Christmas Eve – the night of anticipation. Every child awaits Christmas morning with eager, can-barely-hold-it-in excitement because of what is to come. Young children will scarcely sleep as they lightly doze off with dreams of cars, dolls, games, and various toys dancing in their heads. Parents will rest with smiles of anticipation as they think of the bright giggles and laughs they’ll hear from their children as they open all the surprises around the Christmas tree.
But all our hopes for tomorrow’s Christmas celebration can’t hold a candle to the white-hot fire of anticipation that consumed God’s prophets in the Old Testament era. They longed with every fiber of their being for the great day when God would send the chosen Rescuer, to save His people from their sins. The prophet Micah spoke as God’s mouthpiece about One who would come to shepherd God’s people:
“But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah, From you One will go forth for Me to be a ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity. …And He will arise and shepherd His flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD His God. And they will remain, because at that time He will be great to the ends of the earth. This One will be our peace.” (Micah 5:2-5a; cf. Matt. 2:6; NASB)
Yet this great Shepherd, the Good Shepherd would come first as a Suffering-Servant-Rescuer destined to die so that we, as sinners, could have peace with the perfect, righteous God… and live. Only the perfect One who is both fully God and fully man could offer the once-for-all payment for sins and seal it as completely sufficient for the sins of all mankind. This meant God Himself had to come. God foretold this Great Arrival through His prophet Isaiah:
“Therefore the LORD Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14)
In Matthew’s Gospel, we discover that the title “Immanuel” means, “God with us” (1:23). And that is exactly what Jesus, the God-Man, did. God came down. He came to live among us. He came to die among us… as one of us, but also for us. He came so that through His death, we might receive new, eternal life.
When an angel appeared in a dream to Joseph, Jesus’ adoptive earthly-father, he said,
“Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:20b-21)
The white candle of Advent, the “Christ Candle,” reminds us that Jesus Christ is the pure, spotless, sinless Savior sent by the God the Father to take away our sins. Men, women, and children everywhere are offered rescue through the Rescuer who came down to us, to die for us, so that we could be brought to God. On this Christmas Eve, I invite you to place full trust in Jesus Christ’s finished mission of rescue, if you’ve never done so. If already you have, let’s rejoice together in Him, remember what He did, and anticipate the dawn of final redemption at His Second Coming!
By Michael J. Breznau. December 2014.