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- Salvation through Zacharias,
- Favor through Mary,
- Blessing through Elizabeth,
- Guidance through Joseph,
- Joy through the Shepherds,
- Redemption through Anna, and
- Peace through Simeon.
Congratulations, Robert. It’s a healthy boy. You’re a father.”
The doctor charged with delivering our first son was looking at me with a big smile on his face and holding a greasy, wriggling, crying, little thing still attached to my wife by an umbilical cord.
In a moment already overflowing with joy, wonder, relief, and exhaustion, the implications of one word entered my ears, broke through my cluttered mind, and triggered an earthquake in my heart.
That moment drew an invisible line through the timeline of my life. On one side of that line I had been many things—a son, a friend, a student (a poor one!), a sinner, and a husband. On the other side, I was a father, and nothing would ever change that. From that moment forward, even if I lived to be 120, I would never, ever not be a dad.
What a difference a word can make. Two little syllables can change your life and set you on a whole new path. One solitary word can transform not only how you see yourself but how you see everything else.
How much more significant is it when that word comes from God Himself? God spoke and the whole universe came into existence. But our wonderful heavenly Father doesn’t ordinarily speak in an audible voice. Throughout most of redemptive history, He has spoken through people.
When God speaks through an individual, and He frequently does, we call that a prophecy or a prophetic word. The Bible is filled with them. Throughout the Scriptures God delivered a word to announce His will, His plans, or His heart. And because He is good, His will, plans, and heart are always good. Always redemptive.
So, it shouldn’t surprise us to discover that God spoke prophetically through people when it came to bringing about the most important event of all in His grand plan to redeem a big world filled with fallen and broken people. That event was the birth of His only begotten Son, Jesus.
Several years ago, when I began to study the “Christmas story” as told in the opening chapters of Matthew and Luke, I discovered that God delivered seven key prophetic words around the birth of His Son. As a student of the Bible, it didn’t surprise me to find seven. It fits one of the most prominent patterns in Scripture.
Through the Bible, the number seven appears repeatedly to signify “completeness” or “perfection.” From the seven days of creation on the opening pages of Genesis; to the seven golden lampstands and seven bowls of divine judgment in the book of Revelation; and in every book in between, the number seemingly pops up everywhere.
Is it any wonder God heralded the entry of His Son into the world with seven unique prophetic words?
Please don’t miss out on the amazing truth that these words are very much the God of the Universe speaking. Let that sink in. Soak in the majesty and mystery of it. The Lord and King of heaven and earth announces what He is doing to regular Joes and Joannes like you and me.
Seven times God spoke through someone in connection with the birth of His beloved Son. Don’t you think we should give an ear to those words? Don’t you think we might find some wisdom, some encouragement, some comfort, or some direction in them? Indeed, we will.
You may want to read this book all in one sitting. I’ve kept it brief enough to make that possible. But I have also divided our exploration of these seven momentous Christmas words into twenty-one bite-sized bits that you can savor and ponder over the course of twenty-one days if you choose.
Indeed, I suggest you use this as an advent season devotional—by yourself or as a family—beginning on December third or fourth, and counting the days to Christmas with a chapter each day.
In each of the seven sections that follow, we will explore one of those glorious prophetic words. In each, there is a single word that jumped out at me, which serves as the heading for that section.
Salvation, Favor, Blessed, Guidance, Joy, Redemption, and Peace. These are good words. Words that describe things that you would love to have a greater abundance of in your life and home.
These are the Seven Words of Christmas. Let’s explore them together.
The Christmas story begins with a miraculous pregnancy, but not the one that probably jumped to mind when you read those words.
No, our journey through the first word of Christmas begins with an elderly couple living roughly nineteen miles south of Jerusalem, in Hebron—an ancient village nestled in the craggy Judean hills. We begin with Zacharias and Elizabeth; both of the priestly tribe of Levi and direct descendants of Aaron, the first High Priest of Israel.
Although tiny, Hebron looms large in the Old Testament story. In fact, few towns in Israel figure more prominently in Israel’s history. One thousand years before Zacharias and Elizabeth lived there, God specifically directed David to go there to be anointed King of Judah following the death of Saul (see 2 Sam. 2:1). David ruled from Hebron for several years before relocating the seat of his kingdom to Jerusalem.
Five centuries before David’s time, giants had roamed the hills around their hometown. Reports of these mighty men of great size—the “sons of Anak”—brought back by spies scouting out the land, paralyzed the Israelites with terror as they prepared to enter into the land of promise. But two key Israelite leaders, Joshua and Caleb, hadn’t been moved by the reports of these fierce, oversized enemies.
Ultimately, Caleb and his clan conquered this territory, drove out the Canaanite inhabitants (including its giants), and settled here. Faithful Caleb, in obedience to the Lord’s specific instructions handed down through Moses, set aside a portion of his territory as a habitation for the Levites—the priestly tribe. This is how, fifteen hundred years later, these two married but childless descendants of Aaron—Zacharias and Elizabeth—came to be living in this remote part of the world during the reign of Caesar Augustus.
As a Levitical priest, Zacharias was required to make regular journeys to Jerusalem whenever it was his turn to administer the temple sacrifices and offerings for a week, as well as during all the great feasts and festivals of the Jewish people.
Zacharias and Elizabeth had lived long and well, yet also carried a lifelong, seemingly unhealable heartache. Luke’s gospel makes this plain when he says of this couple:
And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both well advanced in years. (Luke 1:6–7)
To be childless in that time and culture was both humiliating for the couple and economically catastrophic for the wife. Children were viewed as a blessing and therefore evidence of God’s favor. What’s more, because women usually did not own property or handle money, childless women were often left destitute and reduced to depending solely upon charity when their husbands passed away.
- On Sale
- Oct 6, 2020
- Page Count
- 160 pages