Monday, December 24, 2012

Promises Made, Promises Kept

Blessed is the Lord God of Israel, for He has visited and redeemed His people, and 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” (Luke 1:68-70).

The above prophecy concerning Christ comes to us from the lips of Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist. Though he had just experienced the birth of his own son, under the unction of the Holy Spirit, he spoke of the soon coming birth of God’s Son, Jesus Christ. Zacharias’ anticipation, his certain hope; was the shared hope of all the Old Testament prophets and saints.  

What was the content of this Messianic hope? What was the anointed One to do for His people? 

First, Zacharias says that the Messiah was come “to perform the mercy promised to our fathers” (Luke 1:72). Thus we are assured that God did not send His Son to condemn the world (the unbelieving world was under God‘s just condemnation prior to Christ‘s coming), but to show the world His immeasurable mercy.  

Jesus’ birth is the fulfillment of God’s long promised mercy to the “fathers” of the true faith. More specifically, this is the keeping of the promise “which [God] swore to Abraham” (Luke 1:73).  

By Myself I have sworn, says the LORD . . . blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants . . . your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies. In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed . . . . (Genesis 22:16-18) 

We—along with the Old Testament prophets, Zacharias, the Apostles, and all the writers of the New Testament—understand that the merciful promises of God to His people are fulfilled in His Son, Jesus Christ. We celebrate the birth of our Lord, not because His advent delays God’s promises to the fathers, but because His advent fulfills them.  

Second, Zacharias declares that the Messiah comes “to grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve Him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him all the days of our life” (Luke 1:74-75).  

We celebrate the birth of Jesus because He is our great deliverer. He is our King who vanquishes every foe. Our warrior King has crushed the head of our enemy and His victory is our victory.  

Because of Christ we serve God without servile fear, for Christ Himself is our righteousness, our holiness. Because Christ has come, we now serve the LORD all of the days of this life, and in the unending day of the life to come, confidently clothed in His imputed righteousness and holiness.  

God’s Son, born of the Virgin Mary, is our conquering King and He clothes us in robes of true righteousness.  

In addition to His office as righteous King, Zacharias also proclaims that the Messiah comes as our perfect High Priest “to give knowledge of salvation to His people by the remission of their sins” (Luke 1:77). 

Our perfect High Priest remits our sin through the offering of the perfect sacrifice. Lambs offered by sinful men could not remit sin. Only the Lamb of God, offered by God’s High Priest—the one Mediator between God and men—could atone for sin. Thus Christ our High Priest and Mediator offers up Himself to God as the perfect Lamb, sacrificed before the foundation of the world.  

How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? (Hebrews 9:14)? 

The Baby in the manger is God’s spotless little Lamb. We celebrate the miraculous birth of Jesus because He is our King and our High Priest. But He is more still. Christ fulfills yet another office for us. He is our Prophet.  

Zacharias exults in the coming Messiah, the Prophet of God, that He comes “to give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace” (Luke 1:79).  

Christ alone gives light to the sin darkened world. Christ’s words—the very words of God—reveal the way of peace with God. If we would hear God we must hear Christ in scripture. “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son…” (Hebrews 1:1-2a).  

Prophets were agents of divine revelation. God spoke to His people through them. Yet Christ is the Prophet. He not only tells us God’s word—He is God’s Word. The Baby in the manger is God’s Word indwelling human flesh. This little One is God the Son incarnate: fully God and truly human.  

What a glorious, ordinary night—the night Jesus was born! It was unlike and like every other night before or since. A heavenly host was praising God over a sleeping Bethlehem. Such is often the case with momentous events: they go unnoticed. And this, the most momentous event of all, was by and large unnoticed then and ignored now.  

May this never be the case with us! In the heart of that slumbering village lay God’s only begotten Son, our Prophet, Priest, and King; and Savior of the world. Let us therefore rejoice.

Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” (Luke 2:10-14)

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