Songs and Prophecies Ushering in the Christ Child
At Christmas time we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ our Savior. Down through the centuries God had sent prophets telling the Jewish people that a Messiah or a Savior would come who would bring salvation not only for the Jewish people but for all people who would accept it. But shortly before the baby Jesus was born, His birth and His mission were foretold and celebrated by angels and by members of His family. Let’s listen in to the angel Gabriel as He announces Jesus’ birth to Mary.
“Now …the angel Gabriel was sent by God to Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And having come in, the angel said to her, ‘Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you: Blessed are you among women!’” (Luke 1:26-28) Mary was frightened, as I am sure you and I would have been, to be greeted by a bright angel.. “Then the angel said to her, ’Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High:..” (Luke 1:30-32a) Mary was told by the angel Gabriel to name her son, “Jesus”. Jesus is Greek for the Hebrew name, Joshua, which means “The Lord is Salvation.”
Then Mary asked the angel, “How can this be, since I have not had sex with a man?” (Luke 1:34) “And the angel answered her ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you: therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.”…”For with God nothing will be impossible.” Then Mary answered. “Behold the handmaiden of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel left. (Luke 1:35-38) Mary was a humble girl who fully trusted God and wanted His will in her life. Oh that we might follow her example.
The conception of Jesus would take place through the direct action or “overshadowing” over Mary of the Holy Spirit. Mary would be the only virgin on earth ever to give birth to a baby. The birth of Jesus was different from all other births because Jesus is different from all other humans that have been born in that He is the Son of God. He could not take away our sin if He were born in sin as we humans are.
A few months later when Mary was a couple of months pregnant she visited her cousin Elizabeth and shared her joy in being given the honor of being chosen to be the Mother of the Savior. Let’s listen to what Mary tells Elizabeth. Here is part of Mary’s song which has also been called “The Magnificat”. “My soul magnified the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant: For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed. For He who is mighty has done great things for me. And holy is His name. And His mercy is on those who fear Him from generation to generation…” (Luke 1:46-50)
There is a wonder surrounding Mary, the mother of Jesus. That she was privileged and chosen to bear God’s Son is wonder enough. She is taking part in the miracle of God becoming human, which is called the Incarnation. She didn’t understand all of it but she simply worshipped God in humble acknowledgment.
We can follow her example of persistence and obedience in following God’s basic directive on our lives, even when the details of the outworking of His will are unclear or mystifying. Mary is a study in the pathway forward in God’s will. She remained steadfast with Jesus all the way to the Cross, rather than protect herself. (John 19:25) Mary is a model of responsive obedience.
Another relative in Jesus’ family was also given a prophecy from God concerning Jesus’ coming birth. The Holy Spirit came upon Zachariah, the husband of Mary’s cousin Elizabeth, and the father of John the Baptist. A few months before Jesus was born, Zachariah prophesied concerning Jesus’ coming birth.
This is part of his prophesy. “Blessed is the Lord God of Israel. For He has visited and redeemed His people. He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of His servant David. As He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets, who have been since the world began. That we should be saved from our enemies. And from the hand of all who hate us. To perform the mercy promised to our fathers. And to remember His holy covenant. The oath which He swore to our father Abraham: To grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, Might serve Him without fear, and holiness and righteousness all the days of our lives. (Luke 1:67-75)
This song or prophecy of Zachariah’s is known as the “Benedictus” because it deals with the salvation which is about to appear in the Person of the Messiah, Jesus, Mary’s child. The redemption Jesus accomplishes is a visit of God, a direct intervention. It is also the raising up of the “horn of salvation”, which is symbolic of strength. (Ezekiel 29:21) God’s people had waited a very long time for their promised Messiah (Savior) to come.
Our Savior’s birth came with signs and wonders. God was not silent. But many in that day went about their business and never listened to the prophecies in Scripture or knew that the promised Savior had come. Never saw the star or heard the angels sing. But, those who wanted to see were given sight. And those who wanted to hear were given open ears. It’s still the same today. Many are too busy to see God’s love for them. Or hear God calling. If we truly want to follow the Savior, He will be made known to us. (Matthew 7:7)
As we rush around preparing for Christmas, may we slow down enough to catch the spirit and the wonder that our promised Savior brings. As we hear the words of the carols may we feel the joy that they bring. Let the truth of Christmas sink in deeply. The truth that God loves you with an unconditional love and He sent His Son to bring you salvation.