It Is HIStory!
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It Is HIStory!

Isaiah 9:1–7  (ID: 2913)

Preparing our hearts to celebrate Christ’s coming should be a priority, but it is often neglected. Alistair Begg explains that Advent provides an opportunity for us to consider how Jesus fulfilled not just specific predictions but all of the Old Testament during His earthly ministry. When we consider the coming of the Lord Jesus in this context, we discover that all of the Bible is both history and His story.

Series Containing This Sermon

It is HIStory!

A Journey to the Heart of Christmas Isaiah 9:1–7 Series ID: 27101

Sermon Transcript: Print

We’re going to read this morning from Isaiah chapter 9, reading from the first verse. Isaiah chapter 9. It’s page 573 in the church Bibles, if that is of help. Page 573.

“But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations.

“The people who walked in darkness
 have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
 on them has light shone.
You have multiplied the nation;
 you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you
 as with joy at the harvest,
 as they are glad when they divide the spoil.
For the yoke of his burden,
 and the staff [of] his shoulder,
 the rod of his oppressor,
 you have broken as on the day of Midian.
For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult
 and every garment rolled in blood
 will be burned as fuel for the fire.
For to us a child is born,
 to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
 and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
 Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace
 there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
 to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
 from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.”

Thanks be to God for his Word.

Now, gracious God, what we know not, teach us; what we have not, give us; what we are not, make us. For your Son’s sake. Amen.

Well, today is the first Sunday in Advent. And the purpose of the season is to prepare us for the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ—looking back to his first coming, when he appears as a baby in humility in the manger in Bethlehem, and looking forward to his second coming, when in majesty and in might and in power he will return. For some of us, it will be no surprise that today is the first Sunday in Advent. For others of us, frankly, it had never occurred to us. Depending on our background, our familiarity with the church calendar, we may make progress through the year paying attention to these things or, as is more likely in a congregation such as our own, with very scant attention to these things.

And this year, as I have been seeking to make my own personal preparations for our celebration of Christmas—and incidentally, there was no celebration of Christmas embedded in the church in the first three hundred, almost four hundred years after the time of Jesus Christ. It’s about in the fourth century that the celebration of Christmas becomes a fixed part in the church calendar. But as we prepare for that which we do routinely at this time of year, I found myself niggled by the thought that I was partly responsible for failing the congregation when routinely, I myself have neglected the church calendar. In other words, I have allowed us to arrive at Christmas or Christmas Eve, as it usually is, largely unprepared for what is taking place. When we pay scant attention to these things, then our arrival at Christmas Eve just almost catches us unawares. And it occurs to me almost inevitably on Christmas Eve.

And so I was trying to make sure I was alert to it this year before I endured the same experience that I’ve done on so many Christmas Eves, and that is when I sit up here and as various people read from the various Scriptures, and I find myself wondering whether anybody is making any sense at all of, for example, the fifth verse of our reading, which is routinely part of our readings on Christmas Eve:

For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult
 and every garment rolled in blood
 will be burned as fuel for the fire.

And once again, on Christmas Eve, old Grandma’s out there, and Auntie Mabel from Minnesota has come into town, and a number of children in their best frocks are all sitting there, and there’s a sort of palpable sense in the congregation, “Why did we have that verse read out? That’s a rather ugly, distasteful verse for a lovely evening such as this. We’ve all come here for a very happy Christmas Eve, and you’ve got something going about warriors and battles and garments rolled in blood and people being burned in the fire and so on. What in the world are you doing? Didn’t you realize this is Christmas?”

No, you see, that’s exactly my point. That’s completely upside down. Because we actually need to be rescued from, disentangled from, the materialism and the sentimentalism which clamors for and often captures our attention. Now, we have every reason to be thankful for the fact that in the mall and in the stores at the moment, Christmas carols are being played. It’s a wonderful opportunity for the gospel. If you’re standing next to somebody in line, you might ask them, say, “Did you hear that phrase there? What did that mean?” The person said, “No, what phrase was that?” Of course they didn’t hear it, but you could tell them what it was. And then you can say to them, “Well, the song says, ‘Born to raise the sons of earth, born to give them second birth.’[1] What does that mean?” The person says, “I don’t know what it means. Do you know what it means?” Then you’re off to the races, you see. You could say, “Yes, actually, I do know what it means. It’s a wonderful story. It’s the story of Christmas, and so…” And off we go.

