Throughout the Christmas season, we celebrate the coming of Jesus, the Messiah.
It's an event that Old Testament prophets wrote about hundreds of years before Jesus was born. A special look into these prophesies shows just how they were revealed.
Every day, three times a day, religious Jews pray for the coming of the Messiah.
"Traditional Jews believe that in every generation, there is a potential Messiah and that if the generation is worthy, the Messianic figure will be revealed," explained Old Testament and Semitic scholar Michael Brown.
In Jewish thought, a man would be the Messiah if he could prove himself to be the Messiah. So what kind of proof are they looking for?
The Hebrew Bible says the Messiah would be a son of David, born in Bethlehem, called out of Egypt and raised in Nazareth.
He would be a teacher and a healer. He would calm the seas and cleanse the temple. He would be welcomed as a king and yet killed as a criminal. Then three days after His death, He would rise from the dead.
These are just a few of the prophecies written about the Messiah. Only one man in history fulfilled them all.
"If we rightly understand the Hebrew Bible, either Jesus is our Messiah, or there can never be a Messiah," Brown said.
When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman.
"There's no question that in the mind of God, He was going to send a redeemer," he added. "His intent for Israel was to be a priestly nation through whom the whole world could be blessed."
"And it took 2000 years from Abraham to the coming of the Messiah to prepare a people who could welcome the Messiah," Brown said.
Two-thousand years ago, Jesus of Nazareth was born into a world of political upheaval. The Jews had returned from exile in Babylon to a nation they no longer ruled.
"During these centuries, the Jewish people began to hear the promises of a son of David and realize, it's someone greater. It's not just a regular king. The regular kings have fallen short," Brown said. "They were speaking of this anointed one that would be known as the Messiah."
"Every prophecy that was spoken about someone from the line of David that was not fulfilled in their lifetime became a potential Messianic prophecy," he continued.
The line of David was no longer in power. Herod the Great was on the throne and for the first time in history the Jews had a gentile king.
Because of his own lowly birth, Herod was threatened by the descendants of David. So he raided the public archives and burned the genealogies of the Jews.
Many of David's descendants fled Jerusalem and settled in a village that soon became known as "the town of the Branch"-- referring to the "branch of David." Today, the village is better known by its Hebrew name: Nazareth.
It was the boyhood home of Jesus and according to Matthew's gospel, the fulfillment of an ancient prophecy of Isaiah.
(It) was spoken by the prophets, "He shall be called a Nazarene." (Matthew 2:23)
But the town of Nazareth didn't even exist until about 600 years after Isaiah's time. And at first glance, you won't find the word "Nazarene" anywhere in Isaiah, unless you read it in Hebrew.
"There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse, And a Branch (netzer) shall grow out of his roots." (Isaiah 11:1)
"Matthew brilliantly puts together the voices of several prophets, that he'll be the branch, literally the netzer, hence coming from this place Netzeret--Nazareth--it's a perfect fit," Brown explained. "But it's one of these little jewels that Matthew puts there that you have to dig to discover and understand."
In Jesus' day, only about 150 people lived in Nazareth.
Pnce a family of kings, they now worked as farmers and shepherds. They recorded their genealogies and kept them hidden. By protecting their family history, they were also tracing the bloodline of the Messiah.
"Genealogies are important through the whole Bible," Brown said. "It was really important that it was established that the Messiah was from the line of David."
The gospels of Matthew and Luke record the bloodlines of Jesus' parents, Joseph and Mary. Both were descendants of David-- Joseph through King Solomon and Mary through David's other son, Nathan.
"Matthew wants to show the royal descent. He is a direct descendant of King David through his earthly father, his foster father, Joseph," Brown said. "But through his mother Miryam, better known to Christians as Mary... he is a blood descendant of David."
"Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call his name Immanuel." (Isaiah 7:14)
It was in Nazareth that the angel Gabriel visited Mary. He told her she would give birth to the son of God. It was the fulfillment of a birth announcement recorded 700 years earlier in the book of Isaiah.
"Here's a Jewish maiden, actually a virgin, which is the way the Greek translators of the Hebrew scriptures had put it 200 years before Jesus was born. They said it would be a virgin," Brown said. "Here's a virgin giving birth to someone named Emanuel, what does that mean?"
"This is the same child in Isaiah 7, Isaiah 9, Isaiah 11. This is the same child who has been born supernaturally," he added. "It's quite striking. You have to dig to find it, but when you dig, it's one of those hidden treasures."
A royal famly in hiding, a virgin with child and a nation waiting for a redeemer-- the stage was set for the most significant birth in the history of the world.