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Thanksgiving For Christmas

Thanksgiving For Christmas

This is an interesting day. It is of course no longer Thanksgiving and it is not quite the Christmas season yet.

With that in mind, I thought it would be interesting to touch on both those significant seasons. That will be done in a number of ways. We will consider two Old Testament prophecies about the birth of Jesus. We will also consider a New Testament passage that tells of who the one whose birth we will celebrate would become. In addition, the theme of this year’s Christmas celebration will be introduced. As we do those things, we will be thankful for the gift of Jesus.

Concerning Old Testament prophecies about Jesus, there are many such predictions.

Many of the prophecies relate to what happened toward the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry. They include how Jesus entered Jerusalem at the beginning of the week that ended with His crucifixion - the fact He entered Jerusalem on a donkey, how Jesus was betrayed by Judas, one of His disciples, how Jesus died, which was on a cross made of wood, some of what He said on the cross before He died, plus the fact that on the third day after His death, Jesus rose from the dead.

When each of those things happened at the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry, each was fulfillment of what Old Testament prophets said would happen with the one who would be the Savior. Therefore, each one is proof Jesus is the Savior.

Many Old Testament prophecies relate to what happened toward the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry. Others, however, predicted what happened 33 years before Jesus’ death and resurrection. Things centered around His birth.

Two of those Old Testament prophecies will be discussed in this message, one by the prophet Isaiah, the other by the prophet Micah.

Isaiah 7:14. A verse that contains a prophecy about the birth of the Savior. Specifically what kind of woman the Savior’s mother would be.

It strikes me as interesting that even at the time of Isaiah, basically seven centuries before Jesus was born, the prophecy was that the Savior would come as a baby. That strikes me as interesting because we would think, would we not, that a Savior would appear as a Savior? As in a fully-grown being, ready at the time of His appearance to slay any opposition that might come His way.

That was not to be the case. That is one of the things the prophecy in Isaiah predicts. The Savior was to come as a baby. A baby born to - here is Isaiah 7:14 - a young woman. A young woman can also be translated a virgin. It was to be a virgin who would conceive and give birth to the Savior.

As we will discuss at least a couple times during the upcoming Christmas season, a virgin conceiving does not make sense in a physical way. I wonder if those who first heard Isaiah reminded him of that. 

The answer, of course, is that the birth of the Savior was to be supernatural. Or, more properly for our purposes, divine.

Indeed, that did happen. We will celebrate that next week as we think about that young virgin woman. The one named Mary.

But there is more. According to Isaiah, who, as a prophet, spoke for God, the virgin who would conceive would give birth. She would bear a son. Tat, too, is significant. Seven centuries before Jesus’ birth, the prediction was that the Savior would be male.

And listen to this. The prophecy included what the Savior’s name would be. His name would be Immanuel which means, “God with us.” What hope there is in that name.

Guess what the name Jesus means. It means, “Jehovah is salvation.” The gist of it is this. The one bringing salvation has to be with the ones who are saved. If God is salvation - since He is salvation, which is what the name Jesus means - He is with us. God being with us is what Immanuel means. Therefore, that part of Isaiah’s prophecy was met by Jesus, who was born to a young virgin mother.

Do we know Jesus is the Savior? We do know because He fulfilled, even at His birth, how Old Testament prophecies described the one who would come to be the Savior, including that His mother would be a young virgin, that He would be born a boy, and that His name would be an announcement that God is with us.

Concerning Micah, there is another proof Jesus is the Savior. In chapter 5, verse 2, is this prediction about the Savior. This one about where His young virgin mother would bear her son. “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come for me one who is be ruler in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days.”

How Bethlehem became Jesus’ birthplace will be part of the Christmas series of messages. For now, there are a couple things critical in Micah 5:2, which was, as with Isaiah, written about seven centuries before the birth of Jesus.

See the statement at the end that the Savior is from of old? From ancient days? What an important point that the Savior, who Micah predicted would some day arrive, would not have begun at that time. The Savior - Jesus - has always existed. How amazing is that?