The appearing of the second person of the Trinity as a baby in Bethlehem, the incarnation, is not an idea. It is not a concept. It is an event in space and time.

But those are few and far between. Mainly it’s “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” and various sentimental platitudes that just flush over you and flush over you and flush over you, and all of a sudden, you suddenly, as if the whole month has collapsed on you, and you appear, and you’re at the Christmas Eve service, and suddenly, the garments are rolled in blood and burned as fuel for the fire.

Well, I’m going to try and help us this year, if I haven’t done it properly before, by focusing on the fact that we’re going to take on the Sundays this issue of Advent seriously so that we can prepare properly, so that we might be able to celebrate sensibly and joyfully. That’s the program. And the banner heading under which we’re going to consider these things, as time allows, is It Is HIStory. It Is HIStory, with the emphasis on the his: it is his story. It is his story. And when we get that clear in our minds, when we begin to approach the season in that way, then many of the things that we’re tempted to allow to preoccupy us will be put in a subservient position, and the things that we are tempted to neglect we will find in the ascendancy, and my assumption is that we will all be the better for it.

Now, first of all, we need to say this: that the incarnation—the appearing of the second person of the Trinity as a baby in Bethlehem—the incarnation is not an idea. It is not a concept. It is an event. It is an event in space and time. That what we’re dealing with when we’re dealing with a Christian worldview is history. And we’re affirming the fact that as we read our Bibles, we’re immediately aware that these things actually happened. It’s not my purpose this morning to substantiate that notion, but you will understand that it is true within the framework of secular history, of Roman and Jewish historians, who confirm the existence of Jesus and the various aspects of what was going on in his lifetime.

But when we read the Bible, we discover that this is made perfectly clear to us. And I want to start with a statement made by Paul in Galatians chapter 4 so that this might be anchored in our thinking. Galatians 4:4, and Paul writes to the people in Galatia, and he says this: “When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son.” “God sent forth his Son.” In other words, if we might say so reverently, Jesus did not simply appear from nowhere. Jesus did not suddenly emerge out of the ether. No: “When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of [a] woman, born under the law.” Why? “To redeem those who were under the law.” It was by a woman that sin had entered into the world, and it was by a woman that the Savior was to enter into the world. And when we think in terms of history, we need always to think in terms of Genesis 3 and the promise that is given there that the seed of the woman shall break the serpent’s head.[2] When you read that in Genesis 3, if it’s the first time you ever read it, you will find yourself saying, “I wonder what this really means. What does this possibly mean?” And it is a picture of that which is going to come when the one born of woman is the one who’s going to triumph, as we just sang in our song, over sin, over death, and over hell—that we need somebody who is able to come from the outside into our brokenness, into our fallenness, into our predicament to fix what we cannot fix.

And Paul writes to the Galatians, and he says, “Here it is, at the perfect moment in history,” despite what the authors of [Jesus Christ Superstar] have to say. If you remember the old musical [Jesus Christ Superstar], one of the lines is—it’s asking the question about “Why did you come at such a strange time to such a strange place?” Okay? “Why didn’t you come, if you’d come at another time”—I remember the line is “when there was mass communication,”[3] you know. “Why would you come to an obscure province in a backwater place in the Middle East? Why this obscurity?”

Well, the Bible tells us that when the time was fulfilled, at the exact, purposeful, proper moment in history, God sent forth his Son. The second person of the Trinity is dispatched to fulfill the role entrusted to him that has been determined from all of eternity—that the ultimate purpose of God in history is not Adam and Eve in the garden, but it is actually Jesus on the cross; that the story of history finds its apex and its fulfillment in this person.

And that, you see, is what immediately takes Christmas out of the realm of, you know, whether we have a nativity scene or whether we don’t have a nativity scene. I’m not actually a great fan of nativity scenes, as it happens, because they tend to trivialize the thing. They tend to sentimentalize the thing. They tend to make it possible for people to look in and go, “Oh, look at that, look at that.” But there’s nothing that arrests you in it. There’s nothing that stands you up on your heels. There’s nothing that says, “Listen!” Do whatever you want with nativity scenes, but the fact of the matter is that here Jesus Christ is revealed as taking on our flesh so that he might take upon himself our sins.

Augustine put it like this, for those of you who did Latin: “Non merita nostra, sed misera nostra.” In other words, it’s not because of our merits that he came; it’s because of our miseries that he came—not merit but misery. Islam says that Allah will grant forgiveness to those who deserve it. Christianity says that God will grant forgiveness to those who don’t deserve it. It is a radically different story. It is his story. And what you have summarized, encapsulated, in the Epistles you have worked out in the Gospels. You must do the homework for yourself. You can check and see if what I’m telling you is actually in the Bible.

