How would you solve the problems of the world? If you had all the wealth and resources and power that you would need - how would you do it? Would you educate people better? Give everyone enough food? Give everyone more money? Would you enforce the law more strictly? I think if we are honest with each other, we could readily acknowledge that most of our solutions would probably fall short in the long run. How did God decide that He would solve the problems of the world? Matthew 1:18 gives us a hint: "This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about."
God's plan to save the world is to send His Son to earth to be born as a baby.
One of the key phrases in Matthew 1:18-25 is in 1:23, "The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him 'Immanuel' (which means 'God with us')."
There are 5 questions we can ask of this verse: 1) How is "God with us"? 2) Why is "God with us"? 3) Who is "God with us"? 4) When is "God with us"? and 5) What will be our response to "God with us"?
Matthew 1:18-20 tells us the "how" of the Christmas story. Joseph was pledged to be married to a young woman who later, to his shock is found to be pregnant! We discover that Joseph is a righteous man and faithful to the Law. Since they have not yet consummated their relationship, Joseph's only logical conclusion is that Mary has been unfaithful to him and he plans to divorce her quietly.
An angel of the Lord appears to him in a dream and tells him that "what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit." It is only through the supernatural working of the Holy Spirit that Jesus could be fully God and fully human. The virgin birth is as unique as the resurrection and this is a powerful truth claim: it could only have been accomplished by the power of God. Both defy purely human reasoning or logic.
Why is "God with us"? The miracle of the incarnation is that "the Word became flesh and dwelt among us." (John 1:14) He became one of us, so that we could see and hear and understand God and know that He sees and and hears and understands us.
But "God with us" was also a promise. From the moment of the fall in the garden of Eden, God had a plan to rescue us from the power of sin and death and restore us to the perfect relationship we had with God and with each other in Eden. Throughout the Old Testament, God put signs and road markers to point the way to the Messiah.
In the birth of Christ, two important signs of the Messiah were fulfilled. The first is from Isaiah 7:14, "the virgin will conceive and give birth to a son..." and the second is that the Messiah would be an heir to the throne of David. Joseph's naming of Mary's baby constituted an acknowledgment that, by God's will and act, the boy is legally his son even though not biologically.
Who is "God with us"? In this passage, two names are given to Joseph regarding the baby. First, Joseph is to name the baby Jesus. The name Jesus stems from "Joshua" which is a short form of "Yahweh is salvation." The second name is Immanuel. The name "Jesus" specifies what He does (saves His people from their sins), "Immanuel" specifies who He is (God with us). Jesus is the Messiah and Savior who is God in the flesh with us.
When is "God with us?" In Matthew 28:20 Jesus tells his disciples "I am with you always, to the very end of the age." When the Word became flesh, God was literally with us. But even after His death and resurrection, He continues to be "God with us," in our good times, in our bad times and all the times in-between. How would your life be different if you began and ended each day with the firm belief that God is with you?
This Christmas, what will be your response to "God with us"? Joseph's response was to believe God, to take Mary immediately into his home, violating custom rather than waiting for the one-year time period of betrothal had passed. Will you believe God today and allow Christ to take residence in your heart? Will you make space for Him in your thoughts and schedule this season?
Will you spend intentional time with others in Jesus' name this season bringing HOPE (Helping Others Prepare for Eternity)?
This Christmas spend some time really reflecting on the how, why, who, and when of "God with us." Ask yourself, "What will be my response?"
We here at SF Evangelical Free Church wish you a very Merry Christmas!