Text: Matthew 1:18-25
Date: Christmas Eve + 12/24/14
Christmas is the annual celebration and proclamation of the incarnation, the nativity of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Because He is unique—unique in Person and in purpose—His birth needs to be explained, Christmas needs to be explained. It needs to be explained because the whole idea is wrought with human misunderstanding. It needs to be explained or rather enlightened because God is here revealing His truth, will and purpose. Finally, it needs to be explained in order that it might result in a faithful, trusting response from those who hear it.
Christmas needs to be explained because of human misunderstanding.
At least that’s what Saint Matthew has in mind as He begins, saying, “Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way.” Well, we know how the birth of any baby takes place, do we not? Yes. And we are told about His mother whose name is Mary. But you need to know, as of first importance, that this child had no human father. “She was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.”
Now how can we really believe that? That’s exactly what Joseph thought as he drew the logical conclusion that she must be pregnant by another man (that’s the only way it happens, right?) and though that would normally mean the punishment of death by stoning he decided for the lesser remedy, namely a quiet divorce. But now even that was new and unusual, except that Matthew tells us this new, obviously more compassionate remedy was okayed by God calling Joe “a just man.”
But now why do we need to know that Jesus was conceived by the power of God the Holy Spirit? It will be (as we will thoroughly explain in this first, “Lord’s Half” of the Church Year) it will be because the Savior must be divine in origin, that is, without sin. For only in this way will he be qualified as the only unblemished lamb prepared for the sacrifice, the sacrifice that will bring forgiveness to sinners and take away the sin of the world.
Of course we understand Joseph’s logical incomprehension. More difficult for us, maybe, is to understand how people through the ages have refused to believe this. Again the recent billboard, “All I want for Christmas is to skip church (I can’t believe in myths anymore).” Christmas? A myth? You mean like rejecting the idea that God created the universe preferring as “more logical” a “big bang” theory? A myth? You mean like rejecting the idea that God created human beings preferring to adopt as “more logical” the idea of so-called “evolution”? A myth? You mean like counting all our human accomplishments in science and technology as progress and human glory forgetting that for all of that every human being that ever lived and lives now or will live in the future, every human being ends up in a grave. Or is death merely a myth, too? Human wisdom. Human misunderstanding. Christmas needs to be explained.
Christmas needs to be explained or rather enlightened because this is the story, the account of how God has revealed His truth, will and purpose.
This enlightenment comes from two voices, the voice of the angel speaking to Joseph and the Old Testament voice from the prophet Isaiah. Without a Word directly from God all people remain in darkness, spiritual ignorance. It is the common plight of all sinners that we are born into this world spiritually blind, even dead to God. Only a divine wake-up call announced through a divine Word can enlighten, can reveal the truth, the will and the true purpose of God.
To this day it happens through angels and the Bible. Angels. The name means “messenger.” The book of revelation calls pastors “angels,” called by God, ordained by the Spirit and sent by God as messengers. The Bible is the inspired, inerrant Word of God through His chosen prophets, apostles and evangelists. Even here, however, we throw ourselves back in the hopper of misunderstanding counting both angels and the Bible as myths. We think of angels as soft, ethereal figures until we actually encounter Michael, the tough, mighty and strong archangel and warrior for God. And most think of the Bible as only of human origin. Decades have been spent spinning this theory even in religious institutions of higher learning. Our solution, at least in America? All religious books are equally mythological be it Bible, Book of Mormon or Qur’an. Human wisdom. Human misunderstanding. Christmas needs to be explained.
Finally, Christmas needs to be explained in order that it might result in a faithful, trusting response from those who hear it.
Joseph, the righteous, the son of David believed the angel. He did what the angel commanded. “He took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.” Earlier he feared to take Mary as his wife. Now, as a result of God’s enlightenment and Word, he faithfully believed and changed.
This is Christmas. Though an historic fact and event, also one full of spiritual significance for the whole world, for you! The last word: his name is Jesus. He will save his people from their sins. And who are “his people”? Are you one?