There was no audio recording of the sermon on Sunday December 23..but the text for the message is below. Take some time and read the message from Susan Evans in our 4th week in our Journey through Matthew series.
Good morning on this 4th Sunday of Advent! Today we will be looking at the birth of Jesus, as found in Matthew 1:18-25, with some additional details from the gospel of Luke. I have divided our scripture into four parts, and each part will have a scripture reading, a reflection, and a Christmas carol.
Matthew 1:18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit.
Luke 1: 26-38 Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming in, he said to her,
“Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.”
But she was very perplexed at this statement, and kept pondering what kind of salutation this was. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.”
(We saw last week how the genealogy of Jesus traces back to King David!)
Mary said to the angel,
“How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel answered and said to her,
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God. And behold, even your relative Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age; and she who was called barren is now in her sixth month. “For nothing will be impossible with God.” And Mary said,
“Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.
Reflection: There were 2 miraculous births at that time, weren’t there! Luke gives a lot of details about both, but Matthew doesn’t talk about John the Baptizer until chapter 3, when John appears as a full grown man beginning his ministry.
An angel appeared to announce both births. As we read, Gabriel appears to Mary (and an angel appears in a dream to Joseph, as we’ll see soon), and earlier in Luke 1 Gabriel appears to John’s father Zechariah, and gives a long prophetic message about John.
Both of the announcements were received with surprise and confusion, and Mary asks, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” And the angel explains (sort of) “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.” And Mary responds in faith, ‘Behold the bond servant of the Lord, be it done to me according to your word.” But Zechariah’s question, found in Luke 1:18, was different, he asked, “How shall I know this? For my wife and I are both elderly.” His question was more along the lines of, ‘I don’t believe you, prove it’! We know that he didn’t believe the angel Gabriel, because of Gabriel’s response. (v. 19-20) “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. And behold, you shall be silent and unable to speak until the day when these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their proper time.” And Zechariah was mute until the baby was born, remember
I pray that we can be like Mary, and respond to the Good News with faith, even as we ask questions about how God’s plan is going to come about.
Song: O Come All Ye Faithful
Matthew 1:19-20 And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly. But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”
Reflection and Song: A Social Network Christmas
The name the angel proclaimed for is Jesus, from the Hebrew Y’eshua, means “God is salvation.” A couple of weeks ago, in Ryan’s sermon from Isaiah 7, as quoted here, we learned another name for Jesus
Matthew 1:22-23 Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “BEHOLD, THE VIRGIN SHALL BE WITH CHILD AND SHALL BEAR A SON, AND THEY SHALL CALL HIS NAME IMMANUEL,” which translated means, “GOD WITH US.”
“God with us” in a new and special way, through the incarnation, as the only begotten Son of God: one of us and yet still fully God. We are going to sing Hark the Herald Angels Sing in a moment, specifically because of the lines:
‘Veiled in flesh, the Godhead see; Hail, th'incarnate Deity: Pleased as man with men to dwell, Jesus our Immanuel…”
I like to think of the incarnation as it says in John 1:14, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as the only Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” Or as the Message says, “The Word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood.” God with us
I’ve been thinking a lot about the incarnation, why it is important and what it means. I read a lot of scripture and blog posts, and listened to a sermon by John Piper that informed my thinking, and here are some of my conclusions.
Clearly, the incarnation is important because of Jesus: his unique birth, his sinless life, his selfless death and miraculous resurrection. Jesus was given to us by God because of God’s love for us and through Jesus God made a way for us to be adopted as children, as heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, (John 1:12, Romans 8:17). Because Jesus is the sacrifice for our sins, we can be forgiven and reunited with God (see 1 Peter 3:18 and John 2:2). Jesus is salvation!
That’s why it is important, now as to what it means, “God with us” means that we have life, and that in abundance! (John 10:10 The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy, I came that they may have life and have abundance).
Also, “God with us” means that we have JOY and pleasure:
Philippians 4:4 rejoice in the Lord always and again I say, rejoice!
1 Thessalonians 5:16, rejoice always
Now we can view these as suggestions, or see them as being stronger, as commands even, but either way, the joy comes through being in God’s presence
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
In Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
This joy can manifest despite our circumstances and our emotions, this joy can carry us through the difficult times and allow us to love and serve others even if we aren’t in such great shape ourselves. How do we do this? By abiding!
Let’s open John 15 together (pause) John 15 is a great chapter, we studied it in Community Group as part of our series on the “I AM” statements of Jesus because it starts with Jesus describing Himself as the Vine. He is the Vine and we are the branches. We can find this idea of abiding, obedience, joy, and loving others in verses 9-12:
“Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full. This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.
There is a great example of “God with us” granting Joy and leading to a very practical example of loving and serving others, and the example is the Macedonians found in 2 Corinthians 8.
Paul is writing to the church in Corinth, in southern Greece, about the offering for the poor among the believers in Jerusalem that he received from the Macedonians in Northern Greece. He writes, “And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity.”
Now this one is a tough one! When we are in the midst of a trial, not just a trial, but a severe trial, it is difficult to manifest the joy and pleasure we get from knowing God, but it isn’t impossible. I pray that we also receive the grace from God that allows us to do that very thing, serve others because the Love of God, the joy we have in Him, will allow us to overflow in generosity to others.
What if we haven’t been very good at that? What if our severe trials, our illnesses and our poverty and our selfishness have inhibited our reception of grace, the grace that allows us to worship and serve God and others? Today is a new day, and as we celebrate the birth of Christ, we can ask Him for a new start. We can look to him and be thankful that there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus! (Romans 8:1). We can train ourselves and learn to abide in Christ. Remember, we are not alone, we are loved and God is with us.
Song: Hark the Herald Angels Sing
Matt 1:24-25 And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife, but kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus.
Luke 2:1-7 Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth. This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. And everyone was on his way to register for the census, each to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child. While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
For our last scripture and reflection, we have a video clip of Linus quoting Luke 2:18-24. This is a very familiar scene, but based on some comments on youtube, I learned something new, and the hint is: Keep an eye on the blanket!
May we all celebrate and enjoy the true meaning of Christmas!
Song: Joy to the World
Note: John Piper sermon from April 30, 2017 ‘Treasure God, Magnify Christ, Love People’ On desiringgod.org