, which means “God with us”.
III. The Place of His Birth (Micah 5:2)
There were 2 towns named Bethlehem in Israel at the time of Jesus’ birth. Micah specified that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem Ephrathah, which was just south of Jerusalem. This was a small, insignificant village in those days.
IV. The Time of His Birth (Daniel 9:25)
Daniel predicted that the Messiah would come “sixty-nine weeks” following a decree to rebuild Jerusalem. Such a decree was issued by King Artaxerxes of Persia around 458 BC. If each “week” is understood to mean 7 years, then the approximate time of Jesus birth would be somewhere around the changing from BC to AD.
V. The Sign of His Birth (Numbers 24:17)
Moses depicted Jesus as a “star” coming forth from Jacob. Again, this is an unusual characterization of the Messiah as a star. Jesus is called “The Bright and Morning Star” elsewhere in the Bible. Based on this verse, ancients looked for an actual star or some other celestial light that would serve as a sign of the Savior’s birth.
VI. The Visitors at His Birth (Psalm 72:10-11)
King Solomon described the birth of a baby who would be so highly revered that kings would visit and bring gifts. This prophecy is ascribed to the coming Messiah and alludes to the visit of the magi, also called the Wise Men, who presented the Christ-child with gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
VII. The Flight Following His Birth (Jeremiah 31:15 & Hosea 11:1)
Jeremiah lamented that Rachel was weeping for her children, the descendants of Benjamin her son, who were being slaughtered by the Babylonians during their deportation. However, this scene also depicts the killing of young boys by Herod following the birth of Jesus.
Because of Herod's murderous rampage, Mary and Joseph took their newborn baby and fled to Egypt. A few years later, after Herod’s death, they returned to Israel from there. Hosea foretold that the Son of God would be called out of Egypt.
Like almost all Biblical prophecies, these that we’ve discussed today have dual fulfillments. The first is usually specific to the time that the prophecy was uttered, but the second occurs much later. These prophecies all point to the coming of the Messiah.
While there may be other Old Testament prophecies related to the birth of Jesus, together these are enough to tell the compelling story. In short, here is the summarized account of Christmas story in as told in the Old Testament...
The promised Messiah, a descendant of both Abraham and David, and of the tribe of Judah, will be born of a virgin in the sleepy town of Bethlehem at the appointed time. His birth will be signified by a shining star. Nobles will visit Him and bring Him gifts. And though efforts will be made to kill Him as an infant, the Babe will escape and grow up to become the Savior of His people.
For centuries God’s people shared this version of the Nativity story with one another, longing for the coming of the Messiah. Through years of hardship and oppression, this promise was a source of encouragement and strength. Yet when He finally came, just as had been foretold, many did not recognize Him… sadly, the same is still true today.
As Christmas approaches again this year, may I ask… do you recognize Jesus? Don’t let what Christmas has become overshadow what it really is. Jesus has come! That baby lying in the manger is God’s gift to mankind - He is God’s gift to you. Don’t let this holiday season pass by without receiving Him. Merry Christmas!