Matthew 1:18–25 (EHV)
18 This is how the birth of Jesus Christ took place. His mother, Mary, was pledged in marriage to Joseph. Before they came together, she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. 19 Joseph, her husband, was a righteous man and did not want to disgrace her. So he decided to divorce her privately.
20But as he was considering these things, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
22All this happened to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: 23“Look, the virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son. And they will name him Immanuel,” which means, “God with us.” 24When Joseph woke up from his sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him. He took Mary home as his wife, 25but he was not intimate with her until she gave birth to her firstborn son. And he named him Jesus.
Dear fellow redeemed: This is how it happened. This is why it happened. This is what happened. What we have here is a hallmark of the Christian faith. Christianity at its core isn’t speculation about God,
wondering where we came from what is the meaning of life, and what is the destiny of mankind and of each of us as individuals. Those are THE religious questions, and the Christian faith answers them, but not through wondering, supposition, or speculation. They are answered in history, in what God has done, and in what He has revealed through the prophets, apostles, evangelists and, especially, through His son whose birth we are gathered to celebrate.
HOW IT HAPPENED: While Luke recounts these events, especially from Mary’s experiences, Matthew recounts the experience of Joseph particularly. Joseph is pledged in marriage to Mary. As was the custom, this would have involved a contract between the families, and there would have been a period of time before the agreement and the wedding and consummation of the marriage.
But Mary was found to be pregnant. Matthew reveals what we have already learned and confess every Sunday, that the Holy Spirit caused her to conceive, and the person conceived in her was God the Son, who humbled himself to be present as this child. Joseph did not yet know this, and so when she turned up pregnant he assumed she had broken the vows she took when the marriage pledge was made. In this situation, a divorce was the only way to break the pledge. Rather than shame her indelibly, Joseph, a righteous man believing in mercy and forgiveness, decided to divorce her as discretely as possible.
But in a dream that was unlike any normal dream an angel appeared to Joseph to tell him what had happened and what would happen. – Don’t be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, to keep the marriage agreement. – She is a virtuous woman; the child in her was not the result of sexual intercourse, but from the Holy Spirit. – She will give birth to a son. – You are to name him “Jesus” (the Lord saves) – The reason for the name is because He will save people from their sins.
WHY IT HAPPENED: Matthew tells us that all of this was the fulfillment of the plan announced at the dawn of time, that God would become also a man to save mankind. When Adam and Eve became sinners alienated from God, God promised a descendent, born of a woman, would undo Satan’s work. This plan and promise was repeated through the ages to Noah and the patriarchs and through the prophets.
Isaiah was most to the point, revealing the significance of the virgin birth. 23“Look, the virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son. And they will name him Immanuel,” which means, “God with us.” It was a virgin who gives birth because her son is not merely a man, but God Himself who becomes incarnate – in human flesh. Paul put it this way: “But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son to be born of a woman, so that he would be born under the law, in order to redeem those under the law, so that we would be adopted as sons.” (Galatians 4:4–5, EHV) Yes, simply put, God the Son “… emptied himself by taking the nature of a servant. When he was
born in human likeness, and his appearance was like that of any other man, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:7–8, EHV)
THIS IS WHAT HAPPENED: So Joseph fulfilled the marriage pledge and became Mary’s husband. As such he cared for her, protected her, watched over her, and loved her. But until after Jesus was born and she went through the ceremonial purification, he did not become intimate with her. And all of this leads up to what we celebrate tonight.
Mary and Joseph traveled to Bethlehem to fulfill Caesar Augustus’ tax registration regulations. “While they were there, the time came for her to give birth. Then she gave birth to her firstborn son, and she
wrapped him tightly in cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.” (Luke 2:6–7, CSB) Joseph carried out the command of the angel. When the child was born, Jesus named him Jesus, “the Lord saves.” Thus was the ages-old promise fulfilled and there was set in motion at last God’s plan to live out righteousness for us and to die our death for us, so that we sinners might be saved. Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and shall be forevermore. AMEN