Today we are beginning a 3-part sermon series on Isaiah’s Christmas prophecies. The goal is to take a break from the gift wrapping, the shopping, the wreath making, the tree decorating, cookie baking, cookie eating, and Netflix Christmas Special watching…to meditate on the peace-giving truth that God’s original Christmas gift for us – Jesus – was a gift he had planned for centuries before it ever happened.
Before we dig in with our first prophecy, join me in prayer: O Lord, strengthen us by the truth; your Word is the truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see; open our ears to hear what you want us to hear; open our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. The Reason for Messiah
All of these prophecies that we will looking at are a special breed of prophecy. Something called Messianic Prophecies. That means that these prophecies aren’t prophecies about what you’ll get for Christmas, who the Bowl Selection committee will put in which bowl game, or how Stranger Things will end, but they are prophecies about who the Messiah will be.
Which leads to the question: Who or what is the Messiah? And why do I care?
In the very first book of the Bible, the origins of the universe are explained by God’s himself. In it, a wonderful earth is described.
An earth without pain, an earth without sadness, an earth without hangnails, car exhaust or holes in the Ozone layer.
An earth without broken toys the day after you give kids gifts at Christmas, Starbucks cards that run a zero balance.
An earth without spoiled eggnog in the back of the fridge.
An earth without cancer, racism or mass shootings at a Jason Aldean concert.
An earth without error.
An earth without sin.
An earth of perfection.
And part of that perfection involves two human beings – Adam and Eve.
And part of that perfection involves granting these human beings the ability to show love to their Creator by not eating from the tree in the middle of the garden.
And Adam and Eve listen…
They have fun peeling and eating bananas.
They enjoy seeing how can get to the end of a carrot first.
They play the game where they toss soybeans into each other’s mouths.
Until one day.
A talking snake come by.
And he says, Did God really say you can’t eat from the tree? He’s lying. You won’t die. You’ll just become like him. He’s just jealous of you. Trust me. The fruit will be good.
And Eve looks at the snake.
And Eve looks at Adam.
And Adam says:
I don’t know Eve. On the one hand, we could listen to God, the one who created us and gave us this wonderful, painless, sinless, deathless world to exist in.
On the other hand…it’s a talking snake.
And they make their choice.
And it isn’t God.
And in making that choice, everything God warned them about happens.
The world changes from a place without…to a place with.
A place with pain.
A place with sadness.
A place with sin and discord and racism and terrorism and evil and death.
But when God goes to find Adam and Eve – he doesn’t yell at them. He doesn’t punish them. Not at first.
First, he offers words of hope: Devil, I will put enmity between you and the woman; between your offspring and hers. One of them, will cross your head and you will strike his heel.
This is the Messiah.
This is the Anointed One.
This is the one who will beat Satan. In fact, that’s our definition of Messiah. Write it down: Messiah is one who would crush Satan’s head and his evil work.
The Messiah is the Savior.
II. The Importance of Getting It Right
Therefore, the Messiah is really, really important. It would be a shame to identify him incorrectly.
I come from a family of four kids and we were blessed to have a good number of presents under the tree. But sometimes – be it because it’s easier or be it because it’s cute – each one of the kids would have a gift that was exactly the same size. In other words, my mom got the kids each a very similar present.
Unfortunately, because my mom had to wrap so many gifts she didn’t always identify them correctly.
For instance: One year my younger sister opened her “set of four” present to reveal a Lion from the Wizard of Oz ornament. I immediately got pretty excited. The Lion was her favorite character and mine was the Scarecrow. I loved him a lot. We watched a lot of Wizard of Oz and I had learned all of his movements during the “If I only had a brain” song. Hopefully that wasn’t because we had a lot in common.
So, I was expecting the Scarecrow. Only to get to my same shaped box, rip the wrappings to shreds to reveal: Glinda the Good Witch? Wrong present.
That’s why mom immediately began using differently wrapping paper for different kids with name tags written in bold ink on them. Never again would a present get a mistaken identity.
God thought similarly. With much grander and more eternal consequences.
Because if anyone gets the Messiah wrong…
If they put their trust in someone who doesn’t have the ability to crush Satan, sin and death…
If we get got the Messiah wrong, then there is no salvation.
There is only a yielding to evil and death…The Bible calls that hell.
Because the stakes were so eternally high God provided us with something called the Messianic Prophecy. A prophecy is a word from God about the future. Messianic prophecy is the word from God about the future messiah. There are no shortage of these prophecies. Scholars agree that there are over 300 prophecies in the Old Testament.
Since we are preparing for Christmas, let’s look at a few that deal specifically with his birth.
