This is Christmas: Jesus (Matthew 1:21)

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A young couple was married for two years when they had their first child. It was a baby boy. They brought the baby home from the hospital and anticipated all the “firsts”. The first snuggle together on the couch with Dad. The first feeding at home with Mom. The first diaper change. The first night in the crib. The first sleepless night at home. You get the idea. The couple’s family and friends kept calling to see when they could stop by to see the newborn baby boy. So the couple decided to have a party to invite guests to their home in celebration of their newborn son.

Plans were set with food preparations, decorations, and a clean house ready to receive guests. People arrived and the young couple greeted everyone. The couple took their guests coats and laid them all on the bed as they had always done. Everyone enjoyed the warm fire place, the background music, the conversation among all the company, and of course the tasty food.

Most everyone knew the baby was sleeping in the bedroom. However, what they did not know, nor the parents remember, that the baby was sleeping on the bed where all the coats had been laid. Unfortunately, while everyone enjoyed the celebrations the infant son was suffocating

Today, while many people enjoy the celebrations and seasonal décor of Christmas, the Son of God is forgotten and stifled. The name of Jesus is censored at Christmas. The One who came to redeem the world is repressed in society. The Savior has become smothered during the season of Christmas.

Today’s message is a reminder of the importance of who Jesus is and why He came – and why we celebrate Christmas. 3 reminders to revive Christmas in Matthew 1

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EXAMINE   This is Christmas: Jesus (Savior) Matthew 1:1-25 (1:21)

The Christmas story is historical.

  • Matthew doesn’t start with “Once upon a time…” or “In a galaxy far far away…” but provides a genealogy for historical accuracy. This actually happened in a set time and place.
    • Matthew 1:1 “The book of genealogy of Jesus Christ”
    • Matthew 1:18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way…”
    • Names: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob… David, Solomon… Joseph, Mary
  • Christianity is not just proverbial principles with good moral ideas to live by…
    • Confucius says
      • Our greatest glory is not in never falling but in rising every time we fall.
      • When Anger rises, think of the consequences.
      • To know what is right and not do it is the worst cowardice.
      • It is better to light one small candle than to curse the darkness.
      • Man who put right number of candles on bday cake for wife is playing with fire. (jk)
    • Buddha
      • There are only two mistakes one can make along the road to truth; not starting and not going all the way.
      • Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without.
      • We are what we think. With our thoughts we make the world.
      • If you light a lamp for somebody, it will also light your own path.
      • When you see light at the end of tunnel, try hard to outrun train. (jk)
    • Religious teachings are somewhat true and somewhat equal in all religions with the religious founder/leader being just a spokesperson. However, it is different with Christianity.
    • Christianity is more than Jesus’ teachings, it is His actual life – and death & resurrection. Jesus’ teachings do not make sense apart from His identity as God and His life as a substitutionary sacrifice for righteousness. Christianity is not just good advice but it is good news; it’s an event that happened with impact on real life.
      • Christianity is not us living for God but that Christ lived for us.
      • Our world does not need more religious teaching/teacher but it needs good news.
      • C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity: “There has been no lack of good advice for the last 4000 years. A bit more would not have made a difference… We never have followed the advice of the great teachers. Why would we be likely to begin now? Why would we be more likely to follow Christ than any of the others? Because He is the best moral teacher? That makes it even less likely that we shall follow Him. If we cannot take the elementary lessons, is it likely we are going to take the most advanced ones? If Christianity only means one more bit of good advice, then Christianity is of no importance.”
  • The challenge: good news is not just to be believed but must be received. You can follow all the morals and religious rules but still not be a true Christian. A Christian is one who has repented of sin and is in a relationship with Jesus Christ.
    • Religion may read the Bible but Relationship with Jesus lets the Bible read you.
      • Communication with God (prayer)
      • Change and transformation by God (spiritual growth / sanctification)

The Christmas story is theological.

Matthew’s opening statement announces the central figure of His Gospel with the genealogical record of Jesus Christ, with each successive generation leading toward His birth (Matt 1:1; 1:16-17). “The Evangelists are primarily writing a Christological story.”[1]

In the title verse Matthew lists three designations attached to Jesus’ name. “Matthew’s names for Jesus present him as the fulfillment of the hopes and prophecies of Israel…”[4] He is the one who’s birth and life will be worshipped by magi (2:11) and whom none are worthy (3:11).

  • The first name is “Christ”, listed four times in the first eighteen verses (vv. 1, 16, 17, 18), which means anointed one, and is the Hebrew title for the Messiah.
  • The second name is “son of David”. The line of David links Jesus to God’s royal promise to David for the throne (2Sam 7:12)
  • The third name is “son of Abraham”. The line of Abraham links him to the great patriarch of the people of God.

