Christ Revealed

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A Christmas Devotional 2019 by Dr Charlie Hadjiev

Christ Revealed

A Christmas Devotional



Christ Revealed

At Christmas we pause to remember that during the days of the Roman

empire, in one of its far-away provinces, the Son of God came into this

world. This event, anticipated in the Old Testament, proclaimed by angels

and celebrated by us, changed our history.

Yet it should not be seen in isolation. The birth of Jesus was the beginning

of his earthly life, and culminated in his death and resurrection. Its meaning

comes from being a part of a larger picture.

This reflection explores Christmas by tracing the life of Christ through the

glimpses of Old Testament prophecy. All the devotions (except day three)

look at an OT passage from Isaiah or the Psalms which is quoted in the NT.

The passages are treated ‘chronologically’, beginning with the Incarnation,

and then looking at Jesus’s public ministry, the cross, the resurrection

and his exaltation. To get the full picture, it is best to read the OT passage

together with the NT reference in its immediate context.

Dr Charlie Hadjiev

Lecturer in Old Testament and Hebrew



‘Isaiah saw his glory

and spoke about him’

John 12:41

1. The Incarnation

Read: Isaiah 6:1-13

The year that King Uzziah died Isaiah

had a vision. He saw the Lord sitting on

a throne above the temple of Jerusalem.

The temple was too small. It could not

contain within its walls the Creator of

the world. Only the rim of his robes

filled the building, but the fullness of

his glory covered the face of the earth.

Seraphs with six wings flew around the

Lord, proclaiming his holiness. The

shaking thresholds and the smoke, like

the thunderstorm and earthquake on

Mount Sinai, reminded the prophet that

there was a dangerous and frightening

aspect to God’s presence.

Isaiah was shaken by this experience

because he was confronted with

transcendence and power. He was

afraid. Faced with the holiness of

God, he was acutely aware of his own

unworthiness. But the vision of divine

power was not accessible to everybody

in Jerusalem. In fact, the prophet

was the only one who saw it. Isaiah’s

contemporaries had eyes, but did not

see the blazing glory. They had ears,

but did hear the voice that shook the

thresholds. Their hearts were dull, not

troubled by thoughts about their own

unworthiness.

Quoting this passage from Isaiah, John

makes a remarkable claim. The glory

that Isaiah saw was nothing else but the

glory of Jesus. And during John’s time

that glory was physically present among

the people of Judea. They, like Isaiah’s

contemporaries, had eyes but could not

see.

In Jesus, the Lord did not send us a

prophet to tell us of the divine glory.

He came to earth so that we can

experience his glory first-hand. Yet, as

it enters our reality the glory of Jesus

does not overpower us with spectacular

brightness or force itself on us. The

Word became flesh. We still require

hearts that are humble, ears that are

willing to listen, and eyes that are open

to see his glory for ourselves.


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‘And they shall name him

Emmanuel, God with us’

Matthew 1:23

2. The Incarnation

Read: Isaiah 7:10-17

It was not easy to be a king in

Jerusalem, especially in 734 BC, Ahaz

had just discovered. The armies of his

scheming neighbours were advancing

towards the city, bent on conquest and

intrigue. They wanted to replace him

with a puppet king who would do their

bidding. And who knows what they’d do

to Ahaz, once their soldiers were inside

Jerusalem’s walls. The life prospects

of deposed kings are not usually great.

All was hanging in the balance: his job,

his life, his family. No wonder Ahaz

was scared out of his wits. His heart

was shaking like the trees in a forest

battered by an almighty storm.

The boy Emmanuel from the days of

Ahaz was only a shadow of the things

to come. In the fullness of time another

boy would be born to a Judean virgin,

the true Emmanuel, the real God-withus.

To people enslaved by darkness and

sin, the true Emmanuel brings the same

promise. ‘He will save his people from

their sins’, the angel tells Joseph. He

is going to bring deliverance from the

power of darkness. He is going to rescue

those who are held in bondage. There is

no need to fear. ‘I am with you always,

to the end of the age’, he says (Matthew

28.20).

It is to a scared king that Isaiah, the

prophet, comes with a promise of a

sign. The virgin shall conceive and

give birth to a son, whose name will be

Emmanuel. The name of the boy is the

essence of the sign. It means ‘God with

us’. It promises the Lord’s presence in

the midst of a city threatened with war

and defeat. God is with us in this crisis

and he will sort a way out of it.



‘He has raised up a mighty

saviour for us in the house

of his servant David’ Luke 1:69

3. The Incarnation

Read: Isaiah 9:1-7

Israel needed a mighty saviour, a king

to lead them in their battles and protect

them from the enemy. During the

time of Isaiah those enemies were the

Assyrians. When Zechariah, the father

of John the Baptist, had his vision in the

temple those enemies were the Romans.