(1) Prophecy of Lineage
The first prophecy was spoken by God to a guy named King David around 1000 B.C. God said this to David “I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, one of your own sons…and I will establish his throne forever.” (1 Chr. 17:11-12) Granted. David had a son named Solomon. Solomon became king. But Solomon did not reign…forever. That’s a reign tenure that’s reserved only from the Messiah.
And Solomon died, so it wasn’t him.
This teaches our first important truth about the Messiah. He would be a descendant of David. Somewhere on David’s family tree…somewhere below him…eventually the Messiah would come.
Which is helpful, because it means that if someone claims to be the Messiah but isn’t of David’s bloodline, he isn’t the Messiah.
This effectively rules me out.
Actually, anyone not Jewish.
(2) Prophecy of Birthplace
But it’s only so helpful. Because David had 19 sons. Meaning there were 19 possible routes for the Messiah to come from in just that one generation. Fast forward three generations and it would have quadrupled! A couple hundred years and the possibilities of hundreds of thousands!
So…another prophecy to help trim it down. But you Bethlehem…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. (Micah 5:2)
Again – ruler of Israel “origins of old from ancient times…” This is talking about the Messiah.
Micah is a prophet a decent amount of time after David. So, his new prophecy tells us – it isn’t anyone who lived before Micah. In addition, it trims it down even farther for us. The Messiah will not only be of David’s line, but he will live in Bethlehem. If a person is of David, but moved far away from Bethlehem – maybe a summer abroad in Ancient Rome, it won’t be him. Or if a woman moved away to college: “Israel State in Jerusalem,” got married and had a child there, her son would NOT be the Messiah.
Again, this is helpful. Bethlehem isn’t a huge town.
But still, over the generations, there’s thousands of options.
(3) Prophecy of the Virgin Birth
Enter the prophet Isaiah. God uses him to reveal a prophecy that really narrows down our search for the Messiah: “The virgin will be with child and give birth to a Son.” (Isaiah 7:14)
Nowadays science is pretty amazing. If a family is unable to have a child, there are some science ways to make it happen. They just take the two parts that are necessary, combine them in a test tube and…a baby! It’s not fool proof, but it works. Ethics aside – the reality is that a baby can happen for a single mom from using a donor in this way.
But that technology wasn’t around at the time of Isaiah.
It wasn’t around until the last 50 years.
And even so - you still need the two parts – the word virgin implies only egg.
This means three very important things about Isaiah’s prophecies:
Every king of Israel had a mom and dad.
Every President had a biological mom and dad.
Every Olympian has had a biological mom and dad.
Even Coach K has a biological mom and dad.
Everyone in human history has a biological mom and dad.
III. The Unmistakable Fulfillment
About 600 years after the prophet Isaiah makes his prophecy, there is this one girl. She’s from the line of David. She’s about 16-17 years old. She’s engaged to be married.
And she can’t wait for the wedding. She’s been planning with her mom and dad to make sure there are the right kind of flowers, to make sure they order the right kind of wine, to make sure that they have the chicken cordon bleu or roast duck option. She’s excited to be a princess. She’s excited to start a family.
As she’s hanging her father’s laundry out to dry, she grabs one of his white sheets and spins.
She places it behind her head and imagines her train as she walks in to her wedding day.
She imagines her wedding night as she walks in to her husband’s room to be intimate with for the very first time.
And she’s imagining.
And suddenly…a voice.
She’s startled. Did someone see her dancing?
It repeats: Mary!
And as it repeats, a light starts to grow before her eyes. It’s not the sun – the sun doesn’t do that – not so quickly. She falls to the grounds and recognizes the figure of a man within the light. She had heard about these – messengers of God.
She falls to the grounds.
Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever. (Luke 1:30-33)
And Mary is humbled.
And Mary is amazed.
And Mary is…confused.
How will this be? I am a virgin. I…haven’t done what’s necessary to have a baby.
The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. (v. 35)
Aka. It will be a miracle.
Then, the angel leaves.
Mary is a bit nervous.
For a while, she wonders if it’s a dream. She hopes it’s a dream – she doesn’t want to lose Joseph and she doesn’t want the shame that her family will give her.
But then, she’s putting on weight.
And she’s buying bigger clothes.
And soon its unmistakable.
She is the virgin mother of the Messiah.
IV. For Real?
Now, maybe you are a skeptic. Maybe you think that’s impossible.
Maybe you think that Mary just made it all up because she didn’t want to be embarrassed as the woman pregnant out of wedlock.
You know – because crazy woman who said that God put the baby there – is better.
But keep in mind three important things that help to prove the reality of the virgin birth:
1. What Joseph goes through.
I say Joseph as opposed to Mary because Mary doesn’t have a choice in the matter.
But when Joseph finds out about what happened, he takes a moment.
