Friday

"But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, 'Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins'." (vv. 20-21)

Matthew 1:18-24 Friday 18 December 2015

Psalm: Psalm 61

Background

Imagine the awkward questions Matthew had to ask to get hisfacts straight on this one! In those days, engagement or betrothalwas a serious business, binding for a whole year before themarriage was celebrated and consummated. It was breakable only bydeath or divorce. On learning of Mary's pregnancy, Joseph decidednot to put her through the ordeal of public trial and shame,seeking instead a private arrangement. But then he encountered amessenger of God in a dream.

What's in a name? The Bible clearly thinks names are important,especially when given by God. First, Joseph is addressed by theangel as "son of David" - emphasising his royal lineage (Joseph wasa descendent of King David). Jesus may not be related to thisfamily by blood but when Joseph names the child, as he is commandedto, he acknowledges Jesus as his son, and therefore a rightfulheir. And then there's the name of Jesus which means 'Yahweh issalvation' or 'God to the rescue'. Jesus shares the same name asJoshua ('Jesus' is the Greek version of the popular Hebrew name)who led God's people violently and victoriously into the PromisedLand. Matthew, however, subtly clarifies that Jesus is not 'that'kind of Messiah. He will save his people 'from their sins'. Justwhat this means will be explored in the rest of Matthew's Gospel.And there is another important name, a name prophesied in Isaiah 7:14:Emmanuel (or Immanuel) meaning 'God is with us'.

The word translated 'birth' in verse 18 is 'genesis'. This maytake our thoughts back to the creation story. We may think that, asGod 'intervened' to create Adam and Eve, here God 'intervenes'again in the miracle of the virgin birth. Stanley Hauerwas, afamous theologian, said, "God does not need to intervene increation, because God has never been absent fromcreation." God is with us. If God had everbeen absent, even for a second, surely the universe would havecollapsed into oblivion. And the genealogy of Jesus reminded usthat, throughout history, God is with us and at work in a veryspecial way.

In the person of Jesus, however, God is with us in a new andunique way - found as one of us. And so the presence of the Lordsaturates this story from the beginning of creation to its ultimatesalvation, but here we see wonderfully how at one brief moment itrested on a knife-edge, relying on the obedience of a righteous manand the potential of an unborn child.
 

To Ponder

  • For Jesus to live, die and rise again, he also needed to beborn and brought up. How easy is it to underestimate the role ofJoseph and Mary in the story of faith?
  • What does it mean for you that Jesus 'will save his people fromtheir sins'?
  • Jesus' birth was clearly a miracle, but in many ways so wasyours. Today, look out for the presence of God in every humanlife.
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