Theme: The Fulfillment of God’s Promises to Israel and Beyond
From these Christmas lessons, we look at how God’s promises were fulfilled at the first Christmas, and what everyone must do in response to them.
Scripture: Luke 2:6, 7
The promise to Israel. The first Christmas was also a fulfillment of God’s promise to Israel. We must not forget that. Mary and Joseph were ones to whom God’s final promises were made. But long before those promises were given, God had begun to prepare the Jewish nation by many promises of a Messiah who should come.
The Jews lived by the expectation of the fulfillment of those promises. The proof is seen in their questions to John the Baptist not long before the start of Jesus’ earthly ministry. John was such an unusual person that some people began to think that he might be the Christ. So the Jewish leaders sent a delegation to John to ask who he was.
“Are you the Christ?” they asked.
John denied it.
“Are you Elijah?” was their next question. They asked if he was Elijah because the very last verses of the Old Testament said that Elijah would return before the coming of the Messiah. If John was not the Messiah (by his own denial), perhaps he was this prophesied forerunner.
John denied even this.
“Are you the prophet?” they asked next. This was because in Deuteronomy 15:15 and 18 there were promises to Moses that in the last days God would send the people a prophet like himself. Maybe John was that prophet.
John denied being the prophet about whom God had spoken. Instead, he said, “I am the voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’” It was a reference to a prophecy found in Isaiah 40:3, a prophecy we often speak of at Christmas since it speaks of one who would announce Messiah’s coming. John claimed to be that one. And when Jesus eventually came to him to be baptized by John in the Jordan river, John identified him directly, saying, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:19-29).
This happened thirty years after the events we call Christmas. But Christmas was their fulfillment, since the one born in the stable was indeed the Lamb of God who later died to remove the sin of all who believe on him and trust him. He was the Savior who had been promised to Israel, whom many Jews were expecting.
The promise to the entire human race. But even more than this, the birth of Jesus was the fulfillment of promises God had made to the entire human race. In the garden of Eden, after Adam and Eve had sinned, God came to our first parents to pronounce a judgment for what they had done, but also to promise a deliverer. The promise was included in God’s words to Satan, the instrument of their fall. God said: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel” (Gen. 3:15).
These words, standing at the very dawn of human history, have been the sole hope of a sinful and rebellious race. A race in rebellion against Almighty God is a race on the path to ruin. It is a race headed for the most complete and terrible of judgments. It is a race unable to save itself. But in these words God promised a deliverer who would do just that, a deliverer who would destroy the works of Satan, crushing him in the process, and thereby restore to Paradise Adam and Eve and all their posterity who believe on the Savior and trust him to do what has been promised.
The first Christmas was the fulfillment of that great and universal promise. It was the fulfillment of the promise God made to you and me in the person of our first parents.
How did God’s promises to Israel differ from what many Jews were expecting?
Where is God’s promise first given to the human race? What does it mean?
Application: How can you rejoice in those promises this Christmas?