Whatever the name of the foe, the root

problem remains always the same: war,

strife, oppression. A king would help to

solve those problems. He would defend

his country because he was a mighty

saviour.

However, the people of God had

another problem as well, one which

was discussed less often. There was

no righteousness and justice in their

midst. Isaiah laments this over and over

again. Jerusalem ‘was full of justice,

righteousness lodged in her – but now

murderers’ (1:21). The Lord planted

his people like a vineyard and looked

after them. ‘He expected justice but saw

bloodshed; righteousness, but heard a

cry’ (5:7).

We shy away from talking about the

injustices we commit. It is more

comfortable to complain about the

cruelty of other nations than to focus

on our shortcomings. But to God

both things matter. Our troubles

are important to him but the moral

quality of our lives equally matters.

Unrighteousness is never a secondary

issue.

So Isaiah promises the nation a new

king, a mighty saviour from the house

of David. He will break the yoke of

oppression. But the climax of his reign

is the inner transformation of the

nation. It is the gift of endless peace,

justice and righteousness not just for

Israel but within Israel. The Son of God

who came to reign in our midst wants

to lead us in the path of justice. His

kingdom makes possible the fruit of

righteousness in our lives. He came to

transform us and make us as we ought

to be. A people of justice.



‘Today this scripture has

been fulfilled in your

hearing’ Luke 4:21

4. The Public Ministry of Jesus

Read: Isaiah 61:1-4

Synagogue last Sabbath ended

awkwardly. The folk from Nazareth

almost killed one of their own. They

were trying to throw him off a cliff but

it didn’t work somehow.

It all started when Jesus, a local boy,

was asked to do the Scripture reading.

He picked up a passage from the book

of Isaiah. Beautiful words described

the ministry of the ancient prophet.

Isaiah was anointed by God’s Spirit to

bring good news to his downtrodden

contemporaries: comfort to those who

grieve, healing to those who hurt, liberty

to those who were in bondage.

Jesus read the passage quite well. After

he finished reading things went wrong.

Jesus wasn’t content simply to present

those inspiring verses and let us enjoy

their beauty. He claimed, out of the

blue, that this Scripture was fulfilled

today in our hearing. Those who are

now captives can enter freedom. Those

among us who are broken-hearted can

experience wholeness.

Those of us who are filled with sorrow

can find joy today. It was startling

to hear someone with whom we had

rubbed shoulders these past thirty years

speak in such a way. We were outraged,

naturally.

It is strange for someone who offers

healing, freedom and joy to provoke

such a reaction. Why are people

angry when faced with the offer of

restoration? Is it just too good to be

true? Is faith really so difficult?

The Son of God comes to us in the

everyday reality of our lives. He seems

both strange and familiar, as if we grew

up with him on the streets of Nazareth

but never realised who he really was.

The mundane tries to blind us so that

we cannot recognise him. Our prisons

and our broken hearts feel so real. Pain

makes sure of that. But his voice pierces

the veil of pain, familiarity and doubt:

‘The Spirit of the Lord has anointed me

to proclaim good news to you. Today’.



‘He will not break

a bruised reed’

Matthew 12:20

5. The Public Ministry of Jesus

Read: Isaiah 42:1-9

A mysterious figure emerges in the

second half of the book of Isaiah. He

is not called a king but a servant, the

servant of the Lord. The presence of

God’s Spirit is his most distinctive

characteristic. God’s utter delight in

him marks him out as special. The

servant has universal significance. He

will establish justice in the earth. All

nations, even those living in faraway

lands, will look to him and wait for his

teaching. He brings hope and light. The

glory of God is his focus and the power

of God is his fountain of strength.

Yet the most remarkable feature of this

servant is his meekness. He does not

shout. He does not seek to be the centre

of attention. He does not establish

himself by boasting and throwing

around his weight. The Servant of

the Lord is no bully. Instead, he lifts

up those who are meek. He does not

quench even a dimly burning wick,

one which has come to the end of its

usefulness. To him people are not a

human resource or means for achieving

higher goals. They are the goal.

Matthew uses this passage to explain

the healing ministry of Jesus. The Son

of God engages those who are on the

margins: the sick, the poor, the outcast,

the unclean. These people have no

competitive advantage. Society has no

use for them but that does not matter

to Jesus. He did not recruit mighty

warriors; he gathers bruised reeds.

It is not a sign of weakness. The Servant

of the Lord will not break a bruised

reed, but neither will he ‘grow faint

or be crushed until he has established

justice on the earth’. There is power

there, a different kind of power. Not

violent, threatening, or self-asserting.

Not self-seeking or idolatrous. The

power of the Servant makes all things

new and rekindles the dimly burning

wick.