And consider where the Savior was to be born. Remember it was said we would think the Savior would have appeared as a fully-grown being, ready at the time of His appearance to slay any opposition that might come His way, but that He did, as predicted, come as a baby. Even then, we would think the place the baby - the baby who would be the Savior - would be born would be Jerusalem, the most important city of Judah. The most important city of Israel. And if not there, any of a number of less important but still significant cities in that part of the Jewish homeland.

But no, the birth place would be a small town. Just a few miles from Jerusalem, but  A small town. The town of Bethlehem.

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Both the prophecies we have considered provide a very important theme. The Savior who was to come would come, not in arrogance, but in humility. That is indeed how Jesus was born, which again is proof Jesus is the Savior. The Savior predicted by, among others, Isaiah and Micah.

Today, in this interesting time between Thanksgiving and the Christmas season, let’s be thankful we have Biblical proof that the one whose birth we are about to celebrate is the Savior. What spiritual confidence that should give us even beyond the Christmas season.

The birth of Jesus was predicted in the Old Testament. In chapter 1 of the New Testament Gospel of Luke, there is more prophecy, now about events surrounding the coming of the Savior. Specifically predictions concerning someone who would be born shortly before the Savior. Someone who would be instrumental in preparing people for the Savior.

Luke 1, beginning with verse 5.

In Jerusalem, there was a Jewish priest named Zechariah. He was married to Elizabeth. 

They were both righteous people. They obeyed God in all ways. I think they were a happy couple. Except for one thing. Elizabeth had never been able to conceive. It certainly appeared their childlessness would not change because they were both advanced in years.

One day, when it was time for Zechariah to do his priestly duties. He was by himself at the time, next to the altar of incense. He was met by an angel of God. 

That frightened Zechariah, but the angel told him to not be afraid because he - the angel - had good news. The angel said, “Zechariah, your prayer has been heard. God is about to answer your prayer. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John.”

In a moment, Zechariah was going to question the angel, which would get Zechariah into trouble, but here is what the angel had to say about John. Many would rejoice at his birth, but he would live a very simple life, including never touching wine or strong drink. He would, however, be filled with the Holy Spirit. With the Holy Spirit’s power, he would accomplish some crucial roles. He would turn many people of God back to God, he would turn the hearts of fathers to their children, he would convince disobedient people to turn to justice. All this - listen - to make people ready for the Lord. For the Savior. The people would be prepared to hear and respond to what the Savior - what Jesus - would say.

Which, by the way, was another Old Testament prophecy about the Savior. Another prophecy that was fulfilled concerning Jesus, this one that He did have someone going before Him to prepare people to receive Him.

As mentioned, Zechariah did question the angel. He pointed out to the angel that he and his wife were both old. S, he asked, how could Elizabeth conceive?

I will admit Zechariah’s question certainly seems valid. It seems to me such questioning would have been accepted as normal. However, the angel, who identified himself as Gabriel, one of God’s main angels, did not react kindly to being questioned. What Gabriel did was strike Zechariah silent. A condition that was to last until Elizabeth did indeed conceive and nine months later give birth to the one who would be named John.

Sometime after that encounter, Elizabeth conceived. A lot happened to her over the next several months. We will discuss some of that during the upcoming Christmas season. But then, moving on to verse 57 of Luke 1, it came time for Elizabeth’s baby to be born.

The baby, as prophesied, was a boy. As prophesied, Elizabeth’s neighbors and relatives rejoiced with her that she was no longer childless.

Then, eight days later, when it came time to circumcize and name the baby - when everyone thought the baby’s name would be Zechariah, Jr. - Elizabeth said no. The baby would be called - remember what the angel had told Zechariah - the baby would be named John.

The neighbors and relatives asked Elizabeth where that name came from. They then turned to Zechariah, making signs that they wanted to know his opinion.

He still could not talk, so he asked for a writing tablet, on which he wrote, “John.” Everyone marveled, I guess including God, who immediately upon that display of obedience, opened Zechariah’s mouth and loosened his tongue.

