As I continue highlighting the postmillennial hope in Christmas, I would turn your attention now to the celebratory nature of the first Christmas.
In biblico-theological fashion, in the first chapter of his gospel Luke draws upon and arranges the old covenant expectations that arise in response to the announcement of Christ’s birth. As he brings the Old Testament expectations over into the New Testament, he rephrases the prophecies in terms of their New Covenant fruition. Interestingly, most of these are in poetic-song format, indicating the joyousness of the expectations (Lk 1:46–55, 67–79; 2:14, 29–32). (See our earlier article on Isa 9:6-7 and the joy Christ’s birth will bring.)
The Angelic Annunciation
In the angelic annunciation to Mary, we hear of God giving Christ David’s throne and promising that he will rule endlessly: “‘He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end’”(Lk 1:32–33). As postmillennial scholar David Brown notes (in Jamieson, Fausett and Brown Commentary, “Matthew,”2:97): this is surely an “echo of the sublime prediction”in Isaiah 9:6–7. We should remember from our preceding chapter that Isaiah 9:6–7 ties in kingdom dominion with the birth of the king as historically successive realities. There we also see that Daniel 7:13 equates Christ’s coronation with his historical ascension. Daniel 2 also speaks of his kingdom coming in the days of the fourth kingdom, Rome (Da 2:40–45). The New Testament pattern is: humiliation followed immediately by exaltation (Jn 7:39; Lk 24:26; 1Pe 1:11). Christ receives “David’s throne”as per Old Testament prophecies (Ac 2:29–36; 3:13–15; 5:29–31; Rev 3:7).
The reference in Luke 1:33 to Christ’s ruling over “the house of Jacob”is significant. Jacob is the father of the “twelve tribes of Israel”(Ge 35:22–27). Thus, this we should understand this as alluding to the totality of the “Israel of God,”which includes all of the redeemed, Jew and Gentile alike. Luke’s companion, Paul, makes this especially clear (Gal 3:29; 6:16; Eph 2:12–22).
Mary’s praise to God in Luke 1:46–55 reverberates with the victory theme.
46 And Mary said:
“My soul exalts the Lord,
47 And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.
48 “For He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave;
For behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed.
49 “For the Mighty One has done great things for me;
And holy is His name.
50 “And his mercy is upon generation after generation toward those who fear him.
51 “He has done mighty deeds with His arm;
He has scattered those who were proud in the thoughts of their heart.
52 “He has brought down rulers from their thrones,
And has exalted those who were humble.
53 “He has filled the hungry with good things;
And sent away the rich empty-handed.
54 “He has given help to Israel His servant,
In remembrance of His mercy,
55 As He spoke to our fathers,
To Abraham and his descendants forever.”
In verses 47 and 48, she exalts the Lord as Savior, recognizing God’s glorious blessing upon her: “From this time on all generations will count me blessed.”Why this universal homage? Because “the Mighty One”(v 49) is now moving in history in a powerful way and using Mary for his glory. This declaration receives its impulse from the prophetic victory theme; it counters any notion of despair, any tendency to lamentation, any expectation of perpetual suffering. She recognizes that in the soon-coming birth of Christ, God will do “mighty deeds with His arm”for he will “scatter the proud”(v 51). He will “bring down rulers”and “exalt those who are humble”(v 52). He will fill “the hungry with good things”(v 53). He will do it through his people (v 54) in keeping with the Abrahamic Covenant (v 55). This glad song reverberates with hope and contains absolutely no intimation of defeat.
Zacharias continues the hope-filled joy, for he sees Christ’s birth as bringing glad tidings of victory for God’s people over their enemies (Lk 1:68–71).
68 “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
For He has visited us and accomplished redemption for His people,
69 And has raised up a horn of salvation for us
In the house of David His servant—
70 As He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from of old—
71 Salvation from our enemies,
and from the hand of all who hate us.
This again fulfills the Abrahamic Covenant (v 73; cf. Ro 15:8–12). Christ is the sunrise that will “shine upon those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death”(vv 78–79). Elsewhere this refers to the Gentiles (Isa 9:1, 2; Mt 4:16). Later we will see this light as a positive force, dispelling darkness in the present age (Ro 13:11–13; 1Jn 2:8). Because Christ has come, he will bring “peace on earth“(Lk 2:14a). His birth at his first coming insures peace on earth — not his second coming (although in the consummative new earth this peace will come to perfect, eternal realization).