Why is it all about Jesus? – we can imagine others asking, perhaps wonder ourselves. Other faiths and philosophies have various teachers and leaders, but Christianity is, CHRISTianity. It centres there, reflects in different languages and cultures but always on the teaching, personality and actions of one man. What points so strongly there?
Christians might want to refer to the New Testament, to the way the gospels are all about Jesus, and the other writings also. I wonder, though, if we don’t miss part of the point. Jesus didn’t just “happen”, he wasn’t “discovered” without warning. In fact, human history is littered with pointers and hints. Perhaps most important among them are the prophets.
Who? you might ask. Start with Moses, who speaks for God to an unlikely group of enslaved people, leads them, and gives them God’s instructions for being a people to let the world know about God. Go on to Elijah, again uncompromisingly for God when compromise and corruption was the fashion of the day. Then there is Elisha, and Isaiah, whose promises of a coming King feature in every carol service. Hosea and Amos, Haggai and Zechariah, many more – all spoke for God, sometimes of the future planned, sometimes of the heavenly view on what was happening around them. All the prophets are different – different people (there are women as well as men), different times – but they all prepared the way, and many left promises to be remembered and recognised later as clues to authenticity.
So, as we run up to Christmas, we read Isaiah 11:1-10, looking to the promise of a coming King whose rule will be everything we hope for. We read Romans 15:4-13, of the Old Testament encouragement and guidance to recognise and follow the one who was promised and has now arrived, and we read Matthew 3:1-12, of a new prophet after a long gap. John the Baptist is just like Elijah, and he appears (as Malachi had foretold) to prepare and warn everyone to be ready for Jesus, who has not yet begun his ministry.
The prophets are important, for their pointing the way and preparing. They don’t want the spotlight for themselves, but for God who is active, caring, and understands exactly what is happening.