by Ocieanna Fleiss
I love this quote from the beloved preacher, Charles Spurgeon:
“The Scriptures are like the swaddling clothes of the holy child Jesus; and there you find your Savior. The essence of the Word of God is Christ.”
But is it true that Jesus is the essence of all the Scriptures? Even the Old Testament? Does the Old Testament speak about Advent?
Think about the events surrounding Jesus’ birth:
The announcement by the angels to Mary and Joseph
The pregnancy of barren Elizabeth
The magi from the east
You’re probably very familiar with these events, but have you ever wondered why things happened in this way? Why in this order and to these particular people?
When you examine the Bible, you’ll find whispers foretelling these events, starting way back in the first pages of Genesis.
“I Know Everything about the Bible”
When I was in my twenties, I had spent a year in Bible college, had served in several ministries, and listened to countless sermons. So I thought, “Yeah, I pretty much know the Bible inside and out.” Ha!
Thankfully, a friend pulled me aside and opened up Luke 24. In this story the resurrected Jesus was walking along with some disciples, and it says: “Beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he [Jesus] interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” That was when I first saw that not just the New Testament, but the Old Testament stories as well, point to Jesus! (So maybe I didn’t know everything about the Bible.)
But what about Advent?
That passage in Luke 24 sparked a lifetime of excitedly searching for Jesus in the Old Testament. As I did, I would sometimes notice a theme or idea that related to Advent. There were three primary hints that piqued my interest (and still do!):
Old Testament passages quoted in the New Testament. Look at Matthew 1:23: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel.” Here, Matthew quotes Isaiah 7:14. That’s a pretty clear whisper (maybe more like a shout!) about the birth of Jesus, right there in Isaiah.
Prophecies. Back in Genesis 49, in Jacob’s blessing to his children on his deathbed, we find the prophecy that the Messiah will come from the line of Judah. So, when Judah is mentioned in the Scriptures, either the man or the tribe that came from him, we can stop and ask, “Does this somehow point to the Messiah?” One of my favorite passages is about the birth of Judah to his mother Leah, who was the “hated” wife of Jacob (Genesis 29:31). Judah was also the fourth born—not the first born, who would normally receive the highest honors and blessing. Yet, despite these hindrances God chose to have the Messiah come from his line. Isn’t it just like our “gently and lowly” Jesus to associate himself with the tribe of the “least of these”? It reminds me of this verse, “He was despised and rejected by men, a Man of Sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not” (Isaiah 53:3).
Advent Themes. There are several: light in the darkness, encouragement to “fear not,” the announcement of a child—“You shall bear a son and his name shall be called…” One theme I looked for was the barren woman. Mary wasn’t barren, but being a virgin, it was just as impossible for her to conceive a child as it was for the barren women we find in the Old Testament. The longing of women like Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, and Hannah, their sad, stretched-out times of waiting, and their joyous, miraculous pregnancies and births, can’t help but remind us of the long-awaited coming of the Savior from the virgin’s womb and the joy that resounded from the heavens at his arrival.
Ultimately, exploring the presence of Advent in the Old Testament helps us recognize God’s loving character as shown to the broken, lost, and abandoned characters of the Scriptures. It also anchors us in our great hope of redemption through the Savior, promised in the Old Testament, and first revealed on Christmas morn. So, with the great preacher, Charles Spurgeon, we can rejoice that Jesus really is the essence of all the Bible.
Ocieanna Fleiss has written several books including her memoir, Love Like There’s No Tomorrow. She taught the Bible for more than a decade, always delighting in how God's love is shown throughout his Word. Ocieanna and her husband have four kids and make their home in Washington State. You can find Ocieanna on Facebook, Instagram, and at ocieanna.com.