‘My God, my God, why

have you forsaken me?’

6. The Cross

Read: Psalm 22

Matthew 27:46

It is dark at midday. In the midst of a

boisterous crowd Jesus is on his own.

People laugh, jeer and walk about,

but on the other side of the curtain

of noise there is emptiness. Utter

loneliness wraps the cross. Everybody

has left. Some scurried away with guilty

embarrassment. Some made the smart

move, switching to the winning side.

Some just weren’t there when the blows

began to fall. Jesus has been abandoned

by all. Even God is hidden in the safe

distance of heaven.

And so a cry pierces the veil of isolation

and in vain seeks to reach the sky. My

God! Why? It is the perennial question.

Even in moments of profound suffering

we still try to make sense of the world.

We want to understand. Why is this

happening to me? What is the point?

What is the reason?

his clothes. The bystanders strip him

of his dignity. They mock, shake their

heads and come up with witty jibes. No

wonder he thinks: ‘I am a worm and not

a human’ (Ps. 22:6). His body, his whole

being is disintegrating. The bones are

out of joint and his organs are melting

like wax.

On the cross Jesus entered fully into the

human experience of degradation and

abandonment. The cry ‘My God, why

have you forsaken me?’ is an outburst

of searing pain, all too well known to

people crushed by torture and a sense

of hopelessness. Now such people have

the Son of God in their midst. That

moment of pure despair tells us without

a shadow of doubt: God has truly

become one of us. He stands where we

stand. He can feel our pain.

There may be an answer to the question

‘why’, but it does not come as the

psalmist prays the prayer of Psalm

22. Instead, he remains the object

of continuing outbursts of violence.

Bulls, lions, dogs and wild oxen attack

him viciously. Robbers strip him of



‘By his wounds you have

been healed’ 1 Peter 2:24

7. The Cross

Read: Isaiah 52:13 - 53:12

To us, casual bystanders, the Servant

of the Lord was unimpressive. His

appearance was marred beyond human

semblance. He had no form or majesty

to attract attention, no beauty that

inspires admiration. Just the opposite.

His sufferings marked him out as an

unfortunate man, one whose company

had little to offer and was not to be

sought after. People shunned him,

appalled by his infirmities, or passed

him by without even noticing him. A

man of no consequence.

Yet, how little we understood what

we saw! How fooled we were by the

appearance of things! The man of

suffering was the arm of the Lord

revealed to us. That arm which in the

days of old woke up to fight the dragon

and redeem the people of God (Isa

51:9-11), was amongst us, his beauty

and strength hidden behind afflictions,

wounds and rejection.

We thought the wounds had nothing

to do with us. They were perhaps the

unfortunate results of coincidence,

a cosmic tragedy, unfair and brutal.

Or even worse, maybe they were the

just reward for some of his own past

misdeeds. In any case we did not

perceive those wounds as ours. In his

affliction we did not recognise our

suffering.

We were so used to seeing lambs

sacrificed at the altar, that when he was

taken away by a perversion of justice

and cut off from the land of the living

we did not see the truth: he was our

ultimate sin offering. That is why we

were startled when he was exalted and

lifted high. We now have to go back and

rethink what we saw. And as we do this

we begin to see more and more clearly.

He was wounded for our transgressions

and crushed for our iniquities. So in his

wounds there is healing for us. Through

the injustice he suffered we can be

made righteous. His condemnation and

death brought us salvation and life.



‘You have made known to

me the ways of life’ ACTS 2:28

8. The resurrection

Read: Psalm 16

We live in a random world full of

unintended consequences, unexpected

disasters and inexplicable turns. The

world must have seemed particularly

random on the day after the crucifixion

of Jesus. A lost saviour, an executed

king, a silenced teacher. What could be

more random than that?

The resurrection reshapes and redefines

that world. It heals it of its randomness.

The resurrection shows that trust in

God is not a delusion suitable only

for fanatics and lunatics. It is a viable

lifestyle choice. In fact, it is the only

good choice we have.

As David prays in Psalm 16, he reflects

on the choices he has to make in life.

He worships no other gods but the

Lord. The Lord alone is his refuge and

outside of him there is no good. And

Jesus faced those same choices as well.

He did not bow down to Satan in order

to receive all the kingdoms of this world

quickly and painlessly. He did not give

in to the Roman and Jewish authorities

in order to save his life.

David’s prayer overflows with joy, not

because these choices are always easy.

They were certainly not easy for Jesus

who paid for them by being thrown

in the Pit. The joy comes not from

the expectation that life will be plain

sailing, but from the confidence that

God is not going to give him up to the

power of Sheol. The person who sets

the Lord always before them cannot be

annihilated. The resurrection proves

that. As Jesus rose from the grave God

unveiled the path of life before him.

