In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will dwell securely. And this is the name by which it will be called: “The LORD is our righteousness.”

Jeremiah 33:16

When anticipation is built up looking forward to something, then that event or person is much more appreciated.

Just ask the first-time parents as they look forward to the birth of their first child or the soldier counting the days until the end of the current deployment or any of us waiting to go on a vacation.

Certainly we’re looking forward now to the annual celebration of Jesus’ birth, and it brings out the child in each of us — or it should, anyway. Never mind that we seem to start anticipating it earlier every year.

Our Lord certainly knows how to build anticipation in his people, but he has done and continues to do it over centuries ... and longer; we’re talking thousands of years here. Who has that kind of patience? Even if you lived that long, it would be by God’s grace alone that we could wait faithfully for him to fulfill his promises to his people.

The most important promise to his people (and to all people of the world) is to send a Savior, one of the names for Jesus. He is also called “The Anointed One,” and in Hebrew this name is “Messiah” and in Greek it is “Christ.”

Here’s how God built up joyful expectation in his people over the centuries: He gave clear hints of what Jesus would be like and what he would do in something called “Messianic Prophecies.” These predictions are found throughout the pages of the Old Testament.

Now, it’s true that the all 39 books of that Hebrew Old Testament are one large prediction of Jesus’ arrival to this world. But some verses in it just stand out as being clearer than button-hooks in the well-water as far as the life and ministry of Christ goes.

The first one is found in the Book of Genesis 3:15 as God condemns Satan as the serpent for tempting our first parents, Adam and Eve, to disobey the Lord. The promise/prophecy was that the offspring of the woman (Eve) would eventually crush the head of the offspring of Satan, Satan himself! It’s a grand promise; the Lord fulfilled it on the cross.

Another Messianic Prophecy is found in the verses of King David’s Psalm 22, which seems to be a virtual eyewitness account of the arrest, torture, trial, crucifixion and even resurrection of Jesus.

Then in the Book of Isaiah 9:6, that prophet writes words which George Frederick Handel put to music about 250 years ago: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

Even the birthplace of Jesus was foretold in Micah 5:2 when he wrote: “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days.”

All of these promises were gathered together and studied by the teachers in Israel, so that it was no surprise when Jesus was born — or at least, it shouldn’t have been. But the people had had to wait for so very long!

Yet, in the baby born of Mary in Bethlehem, the Lord God kept his promise. And when that baby as a grown man died on the cross some 30 years later to bear the burden of our sin, he kept his word again. See Isaiah 53:6: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity (sin) of us all.”

And now, some 2,000 years later, we await the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise to return again in glory. This Advent 2012 is a good time to encourage one another to trust ever more in him who has never lied to us. That’s true even if the waiting seems ridiculously long.

Don’t forget: We’re not the only ones who by God’s grace have had to wait for the Lord to fulfill those sure and certain promises. Know for certain that he will keep his pledge to us ... soon.

A blessed Advent, a happy Christmas and a joyous Epiphany to you all.

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