I spent the fall leading a group studying God’s covenants in the Old Testament and how Jesus fulfilled them in the New Testament. Learning about the ways God’s plan unfolds through the centuries has given me an even deeper appreciation for why we celebrate the birth of Jesus. He was there with God at the dawn of creation and will be there in the earth’s last days. Jesus says it clearly in the book of Revelation:
“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” (Revelation 22:13, NIV)
In spite of His lofty position, He was willing to become a baby and grow up in our fallen world because He loves us so desperately. He endured it all so we could be saved from our sins and so we could choose to have a relationship with Him.
As I’ve been reading daily advent devotions this season, a few have driven home this concept of Jesus as Alpha and Omega: the One who was there in the beginning and will be there in the end. I’d like to share two new things that struck me about Jesus and the Christmas story in a new way.
Old Testament Connection
Jefferson Bethke’s devotion Jesus, True Jubilee provides new insight on the lengthy list of Jesus’ genealogy in Matthew 1. He points out that the names are organized in six groups of seven names. The next name, Jesus, was at the beginning of the seventh group of seven names. The Jews reading Matthew’s gospel would have understood the significance of this this:
“The idea of 7 7’s had been in the Jewish world for hundreds of years, as the sign of completing and celebration. More specifically, it pointed to the party and celebration of Jubilee. The Jubilee year would be the completion of the sabbatical years. Every 7 years God commanded Israel to take an entire Sabbath year. Rest. Let the crops chill. Enjoy His presence. But every 7th cycle of 7 years (so every 49 years) Israel was to throw an incredible party that entailed a few things — large scale debt would get cancelled, slaves would be set free, and God’s presence would be particularly manifest in the year of Jubilee….
Now back to Matthew. You can see just how explosive the list of names now becomes. In a very creative and fresh way Matthew is saying that the entire year of Jubilee that the Old Testament laid down was simply an arrow or signpost pointing to Jesus as the true Jubilee. With Him beginning the 7th group of 7 Matthew is saying Jesus is ushering in the true Jubilee!
Our spiritual debts are cancelled. We as slaves to sin are set free. And God’s presence is particularly made manifest in the fact that God Himself, Jesus, is walking among us! …When He entered into our world, He was bringing with Him an entire world Himself — a new way to live, to act, to love, and to know God face to face.” (Jesus, True Jubilee, Jefferson Bethke, http://www.faithgateway.com)
New Testament Connection
I never realized the Christmas story is also told in Revelation from a very different perspective. Author John Eldredge describes it in a devotion I read recently:
“Contrast your associations with Christmas night to this description given to us from heaven’s point of view:
I saw a woman… She was pregnant, and she cried out in the pain of labor as she awaited her delivery. Suddenly, I witnessed in heaven another significant event. I saw a large red dragon with seven heads and ten horns, with seven crowns on his heads. His tail dragged down one-third of the stars, which he threw to the earth. He stood before the woman as she was about to give birth to her child, ready to devour the baby as soon as it was born. She gave birth to a boy who was to rule all nations with an iron rod…
Then there was war in heaven. Michael and the angels under his command fought the dragon and his angels. And the dragon lost the battle and was forced out of heaven. This great dragon — the ancient serpent called the Devil, or Satan, the one deceiving the whole world — was thrown down to the earth with all his angels… And when the dragon realized that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the child. But she was given two wings like those of a great eagle. This allowed her to fly to a place prepared for her in the wilderness, where she would be cared for and protected from the dragon for a time, times, and half a time… Then the dragon… declared war against the rest of her children — all who keep God’s commandments and confess that they belong to Jesus. (Revelation 12)
Eldredge continues: “Startling. Vivid. Disturbing for sure. And an essential part of the story.
I would pay good money to have a nativity scene with this included. Not only would it capture our imagination, I think it would better prepare us to celebrate the holidays and to go on to live in the story Christmas invites us into.
Yes — Christmas is the glow of candlelight on golden straw, and a Baby sleeping in a manger. It is starlight, shepherds in a field and the visit of magi from the east. But Christmas is also an invasion. The kingdom of God striking at the heart of the kingdom of darkness, with violent repercussions.” (Remember the Dragon: Christmas Is an Invasion, John Eldrege, http://www.faithgateway.com)
God’s Perfect Plan
The more I study the Bible, the more I’m in awe of God’s perfect plan and the way it all unfolds. The fact that God’s instructions for the Jews in the Old Testament would connect to Jesus’ place in the genealogy shows His attentiveness to detail. The idea that Jesus’ birth is described in the last book of the Bible from heaven’s perspective leaves me speechless. Both concepts reinforce the fact that Jesus is the center of God’s plan to redeem people in every generation. The person of Jesus is subtly or overtly woven throughout every plotline contained in the Bible. What a privilege it is to hold His Word in our hands and to be able to study it. What a thrill it is to realize again that His Word is living and active, always revealing new truths.
I pray your Christmas celebrations are more meaningful as you consider Jesus, the Alpha and Omega who humbled Himself and came to earth for our sakes. What a blessing and privilege it is to be included in a love story that started when time began and will continue until it ends.
Click on the link for a Christmas worship moment with Chris Tomlin’s “Joy to the World (Unspeakable Joy).”