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This may be surprise if you did not realize how God prepared the whole world for the gift of His Son. God’s Christmas preparation goes back a long way and covers all people. God has built hope into the very heart of man, and so there is a natural expectancy in him. God has never left Himself without a witness, and so men of every nations have expected God to act in history. The prophet Haggai in 2:7, refers to the Messiah as the Desire Of All Nations.
This implies that God has put into all people a desire for a deliverer. As we search the minds of men in all nations before that first Christmas, we see this confirmed. They expected a Christmas-like event. The words of the poet are in harmony with the facts of history.
A little child- A shining star-A stable rude, A door ajar. Yet in that place So crude, forlorn, The hope of all The world is born.
Was Jesus really the hope of the world? Was anybody, but a handful of God’s people, looking for a coming Savior? Consider the evidence-
1. Plato, the Greek philosopher, said, “We must wait for someone to be a god, or godinspired man, who will teach us our duties and take away the darkness from our eyes.” Here was one of the most brilliant men who ever lived, but he knew he could not deliver men from darkness. He looked for another to be the light of the world. He expected a man to come that was more than any man had ever been.
2. Tacitus, the Roman historian, wrote, “People were generally persuaded in the faith of the ancient prophecies, that the east was to prevail, and that from Judea was to come the Master and Ruler of the world.” Suetonius, another Roman wrote, “It was an old and constant belief throughout the East, that by indubitably certain prophecies, the Jews were to attain the highest power.” The prophecies of Israel influenced the thinking of other peoples, and filled them with expectation.
3. China also expected a great wise man, but they looked to the West. In the Annals Of The Celestial Empire we read this statement, “In the 24th year of Tchao-Wang of the dynasty of the Tcheou, on the 8th day of the 4th moon, a light appeared in the Southwest which illumined the king’s palace. The monarch, struck by it’s splendor, interrogated the sages. They showed him books in which this prodigy signified the appearance of the great Saint of the West whose religion was to be introduced into their country.”
4. Six centuries before Christ, Aeschylus wrote, “Look not for any end, moreover, to this curse until God appears, to accept upon his Head the pangs of thy owns sins vicarious.” This sounds like an expectation, not only of Christ, but of His cross and the atonement for sin.
5. Cicero writes of the ancient oracle which speaks of, “A king whom we must recognize to be saved.”
6. Virgil, in his fourth Eclogue recounts the ancient tradition of, “A new order of the ages with a new race to come out of a virgin from the heights of heaven.” This child, said Virgil, would cast out fear and make the serpent die. Is any wonder that the early Christians believed these pagan writers were prophesying about Christ.
Constantine, the first Christian Emperor, said that Virgil’s poem, written for Augustus Caesar, was really a prophecy about Jesus. Augustine, the great Christian theologian, also said this famous poet was speaking of Christ. They were saying that God had revealed to the Gentiles also, that He was sending His Son into the world. Listen to a portion of Virgil’s famous poem, and you can see, in spite of it’s pagan perspective, it points to The Desire Of All Nations.
Dear child of the Gods, great offspring of Jove!
See how it totters-the world’s vaulted might.
Earth, and wide ocean, and the depths of heaven
All of them, Look, caught up in joy at the age to come.
Here is a pagan poet saying all heaven and earth are looking to the event of the birth of a special child. There is no escaping the facts, the whole world was filled with expectation before the first Christmas. No wonder the wise men of the Gentile nation were looking for a sign. They not only had the prophecies of Israel, but of the wise men of the world. They were looking because they were expecting.
In Gion-Carlo Menotti’s opera, Amahl And The Night Visitors, the wise men stop on their way to Bethlehem at the home of a crippled child. They told the family about the great king whose birth had called them from afar. The mother responded, :”For such a king I’ve been waiting all my life.” This gives a true picture of the world into which Jesus came. It was a world of expectation among the Jews and the Gentiles. Jesus came to be the Savior of all men. There are many lost sinners in the world today who are hoping to find life’s meaning. They expect to find light and love. Like the pagans of old, in B. C., they know God must have more than they have found. They will seek by drugs, alcohol, immorality, and a host of follies to find the happiness they know should be. Of course, all of these secular saviors will let them down. They will be disappointed in their excessive expectations. But the fact is, the pagan world does have expectations, and Christians need to build on this today, just as the early Christians did in their day. Pagan expectation is a key factor in sharing the good news of Christmas.
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