John puts it very clearly. He begins his Gospel by locating Jesus in eternity: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”[4] And then further down to verse 14: “And [this] Word [became] flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.”[5] It’s immense, isn’t it? He takes this principle of the Greek way of thinking—the Logos, the divine principle—and he says, “I know you like to think of it in those terms. Well, let me tell you: here is it in all of its fullness. It is in Christ.”

Matthew approaches it in the same way and yet differently, as you would expect. Remember the wise men and Herod are involved in an interchange? “Where is he that is born King of the Jews?”[6] they’re asking. Then he’s asking, and they say to him—they told him, Matthew says—“In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet.”[7] “He didn’t just emerge out of nowhere. Haven’t you read the Bible, Herod? Have you been reading? Don’t you know what the prophets said? How do you think we showed up? I know we followed a star, but where do you think we got that from? We were reading the prophecy of Daniel.” Wow!

Remember how Mark begins his Gospel? The exact same way: “The beginning of the gospel…”[8] Jesus comes into Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God and saying—here we go again—“The time is fulfilled”—“fulfilled”—“and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe … the gospel.”[9] And Luke records Jesus’ statement to his startled and frightened followers after the encounter on the road to Emmaus. And remember, on that occasion, Jesus reveals himself to them, and they are quite amazed. He said to them, “You’re kind of slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken.” You see what he’s saying? “Didn’t you read your Bible? Haven’t you been reading the Bible? It was necessary that the Christ”—that’s the Messiah—“should suffer these things and enter his glory.”[10] Then he said, “Well, why don’t I just give you a little Bible study while you’re here?” “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.”[11] Do you know anybody else that could do that? Could take the Old Testament and say, “Let me explain the Old Testament to you. Let me tell you where it works. If you want to go to the Old Testament, to the Prophetic Books, or go to the Psalms, or go to the Historical Books, the entire thing’s about me. It’s all about me.” No wonder they were startled. No wonder they were amazed.

The entire New Testament testifies to its understanding of Jesus as the Messiah promised in the Old Testament.

And when he appeared to them, remember, when they were hidden away, he said to them, “Why are you troubled? Why do doubts arise in your heart? Don’t you see my hands and my feet? You can touch me. A spirit doesn’t have flesh and bones, as you see that I have.”[12] “He showed them his hands and his feet.”[13] That’s why when John writes in his letter, remember, he says, “That which we have seen and heard, that which our hands have touched we declare to you.”[14] This is not a concept. This is not a philosophical construct. This is a flesh and blood reality. This is the story. This is his story. And then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”[15]

In other words, the entire New Testament testifies to its understanding of Jesus as the Messiah promised in the Old Testament. Without the New Testament, the Old Testament’s going nowhere. Think about it. Without the New Testament, the Old Testament’s like a road that you’re following along and along and along, and eventually, it just comes to a point, and it either goes off a cliff, or it just drifts into oblivion. There’s no place it goes. Unless you have the New Testament, the Old Testament leads you up a side street. And without the Old Testament, the New Testament demands all kinds of explanations that aren’t there in the New Testament, like “What do you mean ‘fulfilled’? What do you mean ‘a priest’? What do you mean ‘a king’? What do you mean ‘a prophet’?”

So that’s why I say to you routinely, it takes a whole Bible to make a whole Christian. And that’s why I’m saying to you that the neglect of the Advent season, the sensible preparation so that there might be sensible participation, is a serious neglect. I own up to that. I own up to it in my own life. Maybe you do too. Maybe that’s why the Christmas carols have so little ring to them. Maybe that’s why it all seems like, you know, leftover food from a leftover celebration. Because we have failed to prepare adequately by thinking the issues out, by actually thinking, being transformed by the renewing of our minds[16]—actually saying, “I’m going to have to think about this. This is immense.”

And it’s not simply that the New Testament fulfills certain Old Testament predictions. It does. So, for example, Isaiah 7, “And you will give his name Immanuel,”[17] which means “God with us.” And you can go from there to the arrival of Jesus. You can do the same in 9, as we’re about to do, concerning the child who is to be born. You can do the same in Micah, which we’re familiar with: “But you, Bethlehem, although you are least in the prophets of Israel,” and so on—“in the clans of Israel”—“out of you will come forth one who is to rule my people Israel.”[18] And so we’re familiar with doing that. But most of us only have about three or four of them.

