For my Sunday school lesson this past Sunday, I decided to take a look at the Christmas story from the perspective of the Old Testament. It was really a focus on the role of prophecy leading up to the birth of Jesus. But prophecy doesn't just mean a foretelling of future events; it's really just any message given from the Lord. We see the prophecy, as a foretelling of a future event, of Jesus' birth from the prophets of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Micah, and Hosea - about the virgin birth (Is. 7:13-14), that He would be from the line of David (Jer. 23:5-6), that He would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2), that His would be a kingdom of no end (Is. 9:6), and even that He would be called out of Egypt (Hosea 11:1). But we also see the prophecy, or message from the Lord, from the angel to Mary about her conception, from the angel to Joseph about taking Mary as his wife, and from the angel to the shepherds about the birth of the Savior. We see it again when the wise men are warned to not return to Herod, when Joseph is told to flee to Egypt (fulfilling the prophecy in Hosea 11:1), and when Joseph was told it was safe to return but only to Nazareth.
The most significant prophecy though comes from Isaiah 53. Matthew references this passage when he says that the prophets of old said the Messiah would be a Nazarene, which is odd because no Old Testament prophet specifically uses the word "Nazarene." So how could that be a prophecy of old? Well, at the time of Matthew, the connotation of the Nazarene is someone who is unworthy, lowly, and inferior. We see that in Nathanael's comment in John 1:46 when he says, "What good thing could come from Nazareth?" How does this relate to Isaiah's prophecy though? Let's read what Isaiah 53 says:
And when we see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him. He is despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows, yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes, we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way, and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He opened not His mouth He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment...He was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgressions of My people He was stricken. And they made His grave with the wicked – But with the rich at His death, Because He had done no violence, nor was any deceit in His mouth...My righteous Servant shall justify many, for he shall bear their iniquities...He poured out His soul unto death, and He was numbered with the transgressors, and He bore the sin of many, and made the intercession for the transgressors.
The incredible prophecy of Isaiah shows us that the Savior would be the "Nazarene" as Matthew succinctly stated. However, Isaiah's words don't stop with the amazing miracle of a birth, they lead directly into the prophecy of the death of the Messiah for our iniquities. And only now can we really see what the Christmas story is about. The world will say that Christmas is about presents, and loving kindness, and family gatherings and good cheer. The church will say that Christmas is about the nativity, the shepherds, the angels, the miraculous conception and birth in a stable. And while that is true, if it were only that, then we would just have another amazing miracle worked by God for a virgin to conceive and prophecies to be fulfilled. For us to really understand the wonder of the Christmas story we have to understand WHY that birth happened in the first place. And that is revealed in Matthew 1:21:
And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for He will save His people from His sins.
That was the point. He came here out of His Kingdom to be born a man so that the world would be saved from their sins. That is the Christmas miracle - and it is all because of Easter. This was God’s plan to save His people from their sins. Jesus was born into this world for one purpose. So that He would be beaten for your transgressions, and by His stripes you would be healed. He made the intercession for your sin.
Paul said in 1 Timothy 1:15 “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.”
Jesus said it Himself in John 3:17 “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”
That is the true meaning of Christmas.