Can we imagine what it must have been like for Zechariah to finally be able to talk? He had been silent for over nine months. Finally his silence was over. Right away he started talking, not stopping until almost the end of Luke 1.

And listen to what Zechariah said. What he talked about was not the weather or the state of the economy. After many months of silence, what he talked about was God. Zechariah spoke blessings to God. Blessings about the role of John and about the coming of the Savior.

Concerning Jesus, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for He has visited and redeemed His people.” The visiting and the redeeming were on the way because by that time, Jesus was just three months from being born.

The one coming would bring “salvation,” fulfilling what holy prophets from of old had predicted about being saved from enemies and those who hate. 

Zechariah added, “Mercy is coming.” Mercy that will allow the people of God to serve Him “without fear, in holiness and righteousness.”

Concerning John, “You, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High for you will go before the Lord to prepare His ways. You will give knowledge of salvation to His people in the forgiveness of their sins.”

The result. There would be “light for those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,” and there would be “guidance for the feet of God’s people [for those who would accept Jesus as the Savior] into the way of peace.”

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The Old Testament prophet Isaiah predicted the Savior would be born to a young virgin, who would name Him Immanuel.

The Old Testament prophet Micah predicted the young virgin would give birth to the Savior in the little town of Bethlehem.

The New Testament priest Zechariah predicted the Savior would be God’s gift. A gift bringing salvation and mercy and courage and holiness and righteousness.

Concerning Zechariah’s words, we can be thankful, now and through the Christmas season and beyond, that the Savior, whose birth we are about to celebrate, is the source of everything we need spiritually. In fact, we can add to our thankfulness. We can add the word that will be our Christmas theme from next week into the new year. The word “joy.”

Each week of Christmas, Bible verses about joy will be shared. Also to be shared are various people - characters in addition to Jesus - who were part of the Christmas story. Part of the joy - Mary and Joseph, angels and shepherds, Simeon and Anna, the Wise Men.

Thinking of the consideration of joy during Christmas, I suggest an acrostic be used, each letter of joy standing from something. Each one important, but in a very definite order. 

J - Jesus. May He be the first thing on our minds in all we do, not only during Christmas, but every other time of year as well.

O - others. Our first loyalty must be to Jesus, but as we follow Him, He will instruct us how to watch out for the needs of others.

Jesus first. Then others. Then Y - yourself. Notice you and I are on the list of importance. Our faith does not ever even suggest we ignore our own well-being and interests. However, we are to be more aware of what Jesus wants and what others need. In fact, as we keep our attention centered on Jesus and others, we will feel better. So keeping our attention properly focused is a win-win-win situation.

Let’s sing a song that is centered on joy, joy, joy, joy. The joy of Jesus. Where? Down in my heart.

We will sing the first verse twice, with the fourth verse in between. This will be our closing song, which will be followed by a quick summary of things for which we can be joyful.

I have the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart,

Down in my heart, down in my heart.

I have the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart, 

Down in my heart to stay.

I have the wonderful love of my blessed Redeemer 

way down in the depths of my heart,

Down in depths of my heart, down in the depths of my heart.

I have the wonderful love of my blessed Redeemer 

way down in the depths of my heart,

Down in my heart to stay.

I have the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my hear,

Down in my heart, down in my heart.

I have the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart, 

Down in my heart to stay.

And I’m so happy, so very happy,

I have the love of Jesus in my heart.

And I’m so happy, so very happy,

I have the love of Jesus in my heart.

From the Old Testament prophecy of Isaiah, we have proof that Jesus, who was born a baby - born of a young virgin - is the Savior.

From the Old Testament prophecy of Micah, we have proof that Jesus, who was born in the little town of Bethlehem, is the Savior.

From the New Testament prophecy of Zechariah, we know how wonderful Jesus the Savior is. That He is the giver of salvation and mercy and courage and holiness and righteousness.

May we be thankful that Jesus is the Savior. May we be thankful that Jesus is the giver of every spiritual gift we will ever need. May those facts give us joy, joy, joy, joy. Where? Down in our hearts, all through the upcoming Christmas season and beyond. Amen.

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