And when we tell our friends and neighbors, “Oh, no, but you don’t understand, you see; this equals this,” let me tell you how the skeptic feels about that: they feel that we just mugged it up and that we really don’t have much of a clue about the entire story of the Old Testament, and we just found three or four verses that we could draw a line between and say x equals y. But if they push us and shove us and ask us, “Well, what’s the story about the book of Kings, and what in the world was going on with the sacrifices in the book of Leviticus, and what do you think you’re doing with these Minor Prophets and so on?” we’re like, “I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know. I don’t know.” And they say, “Well, how come this is something that is establishing your life and directing your future and is the key to your existence, and you don’t even know what you’re talking about?”

No, you see, it’s not enough simply to say, “Micah 5 is over here in Matthew,” or “Isaiah 7 is over here in Luke,” or whatever it might be. No, what it actually tells us is that Jesus doesn’t simply fulfill certain Old Testament expectations or predictions; Jesus fulfills the entire Old Testament! The only way to understand the entire Old Testament is in the person and work of Jesus.

Now, if you think that out, it is immense! What it means is that Jesus has no peers. Jesus has no rivals. Jesus has no successors. There is no one—no one in the entire universe—who comes close to Jesus of Nazareth. Either he was a megalomaniac, declaring, “The entire Bible is about me,” or the entire Bible is about him. You remember I always tell you, Archbishop of Canterbury to Jane Fonda: Archbishop says to Jane Fonda, “Jesus Christ is the Son of God, you know.” Jane Fonda says, “Well, he may be the Son of God for you, but he’s not the Son of God for me.” The Archbishop of Canterbury says, “Jane, he either is, or he isn’t.” There’s no “for me” about it. It’s his story.

I came across a wonderful quote that has helped me immensely this week, and I’m going to give it to you. And if you’re a scribbler, you can scribble, and if you’re not, tough; you can get it later on. In a book of theology introducing the Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of England—which is the doctrinal statement upon which the Church of England was based, in the way that the Westminster Confession is for the Presbyterian Church—Griffith Thomas in an earlier era wrote as follows concerning the Old Testament: “It is a book of unfulfilled prophecies … unexplained ceremonies,” and “unsatisfied longings.”[19] Okay? “Unfilled prophecies,” “unexplained ceremonies,” and “unsatisfied longings.” Now, that seems to me to be very honest. I’m sure you would agree. Because when you read in the Old Testament, you say to yourself, “Well, how is this supposed to work out? Here we are, and unless this road leads somewhere to fulfillment, I don’t know what to do with it. And what about all these strange ceremonies? And what about the fact that this creates within me a longing for an end to this story?” Then he says, “All of which”—that is, the unfulfilled prophecy, the unexplained ceremony, the unsatisfied longing—“all of which are resolved in the New Testament’s focus on Jesus Christ”—here we go—“who fulfills in his life the prophecies, explains in his death the ceremonies, and satisfies in his resurrection [the] longings.”[20]

I find that wonderfully helpful. If you can get ahold of that and think that out and chew on that over this Advent season, it will be a tremendous help in speaking with people when they’re asking sensible questions about why it is that we hold out a reason for hoping in a world that is increasingly hopeless. It is in Jesus that the prophecies are fulfilled by his life, it is in his death that the ceremonies are explained, and it is in his resurrection that our longings are satisfied.

As staggering as it sounds, the focus and meaning of history, its goal and its climax, is the person and work of Jesus of Nazareth. That’s a biblical view of the world. And Jesus is not a sideline. Jesus is not a philosophical idea. Jesus Christ is a figure of history to be reckoned with. And when we read our Bibles, we come up against it immediately. And as we will see in Isaiah 9—when we finally get to it some Sunday—in Isaiah 9, either Jesus in his person and his work becomes a refuge for us and a safety for us, or he becomes a stumbling block to us. We either turn to him and find in him safety, or we turn from him and stumble over him.

