Between Malachi and Matthew 400 years of silence from heaven occurred. Can you imagine? No prophetic voice, no utterance from heaven, nothing. I think it’s terrible enough to not hear from heaven on a daily basis, but for 400 years?! I would love to imagine that in those years of silence, those who lived on earth did their best to remember the valiant stories of Joshua as he triumphantly leads their ancestors to the promised land. Or how David was a great warrior and a great king; even how Esther saved her people in the midst of strife. Maybe those were the stories that helped them remember how their God was also theirs too even in the silence.
But one day an angel visited a man named Zechariah with a great promise that began to propel the greatest story ever told.
Then one day a man named Zechariah was met with an angel. His wife Elizabeth was old as was he, and this angel begins to proclaim that they are having a son and his name is to be John. Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.“ Luke 1:10-17 (Read the full chapter here.)
The first record of a man hearing from heaven in all those years. Then it only gets wilder as the same angel visits 6 months later, a young virgin named Mary and then her soon-to-wed husband named Joseph.
In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.” “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her. Luke 1:26-38
I always pause at Mary’s trust and bravery in this scenario. She said the greatest yes of her life, even after the silent years had passed. As the greatest story ever told continues, we see light breaking through the darkness. A baby born to save the world; hope in flesh. Messiah. Emmanuel.
This Christmas though while reading through Advent, I paused for a second and thought what the “word on the street” must have been like. Mary, Joseph, Zechariah, and Elizabeth must have felt some heavy scrutiny from skeptics as they hid away for months to carry their children. But what about those who felt a sting of hope rise up on the inside of them? Maybe they remember the prophetic words of the prophet Isaiah telling of a Messiah who was coming to save them.
For to us, a child is born, to us, a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace, there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this. Isaiah 9:6-7 (Read the full chapter here.)
I can only imagine back to the streets of the city in the days leading up to and after the birth of Christ.
- “Who is this Child foretold?”
- “Where is He?”
- “Is He coming in like a King on a stallion?”
- “What does He look like?”
- “What is His name again?”
Whispers of the Messiah, the one to save their people, has arrived. As King Herod ran rampant across the town to stop His coming, He was born among shepherds and sheep. Can you imagine how quickly word spread among the shepherds who visited His manger? Or how about the testimony of the Wise Men who arrived days later after His birth? I imagine creation began to groan with hope as He opened His eyes. Mary watched over Him as she remembered how faithful God had been to fulfill His promise to her. Joseph, welcoming each visitor, looked over and watched in amazement. The Messiah was Emmanuel.
I say it every year – the manger beckons for us to just come and see.
- Come and see hope.
- Come and see love.
- Come and see freedom.
- Come and see peace.
- Come and see redemption.
- Come and see healing.
- Come and see joy.
- Come and see salvation.
- Come and see mercy.
- Come and see grace.
Just come and see. And whatever you need, you will find it.
My 2017 Christmas blog post echoes these same words. I read back on it a year later to see how much had changed in myself between then and now. As irony would have it, nothing really changed but myself. Isn’t that the faithfulness of serving a constant God? The days lived between last Christmas and this Christmas were walked with fervency to know Him more. I’m humbled this year knowing that while my pursuit of Him was deepened, I still just want to come back to the manger and see. In all of the highs and lows, I find myself peeking over the wood and gazing upon Him. I’m reminded of all the gaps He has filled and the kindness He has shown me. One year ago, I was hesitantly approaching and reassuring myself that it was okay to come and see. Anxious about what He might say or do, I asked the same questions over and over. How was He going to help me? Would He really put my broken heart back together? Is He really kind amidst the disappoint and frustration? I smile as I sit a little closer in awe of His majesty and what He has done for me. He answered every one of those questions and in the process healed a hurting heart.
Christmas is a marker for many – it can remind us of what was supposed to be or what could be. Just like Easter beckons us to the empty tomb of a risen Savior, Christmas calls us to a stable on the backside of a Bethlehem hill. It’s the season of invitation to come and see the King. The weary world, which once waited in anticipation for His arrival, began to rejoice as He opened His eyes. Under an open heaven, love laid and angels rejoiced proclaiming, “peace on earth, goodwill to men.” (Luke 2:14)
As you celebrate this season, remember my words of last year – “The inn had no room because God knew there needed to be enough room in a stable for the lost and broken ones.” You are seen, loved and wanted by a Savior who was born for you. Whether you’re eager to sit near the manger, anxiously tiptoeing to Him lying there, or skeptically standing in the doorway, He is waiting for you. He is ready to exchange your brokenness for healing, your shame for grace and your loneliness for comfort. Just come and see.