THE proclamation of “peace among men of goodwill” was not the only prophecy connected with Jesus’ birth. In addition to what the angels announced to the astonished shepherds, heavenly messengers had made divinely inspired declarations about the newborn Jesus to Mary and her husband, Joseph. A consideration of these messages will enable us to gain a broader perspective on Jesus’ birth and to understand the real significance behind the angelic promise of peace among men.
Prior to Jesus’ birth, even before she became pregnant, Mary was visited by an angel whom the Bible identifies as Gabriel. “Good day, highly favored one, Jehovah is with you” was the angel’s greeting. As you might imagine, Mary was deeply disturbed at this and perhaps a little frightened. What could such a greeting mean?
Gabriel explained: “Look! you will conceive in your womb and give birth to a son, and you are to call his name Jesus. This one will be great and will be called Son of the Most High; and Jehovah God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule as king over the house of Jacob forever, and there will be no end of his kingdom.” Mary questioned how this was to be, since she, a virgin, was not having intercourse with a man. Gabriel responded that the child would be conceived by means of God’s holy spirit. This would be no ordinary child.
A Foretold King
Gabriel’s words must have helped Mary to discern that the son she would bear was the subject of ancient prophecies. The disclosure that Jehovah would give Mary’s son “the throne of David his father” would make her
Through the prophet Nathan, Jehovah had told David: “Your house and your kingdom will certainly be steadfast to time indefinite before you; your very throne will become one firmly established to time indefinite.” (2 Samuel 7:4, 16) Jehovah stated concerning David: “I shall certainly set up his seed forever and his throne as the days of heaven. His seed itself will prove to be even to time indefinite, and his throne as the sun in front of me.” (Psalm 89:20, 29, 35, 36) Thus, it was no coincidence that Mary had descended from the house of David, as had Joseph.
These were not the only prophecies in the Hebrew Scriptures regarding a royal son of David. Mary would also have been familiar with Isaiah’s prophecy: “There has been a child born to us, there has been a son given to us; and the princely rule will come to be upon his shoulder. And his name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. To the abundance of the princely rule and to peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and upon his kingdom in order to establish it firmly and to sustain it by means of justice and by means of righteousness, from now on and to time indefinite. The very zeal of Jehovah of armies will do this.”
What Gabriel announced to Mary, then, was much more than the miraculous birth of a baby boy. Her son would be the royal heir of King David
When Joseph learned that his future wife was expecting a child, he decided to end their engagement. He knew that the child was not his because he and his fiancée had never had sexual relations. You can imagine how difficult it must have been for Joseph to believe Mary’s explanation of her pregnancy. The Gospel account reports: “Jehovah’s angel appeared to him in a dream, saying: ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife home, for that which has been begotten in her is by holy spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you must call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’”
To what extent Joseph understood how the child would “save his people from their sins,” the Bible does not say. Still, this message was sufficient to assure Joseph that the expectant mother was innocent of any wrongdoing. He did as the angel directed and took Mary home, an act that was the equivalent of a wedding.
Thanks to information found elsewhere in the Scriptures, we can understand what the angel meant. Early in human history, a rebellious angel challenged Jehovah’s sovereignty. The Hebrew Scriptures show that this rebel asserted, among other things, that God’s way of ruling was unjust and that no man would maintain integrity to Jehovah when put to the test. (Genesis 3:2-5; Job 1:6-12) Adam, for one, did not. As a result of his sin, all humans inherit sin, and the consequence of that sin is death. (Romans 5:12; 6:23) Jesus, however, was born sinless because his conception was not by a human father. By willingly surrendering his perfect human life as a ransom corresponding exactly to what Adam lost, Jesus was in a position to save men from their sins and to offer them the prospect of everlasting life.
During his earthly ministry, Jesus provided a foretaste of what the removal of the effects of sin will mean. He freed people from every sort of physical ailment and even brought the dead back to life. (Matthew 4:23; John 11:1-44) Those miracles were a shadow of what he will do in the future. Jesus himself said: “The hour is coming in which all those in the memorial tombs will hear [my] voice and come out.”
That promise of a future resurrection explains why the birth
“Good News of a Great Joy”
It was indeed “good news of a great joy” for humankind when the angels announced the birth of “a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:10, 11) This child was to be the Messiah, the great Prophet and Ruler that God’s people had long been expecting. (Deuteronomy 18:18; Micah 5:2) His life and death on earth would be central to the vindication of Jehovah’s universal sovereignty, so that the angels could say: “Glory in the heights above to God.”
Jesus, whom the Bible calls “the last Adam,” showed that it is possible for a human to be faithful to Jehovah under even the severest test. (1 Corinthians 15:45) He thus proved Satan to be a wicked liar. This was reason for joy in heaven among faithful angels.
Let us, though, return to the question, “Is there any realistic hope that the angelic proclamation on the night of Jesus’ birth will ever be fulfilled?” The answer is an emphatic yes! Peace is an essential condition in the outworking of the divine purpose for the earth, which includes the restoration of paradisaic conditions. When that is accomplished earth wide, all people will be motivated by love and loyalty. Hence, the accomplishment of Jehovah’s purpose also means the elimination of all resistance to his sovereignty. This is not good news for any who side with Satan in asserting that Jehovah’s standards are bad. For them, it will mean destruction.
Please note that the angels did not tell the shepherds of peace and goodwill to all men. Rather, they announced “peace among men of goodwill.” That is to say, among those who are approved by God and have his goodwill. Those who express genuine faith in Jehovah become faithful followers and imitators of Jesus. Such men and women are willing to manifest generosity and understanding toward others, not just a few days each year, but every day.
A Christian Spirit All Year Round?
The power of the good news that Jesus preached has touched the lives of countless individuals. Many have adopted Christian principles in every aspect of their lives. People who were once basically self-centered have begun to ask what Jesus might have done had he been in their situation. Some who had centered their lives on possessions and pleasures have come to recognize the importance of spiritual values and of sharing these with their neighbors. People who do this strive to show generosity and kindness all year round. Is that not what you would expect of true Christians?
If all sincere individuals paused to consider what lies beneath the angelic message of peace and acted in harmony with such considerations, the world would surely be a different place.
The prophecies surrounding Jesus’ birth assure those who have God’s goodwill that they can enjoy genuine peace forever. Is that not what you desire? We can be certain that the glorious prophetic announcement of peace made by the angels at Jesus’ birth will be fulfilled without fail. Far from being empty words at Christmastime, peace is certain to become an everlasting reality.
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A Christian spirit can and should be manifested all year round