The Old Testament: Backstory to Christmas

Day 1 of 6 • This day’s reading


Day 1: Backstories: The Story Behind the Story

Most of us like hearing a good story and we recognize that the really good stories have a backstory. Backstories provide context for the main story and help us understand how the various pieces of that story are connected. The backstories surrounding Jesus’ birth are no different. Understanding the backstories of Jesus’ birth makes the events surrounding His arrival even more wondrous and the best part is, this story is true!

Old Testament: Setting the Stage

First, we must understand the history leading up to Jesus’ birth. In VERY simplistic terms, the Old Testament of the Bible is the history of God’s desire to be in a relationship with his creation, mankind. Sadly, ever since the Garden of Eden where Adam and Eve first sinned, humans have been plagued with a fleshly nature that causes all of us to fall short of God’s standard. Still, God continued to pursue being in a close relationship with mankind and eventually chose a man named Abram (later called Abraham) with whom He would make a covenant or promise. God’s covenant to Abraham was that He would bless him, make him famous, and make him into a great nation. That great nation would be God’s chosen people, who later became known as the Israelites.

Unfortunately, like all humans, the Israelites were still burdened with the human sin nature that had been passed down from generation to generation, dating back to Adam and Eve. Thus, began this cycle where God would do something utterly miraculous for the Israelites, and they would respond by serving Him and obeying His commandments. Then as time passed, they would drift back into sin, and eventually, the whole nation would end up being even worse than before. God would send messengers, called prophets, to warn the people, and try to get them to repent. Sometimes the Israelites would listen, other times, they would not. If they would not, God would allow judgment to fall upon the people. One form of judgment, God would allow another kingdom to overthrow the nation of Israel, and they would become captives of other people as they lived in exile. Eventually, the Israelites would wake up, repent, and return to God. At which point, God would miraculously restore them to their land to restart all over again. This basic cycle repeated itself in various ways for centuries as each generation played their part in this history between God and man.

Connection to Our Story

Today, the Israelites’ struggle to stay in a relationship with God may seem like very distant history—which it is. However, upon reflection, we may begin to see that their cycle is not that different than ours. How many times have we determined that we are going to be good, and try to do good, only to end up falling short? Time and time again, we run through this cycle of trying hard, only to fail. The problem is, we cannot do this on our own. We need God’s help. If we strive to work to be good enough, we will fail. This is because we all have a human nature that is bent towards sin, and despite our best efforts, we simply cannot be perfect. To truly achieve a meaningful relationship with God, we have to begin by recognizing this aspect of ourselves: in our own efforts, we cannot be holy enough to be in a relationship with Him—we need help. That help comes in the form of a new covenant, a covenant that is centered on Jesus, the Son of God!