The Puzzle of Christmas
Scattered through hundreds of years among the works of several prophets, God shared predications concerning the arrival of His Son. Bible scholars list more than 300 Old Testament prophecies that were fulfilled in the life of Christ. God announced these in advance and orchestrated across time and space to make each one come to pass!
- A child will be born. Isaiah 9:6
- The child would be born of a virgin. Isaiah 7:14
- The child would be in the line of David. Isaiah 9:7
- The child would be born in Bethlehem. Micah 5:2
- Kings would bring gifts to the child. Psalm 72:10, Isaiah 60:3,6
Our family Christmas tradition includes gathering around the rickety utility table to work puzzles. Puzzle-working techniques vary from person to person. Some insist every piece must be turned picture-side up with the border completed before any interior parts can be coupled. Others group pieces by color and jump in. And there are some who join the cause just to munch snacks but accomplish little actual assembly.
The puzzle box top with the picture is a must. That image reminds me of the goal which is to enjoy hours of closeness with my loved ones, complete the puzzle, leave it on the table for a day or two then uncouple the pieces and return the puzzle to the closet. The pieces make little sense without that picture.
Matthew 2:1-12 records a familiar part of the Christmas story, the visit of the wise men. Something revealed to them in their study of the stars caused them to undertake a treacherous journey to search for a newborn in a foreign land. Propelled by a sense of urgency they left family and familiar surroundings for a singular objective (Matthew 2:2 NIV), “We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”
The Magi held part of the puzzle. They knew the promised Child had arrived but lacked His specific geographic location. Their travels took them to Jerusalem, the center of Judaism, where they assumed the Child would be well-known and widely celebrated. They asked directions for finding the newly born King of the Jews, but no one was worshiping and celebrating the King. His birth had passed without fanfare.
King Herod, troubled by the visit and the questions the Magi were asking, summoned the chief priests and scribes. The spiritual leaders of the nation must surely know the prophecies concerning the Messiah. The chief priests and scribes, well-versed in Scripture, did indeed have numerous pieces of the puzzle surrounding the Messiah, and they answered Herod’s question in a flash. The Messiah would be born in Bethlehem.
The chief priests and scribes knew the truth in their heads but it never made the jump across the formidable chasm to their hearts. Their knowledge never changed their outlook. They weren’t watching for Messiah, and they missed Him completely. Luke’s Gospel records that the birth announcement came to shepherds in the fields around Bethlehem.
Isn’t it startling that NONE of the scribes and priests accompanied the wise men to find the Messiah? The pieces of the puzzle lay around them unconnected, and the bigger picture, the identity of the Child, eluded them. God rolled out the puzzle piece by piece, and at exactly the right time the picture was completed.
But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Galatians 4:4-5 NIV
Does your life ever seem like a puzzle? Mine appears that way at times. It looks as though the pieces will not fit together or perhaps they belong to another puzzle. I look them over, move them around, and try various combinations, but they do not form a complete picture.
God is the only One who knows what the final picture for my life will be. He keeps that knowledge secret, and chooses to reveal the puzzle to me one piece at a time. That keeps me trusting, builds my faith, and forces me to stay connected to Him.
As I ponder the puzzle of Christmas and all the pieces God brought together in the birth of Jesus, I take heart. He is more than capable of handling the details of my life and yours.