He goes home. He actually makes a plan to break off the engagement, because he can’t deal with an unfaithful spouse. But he wants to do so quietly because he still loves Mary.
But then he doesn’t.
He doesn’t because an angel told him not to divorce Mary.
Think about that – he could have left her! He could have had the whole of his village on his side: “That no good Mary.” He could have been the one in the ‘break up’ that everyone sided with and surely another woman would be his soon.
Instead, he chooses to stay engaged and be ridiculed right along with her.
Because he believed what the angel told him.
This child was the Messiah.
2. The other prophecies.
Because remember – This isn’t the only prophecy that is fulfilled in Mary’s boy.
Mary is also of the line of David.
But they aren’t from Bethlehem! They live in Nazareth.
Except. About a month before Mary gives birth, Caesar Augustus, the Roman emperor, issues a decree that he wants to take a Census of the entire Roman world in order to see how many people he is emperor over. In order to take the census, he demands all people under his ruler to return to their place of origin.
So, Joseph and Mary have to leave Nazareth.
They have to go to their place of origin.
And where is their place of origin?
Bethlehem. Just like the prophecy said.
3. Other miracles surrounding Jesus.
Because the virgin birth isn’t the only one.
Angels appeared to Mary and Joseph.
Mary’s cousin, Elizabeth, who was over 80 years old – well beyond childbearing years – became pregnant with John the Baptist.
An angel caused Elizabeth’s husband to be mute for the 9 months of her pregnancy because of his doubts.
There was the star in the sky for the wise men to follow.
The angels that appeared to sing the shepherds glory.
Oh yeah…and when the baby grew up?
He died on the cross. Publicly.
He rose from the dead. Publicly.
These people wrote these miracles down for us.
They also wrote down the virgin birth for us.
If all those other miracles are true, this one is too.
V. What Now?
1. Pay Attention
God went out of his way to get your attention with this prophecy and fulfillment. Because God used an event unlike any event ever in human history.
He didn’t say, “The Messiah will one-day wear flannel.”
Or, “One day the Messiah will be wearing some skinny jeans and have a man bun.”
He said, “The Messiah will be born of a mom…and that’s it.”
God used an extraordinary event to point to the Savior so that you didn’t miss it!
It’s like one of those Christmas light villages with the really big pop up Santa, reindeer that flash to the beat of Trans-Siberian orchestra and a mortgage invested in the light display. It’s crazy. It’s awesome. It’s screams: NOTICE ME!
The Virgin Birth is the over the top, exuberant, blinking Christmas light display of Messianic prophecies.
It’s God screaming PAY ATTENTION!
Because Jesus is the Messiah.
He is the only one that can save you from this world of sin and death.
Not some other god.
Not some other religion.
It’s Jesus alone.
2. See God!
Because look what’s in that manger. The prophecy from Isaiah ends like this: “The Virgin will be with child and give birth to a Son and will call him Immanuel.” (Is. 7:14)
Immanuel is a pretty neat name. Scripture tells us that Immanuel is Hebrew for “God with Us.” Although don’t think of it simply as a name with a meaning. It’s a name that says its meaning.
Ima is the Hebrew word “with.”
Nu is the Hebrew word “us.”
El is the Hebrew word “God.”
In English it’d be like naming your child “GodIsWIthUsLiterallyInTheFleshRightNowInThisChild.” All one word. Besides meaning that the kid will need a very long driver’s license, it also means this child, isn’t just a child.
He’s God himself.
Which means your God is not God who dwells far off!
He’s not the Force.
He’s not a Big Bang.
He’s not an impersonal, divine wrathful king.
He saw the pain that was in this world.
He saw the sin.
He saw the death.
And He didn’t run from it.
He ran to it.
He came to earth and experienced the pain, the suffering, the sadness, even death itself --- on a most painful instrument of death!
In order to fulfill prophecy.
In order to fulfill purpose.
In order to save you.
3. Stop Looking Elsewhere for Your Messiah
Because maybe you are nervous this Christmas.
Maybe you are nervous Christmas won’t be that great.
Maybe you are looking for something to give you a bit more confidence…
A bigger paycheck.
A positive health result.
A good visit with family.
If you only have the right toy for your kid…
If you only have the right topper on the tree…
If you only have the right cookies on the table…then!
Christmas will be saved!
And I’ll be saved.
For a moment.
From my painful past.
From my daily struggles.
From this sin filled world.
But what happens when the toy is the wrong toy?
What happens when the cookie is burnt?
What happens when that family gathering is a disaster?
And now…instead of escaping this sin filled world – you just have more awful memories of it!
Stop looking in this world for your Messiah.
Look at something out of this world.
Look at something that has to be from out of this world.
Look at the baby born of the virgin.