“The Lord himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’).” Isaiah 7:14
The Old Testament is full of prophecies about the coming of a Messiah. A ‘Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace’ (Isaiah 9:6). Right from the very start, in Genesis 3 it is made clear that God’s Plan A for the salvation of the world would be the birth of His Son to take the punishment we deserved. And as you move through the Old Testament into the Major and Minor Prophets at the end of the Old Testament (those books like Micah that you need the contents page to find…) again and again the message is given that a saviour is coming.
Isaiah’s prophecies (in Isaiah 7:14, 9:2-7 and 11:1-9) are among the most well known Old Testament prophecies concerning Jesus. He wrote those around 700-690 years before the birth of Christ. The Old Testament ends with the book of Malachi, which has been dated to about 450B.C. Like so many other of the prophets, he includes a prophecy that before Jesus comes a messenger will go before Him (Malachi 3:1) – which we see fulfilled by John the Baptist. In our Bible today we reach the end of Malachi, we turn a page, and there it is, Matthew chapter 1, ‘The Birth of Jesus the Messiah’. But what we forget is that between those two pages, from Malachi 4:6 to Matthew 1:1 there is a four hundred and fifty year gap. A time of silence. A time when the Israelite people had heard the words that a saviour was coming, but were living stuck in Roman oppression. A time of desperation, longing and temporarily unfulfilled hope. A time of waiting.
This is the message of Christmas. We can have hope in the season of waiting. God will come through. He is faithful to His promises. He promised the virgin would conceive, and Mary did. He promised a serpent crusher, and Jesus defeated the power of sin and death. But the fulfilment of the prophecies wasn’t instantaneous.
I don’t know what you are waiting on. Maybe you are waiting on that perfect job. Maybe you are waiting, hoping this will be the Christmas your phone rings and your dad asks how you are. Maybe you are waiting on test results. Maybe you are waiting for news from the doctor. Maybe you are waiting for that guy who sits in front of you at church to notice you exist. And maybe you are starting to think that God has abandoned you. Maybe you are struggling to make sense of it all, battling doubts and despair. Maybe you can’t see an end to your pain and sorrow.
But the message of Christmas is a saviour is coming. Immanuel. God is with us. As we wait, God is with us. He will not forsake or abandon us. He will not turn His back on us. The baby in the manger is proof that His promises will one day be fulfilled. The cross is proof of His love for us. As you wait, remember He is faithful. Remember we already know the end of the story – everything is headed to a wedding between Christ and His bride, the church. We don’t know how things will get from here to there, but by that day all pain and sorrow will have ended. Wait expectantly. Wait, with the trust that the God who sent His Son to the lowly Bethlehem manger to pay the ransom for our captive hearts, will surely “also give us everything else” (Romans 8:32). Like the Israelites had to for some many hundred years, wait, knowing that a day is coming when God will answer your prayers. The manger is proof that though we wait now, His promises will one day be fulfilled. That is the message of Christmas. That one day, we won’t have to wait any more.