Saul of Tarsus was convinced that the only thing to do with Jesus of Nazareth and his followers was exactly what had been done. And that is why he was committed to the destruction of this fledgling group of weirdos who had begun to fan out from Jerusalem with the news that Jesus of Nazareth was not only alive from the dead, but he was the sovereign Lord of glory. And you will remember his story: how breathing out threatenings and slaughterings, he decided to go to Damascus, having the requisite paperwork put together, so that he might take some more of these crazies and have them incarcerated or have them obliterated. And on the road to Damascus, he meets none other than the historical Jesus.[21]

And into the darkness of the mind of Saul of Tarsus, the light of the reality of God shines. And he is changed; he becomes absolutely new. It’s quite staggering, the nature of his conversion. He previously thought Jesus was dead and irrelevant. Previously, he thought the church was just a rabble of nonsense people. And within a very short order, he is out, in amongst the synagogues, saying, “Jesus of Nazareth is alive, and these are my brothers and sisters in Jesus. And I used to think that you earned your acceptance with God, but I’ve discovered that you don’t and that it is on account of his mercy that we ever know him in any meaningful way.”

As staggering as it sounds, the focus and meaning of history, its goal and its climax, is the person and work of Jesus of Nazareth.

Now, you see, what had happened to Saul of Tarsus was that he was converted. It wasn’t that he became religious, ’cause he was phenomenally religious at the get-go. No, he was converted. And when a person is converted, then they have a totally different view of who Jesus is, they have a totally different perspective on who they are, and they have a totally different perspective on the church of Jesus Christ. Otherwise, how do you explain these words from the pen of Saul of Tarsus writing to the Christians in Colossae? This is what he says: “For by him”—that is, Jesus—

For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.[22]

Now, where did you come up with that, Saul? “For by him and through him and for him is everything. He is the one of whom the prophet spoke.”

Brings us to Isaiah 9—which is just as well, ’cause we only got four minutes left. Brings us to Isaiah 9. And there we discover that he is the true light who is coming into the world.[23] “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light.”[24] We’re going have to come back to this. But let me reinforce for us before we go this simple fact: that the storyline of the Bible is the storyline of people and events in space and time who are involved in God’s purpose from all of eternity to save. The story of the Bible is this: Jesus saves us. Jesus saves sinners. That’s the story. That’s what the whole Bible is about. If you miss that, then you lose your way all around the Bible. Jesus saves us. We don’t save ourselves. That’s the story. Saul thought he could save himself, he discovered he couldn’t, and then he was very glad that he discovered that there was someone who could.

And when you come back into Isaiah 9, seven hundred years before Jesus, you’re stepping back into history. There were people having their breakfast then, putting on their clothes, saying their prayers, reading the Bible, trusting the promises of God—people just like you and me. And one of them is this character Isaiah. You can read about Isaiah, how he’s called into the ministry, in chapter 6, when he goes into the temple and he has an encounter with God: “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty. I am a man of unclean lips,” he says, “and I dwell in a people of unclean lips.” And then the voice comes out from heaven and says, “I’m looking for someone to go for me. Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” And Isaiah says, “Maybe… Maybe me. Right? Could I go for you? Could I go?”[25] See, I know we tend to think of it as, like, “And Isaiah said, ‘I will go for you. I’m Isaiah, after all!’” No. No, I don’t think so. He’s like, “Well, I don’t know… I don’t know if you want me, but I’ll take a stab at it. But you’re going to have to write the script. You’re going to have to tell me what to say.” God says, “That’s fine.”

You see how excited he gets, then. See, ’cause this is 740 BC, by and large. It’s chaos. The kingdom is divided. The ten northern tribes are all fiddling around with Assyria. The two tribes in the south, who are called Judah, are trying to remain true to the word of God and to the kingship of David. But it’s chaos. And God says, “Isaiah, you and I are going to do some writing.” And he has a wife. We don’t know her name; she’s called “the prophetess.”[26] Not a bad name. It’s interesting that her name is not in the Bible. A lot of the wives of the prophets’ names are not well known. And he has two sons. Their names are in. So they should be—amazing names. “Go out to meet Ahaz, Isaiah, and take your boy with you, Shear-jashub. Shear-Jashub.”[27] Okay? And then God gives him another boy, and he and the prophetess take it up a notch in chapter 8, and they call him Maher-shalal-hash-baz.[28] A bit of a mouthful. “Where are your sneakers, Maher-shalal-hash-baz?” Maybe just called him Baz for short. I don’t know.

But here’s the point I want you to understand: there was a real Isaiah. He had a real wife. He had real kids. He lived in a real moment in time. God invaded his life, picked him up, and used him, and gave him these words to speak. They were his words, it was his context, he knew what was going on, and yet he was superintended by the Holy Spirit in doing what he did.

