Yet there was another reality to that first Christmas that I also want you to see. Chiefly, it was the fulfillment of God's promises made to Joseph and Mary, Israel and the entire human race, to you and me. But it was also the acceptance and belief in those promises by those God called. Without that acceptance, the conception and birth of Jesus might well have occurred, but it would have gone unnoticed, unobserved. And it certainly would not have resulted in the accounts of that first Christmas as we know them.

The promise to Israel. The first Christmas was also a fulfillment of God's promise to Israel. We must not forget that. Mary and Joseph were ones to whom God's final promises were made. But long before those promises were given, God had begun to prepare the Jewish nation by many promises of a Messiah who should come.

Well, then, what was the first Christmas if not a time of laughter and family fun and decorations? Do you know what it was? It was the fulfillment of a promise. It was the fulfillment of God's promise to send his Son, a Savior, to the world.

Not long ago I received a funding letter from one of the large American relief organizations. It was trying to raise money for Albania, and it pointed out that for the first time in an entire generation the birth of Christ will be celebrated openly in that country. It said, "For many Albanians this is literally their 'First Christmas.’"

We come now to the fifth Old Testament prophecy, which is Daniel 9:25-26a. This text fixes the very time in history when the Messiah was to be born: “Know and understand this: From the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven ‘sevens,’ and sixty-two ‘sevens.’ It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble. After the sixty-two ‘sevens,’ the Anointed One will be cut off and will have nothing.” Verse 26 concludes by going on to give some more detail.