Rev. Deacon Allen Batchelder
December 22, 2013 – Advent IV
Isaiah 7:10-16, Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19; Romans 1:1-7, Matthew 1:18-25
From the Prophet Isaiah:
Therefore, the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, a young woman shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
From the Letter of St. Paul to the Romans:
Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures, the gospel concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh, and designated Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, including yourselves who are called to belong to Jesus Christ.
And from the Gospel of St. Matthew:
An angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit; she shall bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
Let us pray:
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in thy sight, O God, our Rock and our Redeemer, our Strength and our Salvation.
A few of you traveled great distances to be here for the Christmas holiday. A time to be with family and friends; a time to share good food and fellowship; and of course to thank God for His most precious gift: His Son Jesus Christ.
When you arrived at the airport and proceeded through the security area, you needed to show some form of identification or credentials before you could proceed.
When you apply for a job, you present to your prospective employer a resume. This gives a summary of your experience; your resume is your credentials for the prospective job. It is also important to check a person’s credentials to make sure they are telling the truth. This is so important that we do this for our politicians.
If a man suddenly appears on the scene and claims to be a king, the public immediately asks for proof. What is his background? Who pays homage to him? What credentials can he present? Anticipating these important questions, Matthew opened his book with a careful account of the birth of Jesus Christ and the events that accompanied it.
Genealogies were very important to the Jews, for without them they could not prove their tribal memberships or their rights to inheritances. Anyone claiming to be “the Son of David” had to be able to prove it. It is generally concluded that Matthew gave our Lord’s family tree through His foster father, Joseph, while Luke gave Mary’s lineage (Luke 3:23ff).
Many Bible readers skip over this list of ancient (and, in some cases, unpronounceable) names. But this “list of names” is a vital part of the Gospel record. It shows that Jesus Christ is a part of history; that all of Jewish history prepared the way for His birth. God in His providence ruled and overruled to accomplish His great purpose in bringing His Son into the world.
This genealogy also illustrates God’s wonderful grace. It is most unusual to find names of women in Jewish genealogies, since names and inheritances came through the fathers. But in this list we find references to four women from Old Testament history: Tamar (Matt. 1:3), Rahab and Ruth (Matt. 1:5), and Bathsheba “the wife of Uriah” (Matt. 1:6).
There were many Jewish men of that day who could trace their family back to King David. It would take more than human pedigree to make Jesus Christ “the Son of David” and heir to David’s throne. This is why the divine heredity was so important.
Matthew made it clear that Jesus Christ’s birth was different from that of any other Jewish boy named in the genealogy. Matthew pointed out that Joseph did not ‘beget” Jesus Christ. Rather, Joseph was the “husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.” Jesus was born of an earthly mother without the need of an earthly father. This is known as the doctrine of the Virgin Birth.
Every child born into the world is a totally new creature. However, Jesus Christ, being eternal God (John 1:1, 14), existed before Mary and Joseph or any of His earthly ancestors. If Jesus Christ was conceived and born just as any other baby, then He could not be God. It was necessary for Him to enter this world through an earthly mother, but not to be begotten by an earthly father. By a miracle of the Holy Spirit, Jesus was conceived in the womb of Mary, a virgin (Luke 1:26-38).
Both Mary and Joseph belonged to the house of David. The Old Testament prophecies indicated that the Messiah would be born of a woman (Gen. 3:15), of the seed of Abraham (Gen. 22:18), through the tribe of Judah (Gen. 49:10), and of the family of David (2 Sam. 7:12-13). Matthew’s genealogy traced the line through Solomon, while Luke’s traced it through Nathan, another of David’s sons. It is worth noting that Jesus Christ is the only Jew alive who can actually prove His claims to the throne of David! All of the other records were destroyed when the Romans took Jerusalem in A.D. 70.
To the Jewish people in that day, betrothal or engagement was equivalent to marriage – except that the man and woman did not live together (not like today). They were called “husband and wife,” and, at the end of the engagement period, the marriage was consummated. If a betrothed woman became pregnant, it was considered adultery. But Joseph did not punish or divorce Mary when he discovered she was with child, for the Lord had revealed the truth to him. All of this fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah (Isa. 7:14).
