Thoughts from Christmas Eve

Posted: December 25, 2009 in Uncategorized

Christmas Eve Service 2009

Devotional: Matthew 1:18-25

Aside from Jesus, who is it that we generally think about when remembering the Christmas story? Mary – the angels – the shepherds – even the wise men (who weren’t even there!)… Joseph is sometimes just an afterthought in the whole event. Granted, Joseph is not Jesus’ father (that role belongs to God alone), but God used Joseph in a mighty (but often overlooked) way: as the primary caretaker for the infant incarnation of God. What a privilege!

We don’t know much about Joseph: he was a carpenter by trade, and had a reputation as a just man. He didn’t have much money at all (they could only afford the smallest sacrifices in the temple), and other than the fact that he was the parental guardian of Jesus, we might have otherwise never have known he existed.

Because he was a just man, it’s easy to imagine the reaction he would have had to the news that the woman he was engaged to be married to (through the betrothal) was pregnant. Surely he was shocked – dismayed – disappointed, and probably a 100 other emotions ran through his heart. He had every right to have Mary taken into the streets & stoned to death – but he had much mercy upon her & decided to put her away quietly.

If Matthew’s account stopped right there, no one would have batted an eye. It would have been completely understandable for Joseph to put Mary away & never speak to her again…but that’s NOT what happened! Literally overnight, Joseph had a change of heart & not only took Mary to be his bride, but put himself in the position of raising someone else’s child.

What made the difference? An angelic dream that brought some marvelously good news!

Keep in mind, it wasn’t merely because Joseph had a dream (God can speak in many other ways) – it wasn’t merely that an angel appeared to Joseph (God could have used a different messenger) – the important thing was the message itself…what the angel had to say. The angel said two main things:

1. Mary’s Child had been conceived by none other than God Himself. Mary had not been unfaithful in the slightest; on the contrary – she had been blessed! God showed immense unmerited favor upon her when He chose her to be the physical mother of Jesus. But more than that – the whole point was that this unborn Child was none other than the Son of God! God Himself was wrapping Himself in flesh to dwell among us… The Child yet to be born was going to be recognized as none other that God – Emmanuel, “God with us.” This is exactly what Isaiah had written about in his prophecy (which Matthew quotes). Isaiah actually goes on to write later, Isaiah 9:6 For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. []
__a. Every birth can be termed a miracle…but when we celebrate the birth of Jesus at Christmastime, it’s a far greater event than just “any” birth. This is not the story of “just” a baby in a manger – this is the actual history of what happened when God the Son was literally born of flesh into the world!

2. This Child had a role destined for Him: to be the Savior. Understand, that’s what His very name means: “Yahweh (Jehovah) who saves.” We need to be saved! Many don’t realize it, but our sins leave us utterly helpless, hopeless, and condemned before God. Spiritually speaking, outside of Jesus Christ, people are absolutely dead in their sins & transgressions. They may be walking around physically (perhaps even enjoying life), but they have no idea that they are dead in spirit – they’ve denied the fact that they’ve rebelled against God. But God in His great mercy & love desires to save us – and that’s exactly what He made provision for by sending Jesus in the flesh to live a perfect life, die on the cross, and rise again from the grave. That was God’s plan for Him all along – He was born for the express intent of dying for our sins, and offering us new life in return. He is our Savior!

Ultimately, Jesus is known as Emmanuel – not because that is His given name, but because that is His glorious role! He truly is “God with us” – the eternal Son of God made flesh, who came to die for your sins & my sins & the sins of the whole world – who was to rise again from the grave in full victory over sin & death – Who today sits at the right hand of God waiting for the time of His soon return. This God – this JESUS – dwelt among us as humans, offering the free gift of salvation to all who call upon Him. He offered it then, and He offers it today…

That was the message that changed Joseph’s life – and it’s the message that still changes lives today. This is the message that we celebrate at Christmas – praising God for sending our Savior, and giving us the most wonderful gift imaginable: everlasting life & fellowship with our Creator.

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