And what is true of Jesus is also true of

his followers. The Lord is my chosen

portion and my cup. Therefore, the Pit

cannot be the end.



‘And now, Lord, look at their threats

and grant to your servants to speak

your word with all boldness’ ACTS 4:29

9. The Kingdom

Read: Psalm 2:1-11

A new king is about to be revealed. The

Lord himself, who sits in heaven, has

established him on his holy hill. The

decree of the Lord is given to the king

during his enthronement. It contains

a solemn declaration in fulfilment of

the ancient Davidic pledge: ‘You are my

son, today I have begotten you’. The

king is God’s Son, his representative on

earth. The nations are his heritage. The

ends of the earth belong to him.

However, it is not a happy event. The

nations do not bend the knee willingly.

They do not want to recognise the

authority of the Lord’s anointed.

They conspire and plot against him,

scheming how to break the divine

yoke and achieve ‘true freedom’. They

do not want any restrictions coming

from God. The laws of the divine king

are not welcome. The peoples of this

world want to order their lives without

reference to the wisdom of God. It is a

revolution.

The apostles quoted Psalm 2 in their

prayer after they were arrested by the

Sanhedrin and ordered not to preach

Jesus to the crowds (Acts 4:1-31).

This prayer helps to put the psalm

in perspective. When the Son of God

talks about ruling the ends of the

earth with a rod of iron and dashing

rebels like pieces of pottery, he is not

thinking about military violence, or

political and economic power wielded

by his followers. The apostles are a

weak minority, without resources or

influence, preaching a strange message

in a faraway province at the periphery

of the empire. They do not have rods

of iron and they can’t dash anybody’s

head.

The military language expresses a

spiritual truth. Human schemes cannot

thwart God’s design. The nations will

never acquire ‘true freedom’ outside

of the realm of God’s anointed. Their

threats will not achieve the desired

effect. And so the apostles pray, not for

a rod of iron to smash the opposition,

but for boldness to speak the truth

of the Gospel and to be ready to bear

the consequences of their witness in a

manner worthy of their crucified and

risen king. Their victory is achieved ‘by

the word of their testimony, for they

did not cling to life even in the face of

death’ (Rev. 12:11).



‘The last enemy to be

destroyed is death’

1 CorinthIAns 15:26

10. The eschaton

Read: Psalm 110

With Psalm 110 we are back in the

throne room, observing another

coronation ceremony. We do not get to

see all the details, just the climax of the

ritual. Our gaze is fixed on God himself

who sits on his throne. As the king

approaches, the Lord speaks. The words

are striking: ‘sit at my right hand’. It is

an invitation to enter the presence of

God and assume a position of honour

and power. And then God speaks again:

‘you are a priest forever according to

the order of Melchizedek’. The kingpriest

is to represent his people before

God and to mediate God’s presence

to the nation. He is to be the living

conduit which connects the divine and

the human sphere.

The rest of the psalm, however, is

filled with disturbing scenes of military

violence. The reign of the king is not a

peaceful one, at least to begin with. The

king leads his forces into battle. On his

behalf the Lord will shatter kings and

fill the nations with corpses. And all

this violence continues until everyone

is subjugated and the enemies are made

into a footstool of the king.

In that humiliating position the

defeated foes will serve forever as a

visual symbol of his enduring power

and authority.

The New Testament makes it quite

clear that the king at the right hand

of God and the eternal priest in the

order of Melchizedek is no other than

Jesus himself. That is why it is difficult

to reconcile the psalm’s picture of

nations filled with corpses and the

reign of the Son of God who teaches us

to love our enemies. Here Paul helps

us to understand the military imagery.

The enemies are not people of flesh

and blood, but the cosmic forces of

wickedness. The last, most resilient and

powerful enemy is death itself.

Christ conquers the world, defeats evil

and destroys death not by violence, but

by self-sacrifice. When his victory is

complete death itself will die and God

will be all in all. And so we can look to

the future with hope. The reign of the

priest-king opens before us a world of

peace cleansed by the king’s own blood,

not the blood of his enemies.


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A golden Halo

God's Glory

Three Strands

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God with Us

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Stars

House of David

Oak Leaf

Oaks of righteousness

Candle

Rekindling the dimly

burning wicks

Crown of

Thorns

Christ's crucifixion

Red Berries

The wounds of Christ

IVY

Resurection &

Eternal Life

PURPLE RIBBON

Christ's Kingship

Laurel Wreath

Christ's Victory



Written by Dr Charlie Hadjiev

Illustrated by Cecilia Lund

Belfast Bible College

Glenburn House

Glenburn Road South

Belfast

BT17 9JP

www.belfastbiblecollege.com



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