When I’m watching a show that begins in the middle or at the end, there is sort of a strange sense of relief when you get to the point where you started. That moment that drew you in finally arrives and you finally get to stop wondering why the car blew up, or why someone was shot, or why that person was crying, or whatever. Things that were jumbled around now make sense.
This Christmas Season, as I have been reflecting in the Gospel of Matthew, that illustration came to mind. Why?
The previous 39 Books.
Starting in Genesis, we have the beginnings of a picture that continues to unfold. We see beauty marred by sin. We see a man (a people, really) given a Promise. We see splashes of darkness as Abraham lies, Sarah laughs, and a seemingly endless parade of people leave God’s path to pursue their own.
In each point of darkness, there is always that faint glimmer of light. We see how sin is redeemed and the consistent Promise of Hope is carefully detailed within the growing landscape of life.
The story continues to grow and develop around that Promise. We see it. We know it is coming. We’ve tasted enough to know the ravenous hunger that is rumbling through every fiber of our being. And then we get to the page in the Script that I wish didn’t exist. You know. The one that says “New Testament”.
I wish it wasn’t there because the entire Book (all 66 books) doesn’t need an interruption – a separation that in some way implies that it isn’t connected. Without the first 39, the next 27 are not the same.
When is the last time you picked up a book and started more than halfway through it?
We need these 39 to make any sense of the next 27. When we begin Matthew, we have the “14s”.
· 14 generations from Abraham to David.
· 14 generations from David to the Exile.
· 14 generations from the Exile to the Promise fulfilled.
It all makes sense.
We aren’t the Jewish readers to whom Matthew was originally writing, but IF we have read those first 39, we are able to be blessed with a basic understanding of just how amazing that quote from the Prophet Isaiah is:
“The virgin will be with child and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). Matthew 1: 23
In faith, we believe the Promises.
Mary, the virgin, was with child through the Holy Spirit. The supernatural conception points us to a birth that is not the ‘normal’ birth. It tells us that the Immanuel is more than a man. It reveals to us that Jesus is also God.
The greater context of Isaiah calls us to follow chapter 7 into chapter 9 where we read even more of the prophecies of the Messiah. In chapter 9, we read words that Matthew will quote later in chapter 4 of the Gospel – the people walking in darkness have seen a great light. We read:
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6
In some churches, the tradition of Advent is recognized. The first Sunday is a Sunday of Hope. For years, God’s people had looked forward in HOPE to the restoration of their relationship with God. Not everyone had the right expectation.
Based on their histories, many expected a physical king who would rescue them from the Romans or anyone else in power over them. They wanted a Moses. They wanted a Joshua to lead them against their enemies so they could reclaim the Promised Land. They wanted a Samson or a David or someone like their previous leaders.
Isn’t it wonderful that they (WE!) got something better.
The Messiah, the Rescuer, the Restorer, the Promise was “Immanuel” or God-with-us. The Messiah wasn’t like a Moses who could “only” escort them out of their physical slavery. The Messiah IS the one who brings reconciliation by releasing us from spiritual slavery and washing away sins.
Please don’t gloss over that.
The birth of Jesus that we recognize this Season is what opened the Door to eternity.
Whatever you are going through right now, remember the promise of HOPE. Look forward to what God will do today, tomorrow, and forever.
God always keeps His promises.
From the beginning, even as we broke the beautiful, wonderful, incredible relationship, God promised to redeem us. As the Story then unfolded, He proved to us that we couldn’t do it but He loved us anyway. Jesus would do it for us.
That’s something to celebrate this Season AND beyond!
Merry Christmas to you and yours from everyone in the Lay Renewal family!