Have you ever received a lovely gift and thanked the giver appropriately, only to realize later that it was homemade? Suddenly the significance of the gift grows, because you now know that the giver had put in much effort and many hours into it, and your former expression of thanks doesn’t seem adequate any more.
Something like that happened to me recently, when I started reading the books of Genesis and Matthew side by side.
I began with Genesis, which records the perfect Creation, the beginning of human sin, and examples of how God has been working in human history since then. I read about Abraham, who displayed great faith by obeying God in some very strange circumstances. God promised to give him a son and a nation of descendants (Genesis 17), and “through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me” (Genesis 22:18).
I then flipped over to the New Testament, to Matthew. It started this way: “This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham” (Matthew 1.1).
The son of Abraham.
It suddenly hit me. Having grown up in a Christian family and going to church all my life, I knew that the “offspring” (or “seed”, as some translations have it) of Abraham refers to Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:16). But now, it really sank in. When God made that promise to Abraham, at the very beginning of history, He was already working out His plan of salvation—my salvation.
Does that fact hit you the same way it hit me? And what about all those stories in the Old Testament? God’s covenant with Abraham. God’s blessing of Jacob. God’s preservation of Joseph. God raising up the people of Israel, bringing them out of Egypt, anointing David as king, sending His people into exile, then bringing them back. God giving His Son to a young virgin. All these—all of God’s interaction with humanity—were part of His miraculous plan to save me. To save you.
Christmas did not start with the birth of Jesus Christ—it started long before that.
My family has a tradition of reading out loud together the account of Jesus’ birth from the Gospels of Matthew or Luke on Christmas morning. But this year, I think I’ll suggest that we read out God’s covenant with Abraham instead. Or we could spend time reflecting on God’s promise to Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:15), and marvelling in the knowledge that even then, God already knew us (Psalm 139:13-16) and was already charting out the course of history that would culminate in Christ’s victory—all so that you and I would be saved.
“But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth.” (2 Thessalonians 2:13 (NKJV), emphasis added).
Praise be to God!
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