by Brandt Lyon
“Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.” Matthew 1:18-25 (ESV)
I was confronted with a problem this morning: The daughter of a church member posted something on social media that she shouldn’t have posted, and I was the person who caught it. I had to contact her mother to tell her. In those situations, I always feel in some ways that I am meddling or going to cause this young lady not to trust me as her pastor. On the other hand, I want her to know that there is something out there that is so much greater than the world.
You see the post proved to me that she was searching for something. It might have been love of acceptance, or maybe just attention. I wanted so badly to ask her, “Don’t you know that you are already loved and accepted far more than anyone else could ever love you? Don’t you know that God’s love for you is so immense that there is no need to look so hard for it in the world?”
The Promise of Love
And that is what Christmas is about. Christmas is about a tremendous promise being fulfilled from God. It tells us of a God who loves those who, because of sin, are broken, hurting, and feel rejected and unloved. We have real hope because of God’s great love for us. Jesus came to save sinners like us.
Matthew 1:18-25 demonstrates this well. This story tells us that Jesus was born to a woman who was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. We call it a virgin birth. She was betrothed, but not yet married. What a precarious position to find herself in! Can you imagine the fear of telling Joseph? Can you imagine the fear that she felt knowing her friends and family would soon find out? Think about Mary being afraid of the people in her synagogue finding out the news, for they soon would.
So why does God bring about His plan this way? Because it is imperative that the child be born of a virgin. Verse 23 quotes the prophecy from Isaiah 7:14 that says the child will be born of a virgin. This specific situation is God’s way of showing that His promise is true. It is also His way of showing that this child is not just another child. He is a child who is given by the Holy Spirit, not born like the rest of us. He is a child that is fully God and fully human. If he were just placed here with no parents he would be fully God, but not fully human. If he were born of a mother and a father he would be fully human, but not fully God. The virgin birth proclaims this child is both, and it will take both natures for this child to grow up and become the perfect sacrifice to take away the sins of his people, therefore reversing the curse. We are to have the faith to believe that this child, as evidenced by the virgin birth, is God’s own Son who shows that God so loved the world!
The Faith to Follow
So, what would you do if you were Joseph? Would you do what Joseph wanted to do, and put her away quietly? Would you walk away from such difficult circumstances? Verse 20 states Joseph was visited by an angel in a dream who brought clarity to a confused situation. But even after Joseph realized the child was from the Holy Spirit, the difficulties didn’t subside. If anything, it made the decision more difficult. Now he knew the truth, but who else would believe him? Would he be seen as a scoundrel? Or worse, would he be seen as a fool? Joseph, however, ends up deciding that God is good and faithful and follows his plan.
That is the essence of true faith. Not that we simply believe that Jesus is the son of God, but that we trust and follow Him. True faith will always bear itself out in action. Joseph acted upon his faith in spite of the way it might have been perceived by others. He chose to walk in the perfect plan and trust the outcome to the God who is always good.
Real faith believes that God’s plan is always best because God is always loving and always good.
In the end, Joseph follows the plan of God right down to the naming of Jesus. It literally means “savior” or “deliverer”. His name is proof of what God will do through this child. Joseph naming the child “Jesus” shows that he believed the plan of God and he knew who this child would be: the hope of the world. He would bring salvation to his people. He would be the hope to a world of sin.
Maybe you struggle sometimes too. We all struggle from time to time whether to trust the plan of God or to trust in what the world says we should be. The answer is always clear when we look at the story of the incarnate Christ who came into this world: God loves us so much that he came to save us. He reached out to us when we could not reach out to him. Our only job is to trust Him and to walk with him in faith. And He most certainly is worthy of our trust.
For further reading: Philippians 2:1-11, Isaiah 7:10-17, John 1:14-18, Colossians 1:15-23
Family Connection: After reading the Scripture with your kids, discuss these questions:
What does the name “Jesus” mean and why is it important? (The name means “salvation” or “deliverer”. It is important because God is sending Jesus to save His people from their sin.)
How is the child conceived? (By the Holy Spirit. The child is the fully God and fully man.)
Why is it important that Joseph be obedient to what he has heard from the angel? (The angel is sent by God. Being obedient to the angel is being obedient to the will of God. True faith is always seen in obedience to God’s plan.)