Not long ago I received a funding letter from one of the large American relief organizations. It was trying to raise money for Albania, and it pointed out that for the first time in an entire generation the birth of Christ will be celebrated openly in that country. It said, "For many Albanians this is literally their 'First Christmas.’"

We come now to the fifth Old Testament prophecy, which is Daniel 9:25-26a. This text fixes the very time in history when the Messiah was to be born: “Know and understand this: From the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven ‘sevens,’ and sixty-two ‘sevens.’ It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble. After the sixty-two ‘sevens,’ the Anointed One will be cut off and will have nothing.” Verse 26 concludes by going on to give some more detail.

Now for the fourth section I would like to take you to Micah 5:2. This, too, is a well-known Christmas prophecy because it is quoted in the story of the wise men from Matthew 2. Micah’s prophecy reads: “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.”

The third Old Testament prophecy comes from Isaiah 7:14, from which we learn that a particular sign will be given to Ahaz king of Judah: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” This prophecy seems to have had a specific meaning in its own day concerning the future judgment of the nation. Nevertheless, it is an extraordinary text, because it does say that a virgin would conceive and bear a son, who is to be called Immanuel, which means “God with us.”

There is something else that’s significant about this prophecy. Isaiah writes that it’s a shoot that will come up from the stump of Jesse, and it’s a branch that’s going to spring from its roots. What enters your mind when you think of a stump or roots? Well, obviously you think of a tree that’s been cut down. A stump is a tree that has been cleared away at ground level, and there’s nothing left but roots underneath that stump. It is from this stump and from those roots that the Messiah (called the Branch) is going to appear.