For the most part Christians regard the Old (or First) Testament as pre-history, a preparation for, or a promise of the New Testament and its proclamation of Christ. This is especially true during Advent, when the Christian liturgy directs our attention to the promise and its fulfillment. Yet Advent's status as the beginning of the Church year - as a turning point - calls us to look back in order to move forward. We read intensively from Old Testament prophecy texts with a special view toward their future meaning. Hence, Advent is the time of the year when Christians are reminded that they have one sacred Scripture in two parts, one Bible composed of the Old and New Testaments.
Since it was with the aid of the Old Testament that the early Church interpreted the event at Bethlehem, many of the images and biblical texts associated with Christmas can only be understood by following their Old Testament roots. Like the Magi who followed the star, we can, with Dohmen's help, follow in the liturgy of Advent and Christmas the traces that lead us into the Old Testament. Following those traces, we can arrive at a Christmas that appears to us in a new light, that of the Old Testament.
Chapters are In Search of Traces," "It al Began Before Christmas," "Addressed and Claimed," "A Gift from Heaven," "When Shepherds Become Prophets, "You Shall Make No Crib for Yourself!" "Joseph, What Are You Dreaming?" "A New Age Is Beginning," "In Order That Might Be Fulfilled . . . ," "In Our Midst," "Yad Vashem," "You, Bethlehem . . . ," and "Following the Trace."
Christoph Dohmen is professor of Old Testament Exegesis at the University of Osnabruck."
A manger, as someone succinctly put it, is a wooden structure large enough to hold the Bread of Life. See how this common stable fixture is lifted up to a place of sacred significance. A manger is not enough, though, not even one that holds the Bread of Life. It is only a beginning. The fulfillment lies in another wooden fixture. Looming in the midnight shadows of the manger, there is the figure of the Cross. Like the manger, it is a wooden structure large enough to hold the Bread of Life. The manger is a symbol of joy, but a very peculiar joy, for even as we celebrate Christmas, we know that the day of Crucifixion is also at hand.
In these meditations for Advent and Christmas, come and consider the King who was born in a stable, crowned with thorns and now reigns forever. Trace the path of prophets who foresaw Him, angels who announced Him, shepherds who witnessed Him and wise men who pursued Him. Ponder with Zechariah and Elizabeth, Joseph and Mary, Simeon and Anna what it means to watch, wait, listen and believe. Learn why Jesus came and how His birth, life, death and resurrection are the reason for every season.