George Bowers Sr. Connecting the dots of Christmas
Whenever we went on vacation during my elementary years, my parents kept me well supplied with activity books. Not only did this occupy my attention over long stretches of recently constructed interstate highways, but it also reduced the frequency of the most annoying trip question ever, “Are we there yet?”
Among the word searches, crossword puzzles, and hidden photo pages, one of my favorites was always connecting the dots. These exercises developed imagination as well as reinforced numerical and mathematical skills especially when the dots were labeled by formulas rather than simple numerals. As each successive dot was connected, the cryptic images began to become obvious and soon I wondered why I hadn’t seen them from the start.
This same strategy can be used to discover the truth about the one whose birth we celebrate at Christmas. A casual glance at the evidence may not yield much of a conclusion, but even a very basic examination will reveal who this really is.
One significant dot to start with is the birthplace. The Jewish prophet, Micah, predicted Bethlehem about 700 years before Jesus was born in that small town. We all know that no baby can choose his or her own birthplace so this had to be either divinely orchestrated or arranged by Jesus’ parents. The meticulous historian Luke describes the circumstances by which the expectant mom ended up in the very place Micah foretold. But because other babies were born in Bethlehem as well, we must look for additional dots to complete the picture.
The next important point involves the timing of Jesus’ arrival. About 500 years before Jesus was born, Daniel prophesied that a decree would be issued for the rebuilding of Jerusalem and that the Messiah would appear a precise number of years thereafter. Considering that Artaxerxes decreed exactly that in 445 BC and that Jesus appeared the exact number of years later, we find another obvious connection to the long awaited one. Coincidence? Perhaps, but the dots are coming together.
We also find Hosea 700 years before Jesus declaring that the Messiah would be called out of Egypt and indeed, because of Joseph’s wise escape to avoid King Herod’s slaughter of the Bethlehem babies, Jesus ended up coming back to Nazareth from Egypt, just as the prophet foretold. In fact, the massacre of the babies itself is one of those background dots, for it too was predicted by Jeremiah some 600 years before it occurred.
The most extensive concentration of dots, however, involves those surrounding Jesus’ arrest, death, and resurrection. Judas betrayed his teacher for the exact amount predicted by Zechariah 500 years in advance and the Roman soldiers gambled for Jesus’ clothing precisely as Psalm 22 described 500 years before that. Even the form of execution was detailed by David in Psalm 22 seven centuries before the cruel method of crucifixion was even invented. And unlike what happened to the two criminals, Jesus’ legs were left unbroken to fulfill yet another prophecy by King David in Psalm 34.
Altogether, there are over 300 dots of Old Testament prophecy connected by the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Any one of them by itself might be coincidental or even intriguing, but when you objectively consider all of them together, one has to conclude there is something miraculous about this life. Statisticians have calculated that the odds of one person satisfying even eight of these prophecies is a one in one followed by 18 zeros. The odds of someone satisfying all of them are less than you or I randomly choosing one specific atom from all the atoms in the known universe.
All readers should examine the evidence for themselves. Search out the facts and discover eyewitness accounts, and if you are open to the truth, you will declare as did the Roman centurion at the foot of Jesus’ cross, “Surely this man was the Son of God.”
For those interested in help connecting these dots, free tickets to the Case For Christ movie are available on Dec. 22 at 7:00 p.m. in front of the Community Theater in Woodstock. This true story of how an atheistic Chicago Tribune reporter tried to debunk Christianity and came back a convinced believer is very enlightening.
As we prepare to celebrate Christmas, let us connect the dots to see that Jesus is clearly the Son of God, our Savior and Lord. Blessings, George
George Bowers Sr. is the Senior Pastor of Antioch Church of the Brethren and has authored nine books which are available at Four Star Printing, Shenandoah Stuff, and Woodstock Cafe. He can be reached through www.georgebowersministries.com or at firstname.lastname@example.org.