Let’s take a moment and look at the three names assigned to God’s Son. The name Jesus means “Saviour” and comes from the Hebrew name, Joshua, which means “Jehovah is salvation.” Jesus was also called “Jesus the Christ.” The word Christ means “anointed”; it is the Greek equivalent of Messiah. He is “Jesus the Messiah.” Jesus is His human name; Christ is His official title; and Immanuel describes who He is – “God with us.” Jesus Christ is God!
The King, then, was a Jewish male who is also the divine Son of God. Was He worthy of worship? Was he really both God and man? Did anybody acknowledge His Kingship? Yes, because He was born with a divine nature. He was born a child, but He was also born the Son of God with power and authority. The magi from the East got it right and they came and worshiped Him.
Have you ever noticed that St. Paul always begins his letters with something like: “Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ…” In ancient days, the writer of a letter always opened with his name. But there would be many men named Paul in that day, so the writer had to further identify himself and convince the readers that he had a right to send the letter. What were Paul’s credentials?
The word Paul used for servant would be meaningful to the Romans, because it is the
word slave. There were an estimated 60 million slaves in the Roman Empire; and a slave was looked on as a piece of property, not a person. In loving devotion, Paul had enslaved himself to Christ, to be his servant and obey His will.
Paul was an apostle, which means “one who is sent by authority with a commission.” It was applied in that day to the representatives of the emperor or the emissaries of a king. One of the requirements for an apostle was the experience of seeing the risen Christ (1 Cor. 9:1-2). Paul saw Christ when he was on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-9), and it was then that Christ called him to be His apostle to the Gentiles. Paul received from Christ divine revelations that he was to share with the churches.
When Paul was a Jewish rabbi, a Pharisee, he was committed to the laws and traditions of the Jews. But when he yielded to Christ, he was committed to the Gospel and its ministry. He was to preach and spread the Good News of Jesus Christ. It is the message that Christ died for our sins, was buried and rose again, and now is able to save all who trust Him (1 Cor. 15:1-4). It is “the Gospel of God” (Rom. 1:1) because it originates with God; it was not invented by man. It is “the Gospel of Christ” (Rom. 1:16) because it centers in Christ, the Saviour. Paul also calls it “the Gospel of His Son” (Rom. 1:9), which indicates that Jesus Christ is God!
Jesus Christ is the center of the Gospel message. Paul identified Him as a man, a Jew, and the Son of God. He was born of a virgin (Matt. 1:18-25) into the family of David, which gave Him the right to David’s throne. He died for the sins of the world, and then was raised from the dead. It is this miraculous event of substitutionary death and victorious resurrection that constitutes the Gospel; and it was this Gospel that Paul preached.
Jesus Christ became one of us so that He could redeem us. That’s what we celebrate when we talk about Christmas – the child that is born in Bethlehem. You’ll notice that it says, “Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given.” His sonship has to do with His divinity. Jesus Christ’s humanity began two thousand years ago, but His divinity was there from the beginning of eternity.
His redemption is based on a relationship with Him. It’s based on faith. It’s based on trust and that is developed through reading of His Word.
“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. Those who dwell in the land of darkness, on them the light has shined.” (Isa. 9:2) Open your heart to the light – to the Saviour.
There is no Christmas without Christ. And there is no Christ without the cross. There’s no manger scene apart from a crucifix. No Bethlehem without Jerusalem. No Saviour born unless He is born to die. And there is no salvation for sinners like you and me; without Christ crucified.
May we rejoice today with the angels that sang when that great gift of salvation came – when that child was born in Bethlehem and the Son given.
Advent now closes. Christmas is almost here. And now we are prepared to celebrate His birth because we know who He is. We have seen His credentials. He is Jesus Christ. He’s our Saviour from sin. He is our true Christmas joy!
Let us pray:
Purify our conscience, Almighty God, by your daily visitation; that Your Son Jesus Christ, at his coming, may find in us a mansion prepared for himself; who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.