The Christmas story began in our pre-mortal life, when Jesus said to the Father, “Here am I, send me” (Abraham 3:27; see also Moses 4:2). Of this, Elder Neal A. Maxwell declared, “Never has anyone offered so much to so many in so few words” (April 1976 general conference). The love and works of our Heavenly Parents, our Savior, and the Holy Ghost are the greatest gifts of all, with Their proffered gift of Eternal Life (see D&C 14:7).
We celebrate Christmas because it commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ. We celebrate Jesus’s birth because of the life He lived. His life gave us His love, His teachings, His examples, and His Atonement. Did we find Him—and Christmas—in the Old Testament?
In the New Testament, just before Jesus’s birth, the father of John the Baptist, Zacharias, “was filled with the Holy Ghost,” and spoke these words: “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people, And hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David; As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began” (Luke 1:67-70). Righteous Zacharias—among others—understood that Jehovah of the Old Testament was to be Jesus Christ, the promised Messiah and Savior of the World.
After Jesus’s resurrection, He taught the apostles, “All things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me” (Luke 24:44). He pointed his disciples to the Old Testament for prophecy and witness of His life and Atonement.
And let us note that Jesus descended (by blood or otherwise) from a long line of notable Old Testament personalities, beginning with Adam and Eve and including Seth, Enoch, Noah, Shem, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Rahab, Boaz and Ruth, Jesse, David, Solomon, and others (see Matthew 1:1-17; Luke 3:23-38).
It has been said that Jesus fulfilled more than 300 Old Testament prophecies, symbols, types, and shadows. Read and ponder a few examples that highlight His gifts to us:
- Genesis 1:1 One of Christ’s greatest gifts to us is the Creation, introduced in the very first verse of the Bible.
- Genesis 1:26 In this verse we learn that there were multiple Gods involved in the Creation (“Let us make man in our image”). We know that Jesus was appointed by the Father to be the Creator (Mosiah 4:2; 3 Nephi 9:15; D&C 14:9; Moses 2:26).
- Genesis 3:15 Perhaps the first Old Testament prophecy of Jesus Christ. He overcame Satan and will eventually banish him forever.
- Genesis 22:1-18 Abraham was commanded to sacrifice his son, Isaac—one of the most poignant stories of the Old Testament, pointing us to the atoning death of Jesus Christ.
- Deuteronomy 18:15 Moses is promised that “a Prophet” (Christ) would be raised up, to Whom we may hearken.
- 2 Samuel 7:12-13 David is promised that of his seed God would raise up a King whose kingdom would be established forever.
- Psalm 22 Foretells elements of the Lord’s Atonement (verses 1-18), and promises, “the meek shall eat and be satisfied;… All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the Lord;… and he is the governor among the nations” (verses 26-28).
- Isaiah 8:13-14 The Lord of Hosts will be our Sanctuary.
- Isaiah 9:6-7 Often cited as a prophecy of the Savior’s mortal birth, however most of the roles/titles in these verses pertain to the Millennium and beyond.
- Isaiah 11:12 “He shall set up an ensign for the nations and assemble the outcasts of Israel.”
- Isaiah 53 A most powerful prophecy of our Redeemer’s sacrifice in our behalf.
- Isaiah 61:1-3 More of the abundant blessings the Lord will pour out upon those who turn to Him.
- Ezekiel 37:24-27 The prophesied day when Jehovah (referred to as “David”) will rule as our Shepherd, Prince, Founder of the everlasting covenant, and our God for evermore.
- Micah 5:2 From Bethlehem will come the “ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.”
- Zechariah 9:9 “Thy King cometh unto thee; he is just, and having salvation.”
In the LDS King James Version of the English Bible, the word LORD appears 7, 274 times in the Old Testament’s 1,184 pages—an average of over six times per page. About 1,000 of these occurrences are not in capital letters, thus referring to a ruler or some other person; but this still leaves the name of God appearing over five times per page, on average. The King James translators chose to use “LORD” (in small capitals) each time they encountered the name “YHWH,” which is short for “Yahweh,” which means “Jehovah,” who is Jesus Christ. As one author puts it, “Jesus Christ lived and breathed on every page” of the Old Testament (Elissa Bjeletich Davis; see https://blogs.ancientfaith.com/raisingsaints/old-testament-christmas/).
On the other side of the world, beloved Nephi was right when he wrote over 500 years before Jesus’s birth: “And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins” (2 Nephi 25:26).
And Nephi’s brother Jacob also had it just right, when he asked, “Why not speak of the atonement of Christ, and attain to a perfect knowledge of him, as to attain to the knowledge of a resurrection and the world to come?” (Jacob 4:12). To celebrate and speak of Jesus’s birth ultimately leads us to celebrate and speak of His perfect Atonement, which offers us everlasting life through resurrection and in a celestial world to come. Merry Christmas!