Since her arrival at Number 10 last year, press reports have revealed that way back in the early 1990s Theresa May’s father-in-law predicted she would one day become Prime Minister.
She wasn’t even an MP at the time, though she had already embarked on a political career and was a rising star in the London Borough of Merton.
Although it is not recorded whether he expected her premiership to be long or short, John May’s hunch about his daughter-in-law’s future proved correct. But doubtless many more have entertained hopes and dreams about the success of their own nearest and dearest that have not been realised.
Richard Branson’s headmaster was hedging his bets somewhat when he predicted that the 16-year-old would ‘either go to prison or become a millionaire’. As it happens, in this instance, the head was proved correct on both counts. But many other headteachers have lived to see their hopes for some of their pupils dashed, while other pupils have succeeded in ways that could never have been foreseen in their schooldays.
If attempting to predict the destiny of an adult or a teenager can be a hazardous exercise, how much less can we hope to map the life path of a newborn baby with any degree of certainty?
True, where a family has produced generations of doctors, lawyers or bankers, it may come as no surprise if at least one of the next generation maintains the family tradition. But the younger a child is, the more unlikely it is that predictions about the future will be fulfilled, As for trying to predict what lies in store for a child yet to be born, well, it’s best not to try!
But there was one newborn baby whose destiny was announced with absolute certainty. In fact, even before he was conceived, his future accomplishments were announced from heaven. And there was never a shadow of a doubt that every one of them would be fulfilled.
On no less than three occasions, an angel from heaven spoke about the destiny of a child who was born in the Middle East a little over 2,000 years ago: once before he was conceived; once between his conception and his birth; and once at the time of his birth.
There was certainty before the child was conceived. An angel appeared to a young woman named Mary, preparing to marry a man by the name of Joseph.
The angel said to her: ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. And, behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call his name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest’.
The angel went on to say that Mary’s child would be a king. More than that, he would be the king God had promised to send over a period of many hundreds of years. And, unlike every other kingdom the world has known, her son’s kingdom would never end.
As if that were not enough, the angel told Mary that this child would not be conceived naturally, but supernaturally. There would be no human father. Instead, the conception would occur through the mysterious working of the Holy Spirit, with the result that Mary’s firstborn son would not inherit a sinful nature. He would be none other than the Son of God.
There was certainty before the child was born. Joseph was understandably perplexed by the news that the young woman he had pledged to marry was pregnant. He didn’t want to believe that she had been unfaithful to him, but it was hard to come to any other conclusion.
Under the circumstances, he couldn’t see his way clear to go ahead with the marriage, and so he made up his mind to quietly call off the wedding. It was at this point that an angel appeared to him too. Not only did the angel put his mind at rest about marrying Mary, but he also told Joseph what Mary’s son would accomplish.
The angel said: ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins’.
There was certainty at the time of the child’s birth. Although the conception of Mary’s firstborn son was supernatural, the pregnancy and birth proceeded naturally. But on the night he was born, further confirmation was given about the unique character and destiny of this child.
On this occasion, the prediction did not come from a family member, midwife, doctor, or even a well-meaning friend given to flights of fancy. Rather, it was heralded once again by an angel of the Lord; this time, not to Mary or Joseph, but to shepherds in the fields surrounding Bethlehem, as they watched over their flocks at night.
The angel told the shepherds: ‘I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord’.
On three separate occasions, before and immediately after the birth of Jesus, definite predictions were made about Christ’s destiny. Those predictions were not the product of wishful thinking or a fertile imagination. Neither were they ‘inspired guesses’ or a stab in the dark; they came by divine revelation. And that is what makes them absolutely certain.
All three messages were completely consistent with each other, and all three have been fulfilled. Jesus is the Son of God, the Saviour, Christ, the Lord. Through his death on the cross followed by his triumphant resurrection, he has saved his people from their sins, and his kingdom will stand for ever.
Norman Wells is a member of Amyand Park Chapel in Twickenham