Have you ever thought about how related Israel’s history is to Christmas? When Jesus came that apocalyptic night there was a whole complex of promises that had set the stage; the fullness of time, if you will. Israel was God’s vehicle of mediating His salvation to the world; and without her there would be no Jew from Nazareth for the world. T. F. Torrance makes this point.
. . . If it is the historical factuality of Jesus that is of controlling importance, then that Jesus must be presented as really embedded in history, embedded therefore in the hard stubborn history of Israel. That is precisely the case with Jesus. Even if it is the historical factuality of Jesus that is the controlling factor, how did it come to exercise that control over the minds of the witnesses and the church? How did it interpret itself, and with what categories and conceptions did it operate? The answer to this question is clear all over the pages of the New Testament, evident not only in the face value of the witness itself, buf from the most exhaustive lexicological examination of its language and concepts. The historical fact of Christ is embedded in the history of Israel, and is the actual fulfillment of the purpose embedded in its long history. Thus the interpretative categories and conceptions through which the fact of the historical Jesus imposes itself upon the witnesses, and by which it controls their witness are not their creation and are not imported by them from outside this historical context, say from the mystery religions of Greece, but derive from the actual history of Israel in which Jesus is embedded and from which he emerges. (T. F. Torrance, “Incarnation,” 17)
So the purpose of Israel is void without Jesus, and the substance of Jesus’ Incarnation is grounded in the history of Israel (as given by Yahweh in the first place); wherein Israel’s purpose takes shape.
Next time you look at a nativity scene ponder the “backstory,” the narrative situation within which that manger finds its significance. God not only promises and prepares, He fulfills. Is Israel important as a nation? Indeed, but only for the same reason anyone is, because of Jesus!