Christmas in Prophecy - Part 1

Arno Froese

We will not concern ourselves with the right and wrong, the timeline, or the often-mentioned association with pagan holidays. Our message is Biblical; it concerns the Messiah. Thus, we call it “Christmas in Prophecy.”

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).

The message we present, entitled “Christmas in Prophecy,” is actually a contradiction. We do well to analyze the word “Christmas” a little more closely. Of course, we all know what Christmas means. We relate it to the birth of Christ. But what does the word “Christmas” literally mean? In the early English language, it was called Cristes Maesse. In plain words, a Mass of the Catholic Church would be held on that day, thus Christ-mas.

When we take a closer look at other languages, the literal meaning of the word is quite different. In German, it’s Weihnachten, which literally means hallowed or dedication night. In Spanish, Navidad, meaning nativity; in French Noël; in Italian Natale, etc.

When Did Christmas Begin?
When researching the word Christmas, we find it to be a relatively new invention. One source points to year 1605 in the city of Strasbourg, with the first known exhibition of a Christmas tree. Britannica.com notes, “…during the first two centuries of Christianity there was strong opposition to recognizing birthdays of martyrs or, for that matter, of Jesus. Numerous Church Fathers offered sarcastic comments about the pagan custom of celebrating birthdays when, in fact, saints and martyrs should be honoured on the days of their martyrdom—their true ‘birthdays,’ from the church’s perspective.”

Probably the most popular Christmas song, “Silent Night,” was composed in 1818 by two Catholics. In the United States, the 25th of December was declared a federal holiday in 1817. In 1645, the Puritans in England actually outlawed the Christmas holiday. From 1659 to 1681, Christmas was outlawed in Boston. Anyone exhibiting the Christmas spirit was fined 5 shillings.

What Christmas has become is quite evident: a super-commercial success. It’s the great end of the year merchandising period, unequaled by the previous eleven months.

So, the question: what does the Bible say? Actually, it has nothing to say about Christmas, nor the honoring of the birth of Christ. It’s purely mankind’s invention; nothing more, nothing less.

Two Noted Birthdays
It is of interest that the Bible records only two birthdays specifically using the term, and both occasions ended in death. The first time is in Genesis 40:20: “And it came to pass the third day, which was Pharaoh’s birthday, that he made a feast unto all his servants: and he lifted up the head of the chief butler and of the chief baker among his servants.” Verse 22 states: “But he hanged the chief baker: as Joseph had interpreted to them.” That birthday party ended with the death of Pharaoh’s chief baker.

In the New Testament, the record of a birthday also occurs, in Matthew 14:6-7: “But when Herod’s birthday was kept, the daughter of Herodias danced before them, and pleased Herod. Whereupon he promised with an oath to give her whatsoever she would ask.” The same story appears again in Mark 6:21. What was the end result? “And he sent, and beheaded John in the prison. And his head was brought in a charger, and given to the damsel: and she brought it to her mother” (Matthew 14:10-11).

Unto Us a Child Is Born
However, we will not concern ourselves with the right and wrong, the timeline, or the often-mentioned association with pagan holidays. Our message is Biblical; it concerns the Messiah. Thus, we call it “Christmas in Prophecy,” although there is no prophecy associated with the word Christmas. But we do have the prophetic record of the birth of Christ, as we have read in the introductory Scripture.

Before we begin the study in Matthew, let us quote a paragraph from blueletterbible.org. What is the Blue Letter Bible? Wikipedia reports: “The Blue Letter Bible Project is an initiative of Sowing Circle, a United States-based, non-denominational Christian ministry that has created a study Bible and Bible study tools ‘to make reading, searching and studying the Bible easy and rewarding.’” Here is a paragraph from the introduction to Matthew:
It is quite obvious and widely accepted that Matthew was written to the Jews. For one, he focuses on the fulfillment of the Old Testament, even quoting from it sixty-two times, which is more than any other Gospel writer. Secondly it is interesting that Matthew does not explain Jewish culture like the other evangelists (cf. Mark 7:3, John 19:40), which also adds to the argument that he is writing to Jews. Matthew uses the phrase, “kingdom of heaven,” (the only author, in fact, to use this phrase) which can be considered as a “reverential Jewish expression”—a term appropriate to a Jewish audience. His purpose in writing to the Jews was to show them that Jesus of Nazareth was the expected messiah and both his genealogy and his resurrection were legitimate proofs of this.

It is not surprising then that the Gospel of Matthew uses the word “fulfilled” 16 times, more than any of the other Gospels.

Jewish Interpretation
One more item before we dig into the word “fulfilled” in the Gospel of Matthew. What do the Jews say about Isaiah 9:6? Here, from the Tanakh, “For a child has been born to us, A son has been given us. And authority has settled on his shoulders. He has been named The Mighty God is planning grace; The Eternal Father, a peaceable ruler.”

