“And she shall bring forth a son,
and thou shalt call his name JESUS:
for he shall save his people from their sins.”
Joseph was understandably upset when he discovered his wife to be was pregnant with somebody else’s child. Mary also was discombobulated with the idea of becoming pregnant without the benefit of a husband. Merry Christmas Mary and Joseph! How would this couple cope with this imposition upon their lives not of their own making?
The very first Christmas started with a huge emotional, spiritual, physical, and financial upset, at least for Joseph and Mary and by implication their families and community. How are you doing at this Christmas season? Are you excited about the prospects of family, friends, fellowship, good cheer, the exchange of gifts and good food? Or does this time of the year press down on you like a wet blanket suffocating the joy out of you for the anticipated disappointments of another holiday season? You are not up to the expense, the expectations of happiness which do not belong to you, and the dysfunction of family members which seem bent on hurting you. Or maybe it is your own dysfunction and sense of failure which is weighing you down. You know what you would like this Christmas to be for you and for your family, yet it seems so impossibly far away from you. If Christmas just does not make any sense to you right now, you are in good company. It did not make any sense to Mary and Joseph at first, until they received a God-given explanation via a special angel messenger named Gabriel.
Gabriel’s message to Mary: Luke 1:30 “And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favor with God. 31 And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. 32 He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: 33 And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. 34 Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? 35 And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.”
Wow! What a message for a young virgin in Israel to receive. And yet, she chose to trust in the greatness and goodness of her God even though He was telling her something which was humanly impossible. Luke 1:37 “For with God nothing shall be impossible. 38 And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.”
Saying yes to God is one thing for Mary. But how is she going to explain this to her betrothed Joseph? How is she going to explain this to her Mom and Dad? How is she going to explain to the town of Nazareth that she is with child and it is not Joseph’s?
Joseph is called a righteous man in Scripture. When he got the news of Mary being pregnant, he could have legally taken her before the authorities and publically had her shamed and judged. But he decided to give her a writ of divorce quietly. Betrothal is stronger than engagement in that culture. Legally, Joseph and Mary were married. Their marriage day and feast had not yet happened and there had been no physical consummation of their relationship. For Joseph to be able to swallow the Christmas message, he too is going to need some extraordinary convincing.
Mattew1:18 “Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily. 20 But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the LORD appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. 21 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. 22 Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, 23 Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. 24 Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: 25 And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS.”
It is one thing for Joseph to say yes to God, but he is going to have the same problem as Mary in explaining to parents and community how he came to marry a woman who is carrying someone else’s child. How could Joseph and Mary accept this Christmas message? They could only receive it by the power and grace of God. Being Jewish, both would have been looking for the promised Messiah who was to come and deliver God’s people, Israel, from the bondage of their sin. Little did they know, until they were informed, that the Savior of the whole world was to be introduced to the world through their family. They both had to accept this message from God by faith.
Many people miss the miracle and the message of Christmas because it has never really been explained to them. They have bought into a commercialized St. Nicolas version of presents, and tinseled trees, and lights. The message has been obscured and buried under a bunch of wrappings and trappings, which in themselves are not necessarily wrong. But if this is all you have, it is only temporary and fleeting.
“Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. 21 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1:20-21. The gift of God to you this Christmas is the key to unlock your soul and spirit from the chains of self and sin. The human race is dying every day because of the terrible curse of sin. “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:23).
If you are all alone this Christmas, thinking no one really cares, why not take a fresh look into the manger. See the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes as the beginning of the greatest gift ever given to you. Yes, the babe is only the beginning because He grows up to become a man with the express purpose of carrying a load much too heavy for you to carry. He carried your burden of sin all the way to a cross where he spilt his precious blood so you can really live in time and for all eternity. This load of sin is really what is dragging us down. It is not our parents, or siblings, or people at work. Our unhappiness is built right into a fallen human package wrapped in the paper of our own selfishness.
Nevertheless, and in spite of your sin, God loves you and gave His son as the best of all gifts. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16.
But like all Christmas gifts, they are not really any good to us until they are received. Can you imagine having a present under the tree with your name on it and leaving it there wrapped and unopened? Alas, this is too often the case with the greatest gift ever given. To know about the gift is not the same thing as receiving the gift. Until we are personally convinced of our need for a personal Savior for the forgiveness of our personal sin, the gift of Christ is for somebody else. “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:” John 1:12. Ephesians 2:8 “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:”
For many reading this Christmas message, it is indeed a time of joy and celebration because they have unwrapped by faith the gift of the good news of God’s love and forgiveness for themselves. They know they are forgiven, not because they are good or churched or religious, but because Jesus has died and rose for them and they have accepted this gift for themselves by faith. Romans 10:8 “But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; 9 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. 10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. 11 For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. 12 For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. 13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
God’s gift is for you too.
Merry Christmas!Pastor John Schofield Calvary Baptist Church 218 East Creamery St. Granada, MN 56039 507-525-1138