BEFORE THE CROSS | Story of Jesus’ birth foretold throughout the Old Testament

Before the Cross - Archbishop Robert J. Carlson's Column

Related Articles: 

"This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about." These are the first words of the Gospel on Dec. 18. And all week long, the readings tell the back story of Christmas. What they tell us is that the story is far deeper and richer than just the preceding nine months.

For example, at the start of the week, we hear about a prophecy from Jeremiah: God will raise up an heir of David, and he will be the savior of Israel. This was written about 600 years before Christ!

At the end of the week we hear about a prophecy from Malachi: God will send His messenger to prepare the way, and He Himself will come into the Temple. This was written about 400 years before Christ!

And it's not only the words of the prophets that prepare the way. There are also the deeds of God, a consistent pattern of action that also sets the stage for Jesus' birth.

For example, this week we hear about the conception of Samson and it follows a pattern. Manoah's wife was barren. An angel of the Lord appeared to tell her that she would have a son. The son was to be consecrated to God from the womb. The Spirit of the Lord would move him, and he would begin the deliverance of Israel from its enemies. This pattern is established more than a thousand years before Christ!

We hear about the conception of Samuel and John the Baptist, as well — events that happened more than a thousand years apart, but followed the same pattern.

By the time we get to the birth of Jesus, God has repeatedly said what He's going to do through the prophets and has established His characteristic way of acting. But this time there's an extra twist. We didn't expect previous women to give birth because they were barren. We don't expect Mary to give birth because she's a virgin.

This, too, was foretold. Isaiah 7 states, in a prophecy given more than 700 years before Christ: "Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name Him Emmanuel." This prophecy is quoted in the Gospel of Matthew.

It's intriguing to know that the original Hebrew text of Isaiah 7 doesn't specifically say "a virgin." It uses a term that could be translated as "virgin" or simply as "a young woman." But when Jewish scholars translated the text into Greek 200 to 300 years before Christ, they translated it specifically as "virgin." Even the history of the translation of the text points toward Jesus.

"This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about." The first Christmas was prepared, foretold and foreshadowed in hundreds of ways throughout salvation history. The readings for the week give us a small glimpse of that massive preparation. Sometimes we just need to stand back in awe and behold the pattern. 

No votes yet