The question arises, how can the Son be the mighty God, the eternal Father, the peaceable ruler? The answer to that question came from the often-quoted Old Testament authority, Rabbi Rashi Mi-Yodeya (1040-1105), who claimed the correct translation is, “For a child has been born to us, a son given to us, and the authority is upon his shoulder, and the wondrous adviser, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, called his name, ‘the prince of peace.’”

The Trinity
The good rabbi could not comprehend that the Son is also the mighty God, the everlasting Father, and the Prince of Peace. That is the trinity, and to this day, we cannot intellectually comprehend it. It’s literally out of this world, yet clearly taught in Holy Scripture. Even in the first three verses of the Bible, we see the active trinity. In verse 1, God the Father; in verse 2, God the Holy Spirit; and in verse 3, God the Word—that is, God the Son.

However, virtually all reliable Bible scholars keep the verse intact by identifying that child as the Wonderful Counselor, which represents God the Holy Spirit; the mighty God, the everlasting Father, which represents God the Father; and the Prince of Peace, which is God the Son, Jesus Christ the Lord.

Biblical analysis of these four titles is fittingly described by HaDavar Messianic Ministries:

• Wonderful Counselor – Colossians 2:3: “…in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”
• Mighty God – Hebrews 1:8: “But unto the Son he says, ‘Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever, and the righteous scepter is the scepter of His kingdom.’” (Quoting Psalm 45)
• Eternal Father – John 1:1-2: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.”
• Prince of Peace – John 14:27: “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives, do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.”

Prophecy Fulfilled
The Gospel of Matthew begins with, “The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham” (Matthew 1:1). It was noticed by one of our readers that only 41 names are mentioned, but 3 times 14 equals 42. Why only 41? Answer: David is mentioned twice; he represents the Old Testament as well as the New Testament. Revelation 5:5 reads: “And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof.”

Note also that in verse 20, the angel of the Lord said to Joseph, “thou son of David,” and verse 22 states: “Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet…” (Matthew 1:22). What was fulfilled? Isaiah 7:14: “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”

Out of Egypt
“And was there [in Egypt] until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son” (Matthew 2:15).

We know this also represents the nation Israel about 1,500 years before Christ was born. Thus, we see a double fulfillment, because Israel came out of Egypt and escaped slavery on the way to the land flowing with milk and honey. Hosea 11:1 states: “When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt.” This clearly speaks of Israel. But here in Matthew, the Lord Jesus also came out of Egypt.

Murder of the Innocent
“Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying, In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not” (Matthew 2:17-18).

Fulfilled was what the prophet Jeremiah wrote over 600 years before Christ was born: “Thus saith the Lord; A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation, and bitter weeping; Rahel weeping for her children refused to be comforted for her children, because they were not” (Jeremiah 31:15).

Nazareth
“And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene” (Matthew 2:23).

This too was necessary, for Nazareth was one of the cities not well esteemed. As a matter of fact, we read in John 1:46: “Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?” The city was ill-regarded in the eyes of the Jews. Yet it cast a prophetic shadow of Him, who was the suffering Servant: “He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not” (Isaiah 53:3).

Zebulun and Naphtali
“That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, The land of Zabulon, and the land of Nephthalim, by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles” (Matthew 4:14-15).

Here we must read Isaiah 9:1-2: “Nevertheless the dimness shall not be such as was in her vexation, when at the first he lightly afflicted the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, and afterward did more grievously afflict her by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, in Galilee of the nations. The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.”

Note the words of Isaiah, “Galilee of the nations.” Matthew 4:15 reads, “The land of Zabulon, and the land of Nephthalim, by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles.” It had become so dark in that area of Zebulun and Naphtali, that they were considered last, the ones that did not matter to the religious authorities in Jerusalem.

It was Zebulun and Naphtali whom the Assyrians defeated. They were the first to be deported by the Assyrians. We know that the city of Capernaum was located in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali. Luke report Jesus’ words: “And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted to heaven, shalt be thrust down to hell” (Luke 10:15). Yet, it was exactly here, in this religiously forsaken and rejected territory, that Jesus came: “The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up” (Matthew 4:16).

The Law Fulfilled
“For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled” (Matthew 5:18).

The prophet Daniel wrote about the coming of the Messiah: “Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy” (Daniel 9:24). Jesus fulfilled this prophecy to its finest detail. He came “to make an end of sins”; that means sin can be forgiven. He, the sinless One, paid for the sins of all people of all times. He established everlasting righteousness. He fulfilled prophecy.

Bear Our Infirmities
“That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses” (Matthew 8:17).

To better understand this fulfillment, we must read verse 16: “When the even was come, they brought unto him many that were possessed with devils: and he cast out the spirits with his word, and healed all that were sick.” It is important to point out that Jesus never touched the demon possessed;  He just used His word, His command. Those who were physically infirm, Jesus touched: “And Jesus put forth his hand, and touched him, saying, I will; be thou clean. And immediately his leprosy was cleansed” (Matthew 8:3).
Isaiah 53, written over 700 years before Christ was born, documents the suffering Servant: “He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted” (Isaiah 53:3-4).

Midnight Call - 12/2019

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