“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”—Isaiah 7:14 (ESV).
Christians regard the birth of Jesus Christ as one of the turning points in world history, a point evinced by the fact that the world’s calendar marks its years from that date (though Jesus was actually born around 4 B.C.). For followers of the Christian faith, it is the Incarnation: when the God of the universe took upon Himself human form to live a perfect human life, becoming a man without losing His divinity. Most Christians celebrate this epochal event on December 25—a date that for many centuries has simply gone by the name “Christmas.”
For Christians, this event did not come unheralded. They, instead, regarded it as the fulfillment of almost 2,000 years of prophesy found in the Old Testament, about a Messiah Who would make God’s promise to Abraham, later to Jacob, and centuries later to King David, and be a blessing to the entire world.
The New Testament begins with the events of the months leading up to Jesus’ birth. Sixth months before Mary gave birth to Jesus, her cousin Elizabeth gave birth to John the Baptist, whose ministry thirty years later would introduce Jesus to the world.
The prophets who had spoken to Israel for well over 1,000 years had gone silent, with the last being Malachi, sometime after 516 B.C. John was such a significant figure that the famous Jewish historian Josephus later wrote about him around A.D. 93–94 in Antiquities of the Jews.
For Christians, John is the fulfillment of the final words of the Old Testament: “Behold, I will send Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.” (Malachi 4:5–6).
When John the Baptist was born, six months before Jesus, John’s father Zechariah—a priest who had served in the temple in Jerusalem—pronounced this prophesy regarding his son and the Messiah he would precede.
From the Gospel of Luke—Luke 1:67–80 (ESV):
And his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied, saying:
Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David, as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, that we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us; to show the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant, the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days. And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.
And the child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day of his public appearance to Israel.
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Ken Klukowski is senior legal editor for Breitbart News. Follow him on Twitter @kenklukowski.