At Christmas time, many of us love to hear the beloved carol “The First Noel.” The title contains a word which we have borrowed from another language. For French speaking people, Noël simply means “Christmas.” Interestingly, the word has Latin origins which depict the birth process. Noel can simply refer to a birthday.
Christians celebrate a birthday every year at Christmas. They reflect upon and rejoice because of the birth of Jesus. Over 2,000 years ago He was born in a barn in an Israeli town called Bethlehem. His birth wasn’t ordinary however. An angelic announcement (see Matthew 1:20-23), a brilliant star (see Matthew 2:2), a heavenly host of angels (see Luke 2:13-14), supernaturally-driven shepherds (see Luke 2:15-18), and the uncanny appearance of eastern astrologers (see Matthew 2:1-2) all gave witness to the magnitude of the tiny infant’s arrival. On top of these signs and wonders, we have four Scriptural evidences which point to the special nature of the first Noel.
A Prophetic Birth Announcement Jesus’ birth was one of a kind, because it had been predicted hundreds of years in advance. Through the prophet Isaiah, the Lord declared, “Therefore, the Lord Himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive, have a son, and name him Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14). Mary’s baby fulfilled this prophecy, which was over half a millennium old by the time of His birth (see Matthew 1:22-23). My wife and I have received numerous birth announcements in the mail, but we have never received such an announcement ten months prior to the baby’s birth! Let alone a year or two before the baby’s birth! The fact that Scripture foretold of Jesus’ arrival hundreds of years in advance shows that His birth was like none other!
The Timely Arrival Scripture says, “When the time came to completion, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:4). At the precise, pivotal point of time in human history, Jesus stepped onto the stage of redemption. The Pax Romana, the Roman system of roads, and the widespread usage of Koine Greek made it a great time for proclaiming His advent. He was born according to God’s sovereign timetable for the purpose of paying the debt humanity’s sin had incurred.
The Victory over Death Christmas isn’t just a celebration of a birth, it is also a celebration of salvation -- a salvation which required the death of God’s Son. Jesus was born to die. He had to die to make payment for sin. But His death was not the end of His story. He was raised from the dead, proving that He was the Son of God (see 1 Corinthians 15:3-7), and demonstrating that He provides real life to all who trust in Him (see Romans 8:10-11).
The Eternal Reign The first Noel will find full culmination in eternity. Interestingly, the book of Revelation uses language similar to that associated with Christ’s birth to describe our eternal dwelling with God (see Revelation 21:1-4). Forever and ever, Christians will live with Immanuel — God with us!
Dr. Patrick Latham