The Promised Saviour. In the Garden of Eden the promise was first given of Him who would bruise the head of the serpent, the originator of sin. Gen. 3:15. But though day after day at the gate of Eden, Adam offered the sacrifice that showed his faith in the coming Redeemer, yet the fulfillment of the promise tarried. He lived for nearly a thousand years, and at last died with out seeing Him of whom his sacrifices were a type. To Seth, to Enoch, to Methuselah, to Noah, to Shem, and to the other patriarchs, the promise was repeated. Again and again to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, God said, â€œIn thee shall all families of the earth be blessed." Gen. 12:3; 28:14. Yet the Saviour did not come. Still the hope of seeing the Son of God walk among the children of men did not die out of the hearts of God's faithful ones. Through the centuries they continued to offer the sacrifices which pointed to the coming Deliverer.
Prophets Foretold His Coming. God sent His prophets to instruct the descendants of Jacob - the nation whom He had chosen to give the message of the coming Redeemer - about the "Star" that should come out of Jacob. Num, 24:17. Micah said that He would be born in Bethlehem. Micah 5:2. Isaiah said that His name should be Immanuel. Isa. 7:14. Jeremiah told about the terrible slaughter of the little children of Bethlehem in an effort to destroy the Promised One, and of the bitter weeping of the mothers who "refused to be comforted." Jer. 31:15-17. Daniel foretold the exact time when "Messiah the Prince" should come. Dan. 9:25. Not only His birth, but His childhood, His baptism, His later ministry, His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, His betrayal, persecution, and trial, His crucifixion, death, and burial, His resurrection and ascension - all were clearly written in the scrolls of the prophets hundreds of years before He came to the court of earth. At the home fireside, and later in the schools of the prophets, Israel was taught from these scrolls about the coming Redeemer.
Darkness the Result of Formal Sanctuary Service. Day after day and year after year the sacrifices were offered which pointed to the advent of the Saviour, and which were intended to prepare Israel for this marvelous event, but gradually their spiritual significance dimmed or was lost sight of. With many these services became a mere formal round. Even the prophecies, so plain and definite, were misunderstood and misinterpreted. Priests and rulers looked, not for a Saviour from sin who should give His life as a sacrifice, but for a mighty king, who would be their saviour from earthly domination. As the true spiritual meaning of the sanctuary and its services was lost, "darkness covered the earth, and gross darkness the people." Isa. 60:2. Many were ready to throw away their faith in the sanctuary, which had been given to establish them, in their hope. Ezekiel in vision, foreseeing this time, heard the people say in tones of discouragement, "The days are prolonged, and every vision faileth." Eze. 12:22.
"The Fullness of the Time." Finally, "the fullness of the time was come," Gal. 4:4, when the Antitype of the sacrificial lamb was to enter the court of this earth, when the Son of God was to lay aside His divine glory and power, and take upon Himself the weakness of sinful flesh.
Gabriel had appeared to Mary, announcing the arrival of a Son whose name should be called "JESUS... the Son of the Highest." Luke l:26,31,32. â€œThe angel of the Lordâ€ (Gabriel), Luke 1:11,19, also repeated the news to Joseph, saying, "Thou shalt call His name JESUS; for He shall save His people from their sins, "Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us." Matt. 1:21,23. All this was a fulfillment of prophecy. Isa. 7:14. The interest of all Heaven was focused on this momentous event. The angels knew the exact time when His birth would occur, and when the great clock of time struck the hour, Jesus was born in Bethlehem. He, the King of glory, was laid,
not in a glorious home such as He had left in heaven, not even in an ordinary earthly dwelling, but in the manger of a stable.
â€œHis Own Received Him Not.â€ When, Jesus came to the court of earth to reveal through His own perfect life the character of the Father, and to make plain the plan of redemption as illustrated in the sanctuary and its services, He was robed in the garb of humanity. But though thus concealed, His true nature and mission might have been clearly understood through a spiritual understanding of the sanctuary and the prophecies.
Every angel watched to see how their beloved Commander would be received in the court of earth. Was He given the royal reception from His own people that was His due? Far from it! He who was "in the beginning... with God... came unto His own, and His own received him not." JohnI:1,11. Heaven had done everything possible to prepare God's people for this significant event so that they would be ready to welcome their Saviour. Not only had the prophecies of Daniel foretold the time of His coming, but about a year before He was born Gabriel, had been sent to the temple in Jerusalem to inform the priest, Zacharias, that His coming was at the door. Luke 1:5-19. Nevertheless, when the time came, not a single preparation had been made to welcome Him. It is true that morning and evening the priests offered on the altar the sacrifice that pointed to His coming, but to them this service had become devoid of its real significance.
Heaven's First Celebration of Christ's Redemptive Work. But Jesus was not to be left without a reception. In the fields of Bethlehem, where as a boy David had watched his flocks, shepherds were still watching their sheep by night, possibly some of the very sheep that were to be used as sacrifices in the temple at Jerusalem to prefigure the true Sacrifice. These men were familiar with the prophecies, and "through the silent hours they talked together of the promised Saviour, and prayed for the coming of the King to David's throne." DA 47.
Although Jesus received no welcome from those whom He had come to save, all Heaven was alert and eager to do Him honor. It was the heavenly privilege of God's leaders on earth to share with the angels the joy and the honor of announcing, the Saviour's arrival. But when the angels saw that the priests and rulers In Jerusalem had made no preparation to receive their Commander, they, amazed at their indifference, passed by these haughty leaders and appeared to the humble yet devoted shepherds,
As the glory of the Lord shone round about the startled shepherds, "To, the angel of the Lord (Gabriel) came upon them," and joyfully announced, "Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people; for unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. Luke 2:9-11.
No longer could the accompanying host of angels remain silent. â€œSuddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host." Luke 2:13. The sky seemed full of these shining beings, and the whole field was lighted up with their glory. "Earth was hushed, and Heaven stooped to Listen," DA 47, to the anthem which filled their ears with celestial music:
"Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, good will toward men! Luke 2:13,14, A.V.
As the angels disappeared, the music died away in the distance, the glorious light faded from sight, and once more the plain and the hills were wrapped in the shadows of the silent night. The anthem the angels had sung celebrated the advent of Him whom the sanctuary typified. It was Heaven's first celebration of Christ's sacrificial work for our salvation. God's own little Lamb - a "lamb . . . without blemish, a male of the first year," Ex. 12:5, had now entered this earth, the court of the heavenly sanctuary, antitype of the court of the earthly sanctuary.
Thrilled with what they had seen and heard, the shepherds said, "Let us new go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass." And "they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger." Luke 2:15-18.