And so when he came home at the end of the day and his wife said, “Did you have a good time in your study?”—and he said, “Yeah, it was pretty good.” And she said, “Well, what were you writing about today?” And he said, “Well, I said… I wrote down, ‘The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those walking in the land of the shadow, a light has dawned.’” And the prophetess said, “What does that mean?” And he said, “I thought you were going to ask that. I’m not sure; I haven’t written the rest of it yet. But I’ll get back to you.”

And in actual fact, even he, Isaiah, is described in Peter as one of the prophets who is standing on his tiptoes, looking, as it were, down through the corridor of time to actually discover for himself what it is he’s actually writing down.[29] Because it takes it way beyond 700 BC and takes it right into the reality of the shores of Galilee and right into the reality of Cleveland, Ohio, so that the ceremonies that I do not understand and the longings that I cannot find fulfilled may be met in a child. In a child.

“For unto us a child is born, [and] unto us a son is given.”[30] And the prophetess says, “And what’s that about?” Isaiah says, “We’re going to have to wait.” But we don’t have to wait, because we have the New Testament, so that we can understand the Old Testament, so that we can believe in the one of whom the Old Testament speaks, so that we can prepare for the celebration of Christmas by welcoming to our hearts and to our homes Christ himself. “Born to raise the sons of earth, born to give them second birth.” Have you been born again? Are you a new person—a whole different view of Jesus, a whole different view of the church, a whole different view of what it means to be accepted by God? Oh, I hope so.

Gracious God, we thank you that we have a Bible that we can go back and read, that it demands our careful attention, that it’s not just a big promise book that we reach in and grab a few blessed thoughts from—although it’s full of blessing and full of promises—but rather, it takes us and confronts us with the wonder of the fact that from all of eternity, you have purposed to put together a people that are your very own[31] and that it is the utterly undeserved privilege of all who believe to be included in a company that no one can even count.[32]

Oh, thank you, Lord Jesus Christ, that you humbled yourself and entered into time and into space, your glory veiled. No one would have looked at that birth scene and said, “There’s the Messiah of God.” And even on your cross, people would never have said, “That must be the Messiah.” They would have said, “That can’t be the Messiah.” It is only by faith that we ever look upon you and say, “This is the Lamb of God, who not only takes away the sin of the world[33] but takes away my sin.”

O holy Child of Bethlehem,
Descend to us, we pray.
Cast out our sin, and enter in,
Be born in us today.[34]



[1] Charles Wesley, “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” (1739).

[2] See Genesis 3:15.

[3] Murray Head, “Superstar” (1970). Lyrics lightly altered.

[4] John 1:1 (ESV).

[5] John 1:14 (KJV).

[6] Matthew 2:2 (KJV).

[7] Matthew 2:5 (ESV).

[8] Mark 1:1 (ESV).

[9] Mark 1:15 (ESV).

[10] Luke 24:25–26 (paraphrased).

[11] Luke 24:27 (ESV).

[12] Luke 24:38–39 (paraphrased).

[13] Luke 24:40 (ESV).

[14] 1 John 1:1, 3 (paraphrased).

[15] Luke 24:44 (ESV).

[16] See Romans 12:2.

[17] Isaiah 7:14 (paraphrased).

[18] Micah 5:2 (paraphrased).

[19] W. H. Griffith Thomas, The Principles of Theology: An Introduction to the Thirty-Nine Articles (London: Church Book Room, 1945), 136.

[20] Raymond C. Ortlund Jr., Isaiah: God Saves Sinners, Preaching the Word, ed. R. Kent Hughes (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2005), 462. Ortland is here summarizing Thomas’s argument.

[21] See Acts 9:1–5.

[22] Colossians 1:16–17 (ESV).

[23] See John 1:9.

[24] Isaiah 9:2 (NIV).

[25] Isaiah 6:3, 5, 8 (paraphrased).

[26] Isaiah 8:3 (ESV).

[27] Isaiah 7:3 (paraphrased).

[28] See Isaiah 8:3.

[29] See 1 Peter 1:10–11.

[30] Isaiah 9:6 (KJV).

[31] See Titus 2:14.

[32] See Revelation 7:9.

[33] See John 1:29.

[34] Phillips Brooks, “O Little Town of Bethlehem” (1867).

Copyright © 2024, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations for sermons preached on or after November 6, 2011 are taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

For sermons preached before November 6, 2011, unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (NIV®), copyright © 1973 1978 1984 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Alistair Begg
Alistair Begg is Senior Pastor at Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Bible teacher on Truth For Life, which is heard on the radio and online around the world.