The Christmas Gospel 4

In The King Jesus Gospel an argument is laid out that concludes the gospel is to declare that the Story of Israel (or the Bible) has been fulfilled in the Story of Jesus, who is King (Messiah) and Lord who saves. At the heart of this gospel then is a Story, a Story that begins with Adam and then all over again with Abraham and winds and wends its way all the way to Jesus. That Story is told in the Old Testament.

Matthew’s Gospel is the first Gospel and the first Gospel would have been the first book after the Chronicles (of the Hebrew Bible), which is noted for its genealogies. Jewish readers would know this, and they would say “Cool, this takes our Story to the next chapter.”

Which means the Old Testament Story is central to Christmas, and that Christmas is the announcement that the Story is now fulfilled.

Matthew 1-2 is loaded up and organized by passages that are concerned with just that point, so I want to observe this today as we ponder the Christmas Story:

The genealogy is a rough and ready sketch of Israel’s Story from Abraham to David to the Babylonian Captivity to Jesus (and Mary and Joseph).

Jesus’ birth fulfills Isaiah who predicted a virgin (1:18-25).

Jesus’ being treated as a king with gifts by the magi fulfills a Micah passage about Bethlehem’s glory (2:1-12).

The escape to Egypt “fulfills” Hosea (2:13-16).

The death of the babies at the hand of Herod fulfills Rachel’s weeping in Jeremiah (2:16-18).

Jesus returns from Egypt to Nazareth, in the north, and that fulfills the obscure text that he would be called a Nazarene (2:19-23).

The Christmas Story is a Story fulfilled. Let me turn this around: these are Advent texts not just because they are about the birth of Jesus; they are Christmas texts because these texts singularly fulfill the OT Story’s anticipations.

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  • John W Frye

    It really matters that we start with the Gospel (as made known in the 4 Gospels) and move toward Paul so that we can keep the panoramic vision of the gospel in view and not get sucked into a reduced, one-view-of-the-atonement ‘gospel.’

  • Randy Gabrielse

    I have long believed this, particularly since NT Wright led me back to reading Paul after five years where I could not read Paul because some of his arguments seemed like just so much mumbo jumbo in my head. Wright’s placement of Paul on the historical stage of the Roman Empire finally helped me make sense of him and of his relationship to the gospels.

  • Percival

    I wonder about what these references to “fulfilling” scripture mean. It seems that often, if not usually, the OT prophecies are quoted as references back to the big story. They seem to be mentioned as hints to the more clear and complete fulfillment that is found in the now-revealed gospel. To me they are more like reminders in a reverse direction, we could call them “pre-minders.”

    I doubt that they were ever meant to be Delphi-like predict-the-future oracles that prove that the Messiah had come. (Sorry Josh McDowell) Here’s my working thesis: Greek prophesy is predictive; Hebrew prophesy is indicative.