2nd Week of Advent
Old maps have a section called the “Key.” It is filled with explanations of what different symbols (which are found on a map) mean. When you are traveling and you see a symbol beside a road on the map, you can look it up in the “Key,” or “Legend” to understand what it means… why it is there. The Bible provides us with understanding as we go along life’s pathways. In this way, the Bible is “the Key” to our understanding the roadmap to the manger.
One major key to understanding the roadmap to the manger is the promise God made centuries ago. It takes us back to one man: Abraham. The first chapter of Matthew is like the legend of a map. The New Testament begins with a genealogy. Matthew 1:1 reads, “A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.” Matthew describes the 42 generations going back to the twelve sons of Abraham. “Father Abraham.”
Using the Bible as a roadmap to the manger, we must use it as a legend or the key which leads to understanding how we are connected to our past. Let’s look at those Old Testament verses which tie the genealogy of Jesus to Abraham. It is the promise to Abraham that gives our journey the direction for our first step to the manger.
Genesis 22:18 gives that first special promise: and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me. This promise was first made to Abraham moments after Abraham had trusted God by demonstrating his willingness to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice to the Lord. Of course, God stopped him from doing so, but in God’s response, we see the first mention for the hope of a Messiah. This promise was given even before Abraham was a Jew. It will be through his offspring that “all nations” will be blessed.
The apostle Paul recalled this promise when writing to the church in Rome. “What does Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness’” (Romans 4:3). He is quoting Genesis 15:6 which reads: “Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.”
Note that Genesis calls him “Abram.” That was Abraham’s Gentile name. That was Abraham’s name before he was circumcised. Before Abraham was a Jew, he was a Gentile. The promise God made was made to a Gentile who would then become the father of the Hebrew people. Why? Because he believed and trusted God, which is the very foundation of faith. He believed and trusted God before he was circumcised as a symbolic gesture of obedience in becoming God’s chosen people.
This promise was repeated later to Abraham’s son, Isaac. I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and will give them all these lands, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed (Genesis 26:4). This promise is so important that God had to repeat it!
Just as being born to Christian parents does not automatically make you a Christian, neither does circumcision make you Jewish. Circumcision became the outward sign of an inward faith in the promise of God. Circumcision did not just identify the Hebrew people as Jews; it identified their connection to God’s promise made through Abraham.
Paul also wrote in Romans: “And he (Abraham) received circumcision as a sign, a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. So then, he is the father of all who believe but have not been circumcised, in order that righteousness might be credited to them” (4:11).
Again Paul declared, “It was not through the law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith” (Romans 4:13).
Therefore, it is not circumcision that makes one a Jew. It is having the same trust and belief that Abraham had in God that connects us with Him. Through Abraham’s offspring, “all nations will be blessed.” Abraham is the “father of all who believe.”
We are not declared righteous by anything we do, nor by any physical action, but through faith. Righteousness comes by faith. The righteous are heirs to the promise. And the promise leads us to the manger.
Without this promise to Abraham and Isaac, we would not find the manger. The promise is the key which explains the manger. “Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring—not only to those who are of the law but also to those who have the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all” (Romans 4:16). Abraham is the father of all who believe and trust God.
Who would have ever dreamed that the promise made to Abraham because of his faith, his trust and belief in God, would one day find its completion lying in a manger? At the manger, all nations, all people who share Abraham’s faith are blessed. Jesus is the promise given to father Abraham and his descendants. By faith, we are Abraham’s offspring. We are heirs of His promise.
This promise is ours, not because of anything we have done, but only through our faith and trust in God. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8).
Our promise is the gift of God we find lying in a manger. “Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.”
“Christmas is the celebration of the keeping a promise. A saving promise.”*
- “The Promise,” Michael Card, 1991.
My best friend from high school is Jewish. Boy, the antics we got involved in would take too long to explain, but there is no doubt, we love each other as brothers. His family accepted me as one of their own (even disciplined me when I needed it). Marc and I would spend hours talking about everything under the sun, including religion. As I came to appreciate his family’s faith, he came to understand mine. We are still close today. Every Christmas he sends me a Christmas card and I send him and his wife a Hanukkah greeting. We still talk religion.
Before I attended Seminary I once explained to him that as a Christian, I was “an honorary Jew.” It was my explanation to him that helped him better understand the Christian faith. I still believe this today, but I explain it differently. Judaism is the Christian’s heritage of faith. Consider these words of Paul:
But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir (Galatians 4:4-7).
For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will… (Ephesians 1:4-5).
Since by faith we are now adopted into God’s family, we are also heirs to God’s promise given to Abraham. That “all nations will be blessed” includes each one of us. Therefore, the manger not only connects us to the future of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, it also connects us to the past… to Abraham. By faith, we are his offspring as well.
The joy of Christmas is not just the joy of God coming to earth in human form. The manger connects our union with our heritage and our future. It became the crossroad of our salvation. As Jesus is, according to his genealogy, a son of Abraham, so are we because of our adoption into God’s family through our faith and trust in Jesus as our Lord.
Reflect for a moment if you will, on the end of the Ephesians quote. It gives our Lord “pleasure” that we are adopted into his family. Christmas should be a time of pleasure… even if our brothers and sisters, our aunts and uncles or cousins irritate us. Even if you don’t have family to be with this Christmas, take pleasure in the miracle of the manger which unites you with your spiritual heritage.
We are, after all, family.
– If you had the opportunity to express to a person of another faith/religion about what it means to have a relationship with the living Jesus, what would you say to him or her? Make a list of the things you would want to clarify with that person, and search the scriptures to verify that what you say is truth.
13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”
14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
15 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven.”
20 Then he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.
Jesus ordered the twelve disciples to not reveal to others that he was the Messiah at that time, but upon his resurrection, there was no stopping them. “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
– Invite someone to church, a Bible study, or a cup of coffee just to talk to them about who Jesus is to you.
41 The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ).
42 And he brought him to Jesus.
45 Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”
46 “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked.
“Come and see,” said Philip.