Matthew 1:17 shows the genealogy is categorized into 6 sets of 7 generations with Jesus starting the 7th set of the 7th generation.[2] The #7 often symbolizes completion. Therefore, Jesus’ birth is marking the completion of one era and the beginning of a new era in human history (cf. Mat 28:20 “until the end of the age”).[3]

Matthew shows that Mary was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. The Christ child was not born naturally but supernaturally. It is important to note that the virgin birth does not require Mary’s “immaculate conception” (Mary protected from original sin and therefore being sinless to become the mother of God). The Bible only speaks to Jesus’ birth, not Mary’s (Matt 1:18, 20). Anything else is speculation. Besides two additional replies: 1) If Mary was protected, what about her mother… and her mother… etc.? The removal of sin’s stain would have to go back endlessly, resulting in no need of a Savior (cf. Lk 1:47 Mary says Jesus is her Savior; she needed saving from her sin!). 2) God is capable and competent enough to create a sinless birth without having to alter Mary’s sin nature. This support’s Mary’s own testimony when she questions, “How will this be, since I am a virgin” with the angel’s response, “For nothing will be impossible with God” (Luke 1:34, 37).

Matthew further shows the birth of Jesus as fulfillment of God’s promises. He quotes Isaiah 7:14 of the virgin birth to a son who shall be called Immanuel, and Israel’s Messianic Redeemer. Matthew quotes the Old Testament more than any other Gospel author (~99x), and references the fulfillment of Scripture over fifteen times. Matthew believed it was important for his audience to understand God keeps His promises. New believers can be encouraged to persevere in faith and to trust God’s Word because of His faithfulness to fulfill Old Testament promises in the New Testament.

  • Theology (study of God) matters because the mind and heart matter. Our thoughts and affections are real. Therefore, whatever our thinking about what is true and whatever our heart prioritizes, loves, and treasures supremely reveals our god.
  • Christmas is the fulfillment of God’s promises over countless centuries, since the beginning of creation (Gen 3:15; Gal 4:4). For many years God’s people worked and worshiped in evil ways and waited for their redeemer. Even at Jesus’ birth, Israel was under the evil empire Rome thinking that God had forgotten His promises. How does this apply to your life? It means that you may be enduring a long extended season of dryness, depression, desperation, or darkness but God still cares and will complete His work. God’s past faithfulness can give you hope to trust in His future fulfillment. à God wins.

 

  • The Christmas story is theological, revealing something profoundly true and deeply meaningful in all of life. The Christmas season feels almost nostalgic, magical and mysterious because it is reflective of our created being and our Creator’s sovereign purpose for mankind. The Christmas spirit is tangible. God did not stay a Spirit but became man. The spiritual relates to the physical and demands our response.
    • Mary’s response,
      • “How will this be?” (Luke 1:34)
      • “Mary treasured up all these things pondering them in her heart” (Luke 2:19)
    • Joseph’s response
      • Obedience: “Joseph considered these things… and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, he took his wife” (Matt 1:19, 24)
    • à Shall we not also reflect and respond?

The Christmas story is relatable.

Matthew’s genealogical list is not inconsequential. It shows the principle that people matter. There are over forty-nine people referenced. Interestingly, there are many suspect characters in this list, not to mention five women which would have been unusual in Jewish genealogies. “If one searched the Old Testament for a more unlikely group of candidates for a messianic lineage, it is doubtful one could come up with a more questionable group.”[5]

Genealogies were like a resume to document a person’s proper or noble descent.[6] But Jesus’ is poignant.

Women

Tamar was a Canaanite who practiced immoral & deceptive behavior (Mat 1:3; Gen 38)

Rahab was a Jericho harlot (Mat 1:5; Josh 2)

Ruth was a Moabite widow (Mat 1:5; Ruth)

Bathsheba was wife of Uriah the Hittite and an adulterer (Mat 1:6; 2Sam 11)

Men

Abraham, Jacob (often lied)

David (adulterer, murderer)

Jesus’ genealogy points to the type of Messiah and Savior He would be. He would be a savior for sinners, for the unlikely, the unwelcome, the downtrodden, the outcasts, and the oppressed.

  • Jesus is a Savior for you, no matter your background and resume.
  • Jesus is a Savior for those you think are either uninterested or unwanted… try… test it by sharing your testimony. See what God can do.
  • Christians are called to “do the unexpected for the undeserving and watch God do the unbelievable.” (Charles Swindoll)

And last, one cannot help but reflect on the faith that was passed to successive generations over the many years. This should remind the church that spiritual legacy in the home is crucial for disciple-making. “Our own families are the nearest mission field.”[7] Just as a family unit would be the recipient of the Son of God, so the family is to grow together to pass on faith to future generations.

  • Christmas is for family… and growing godly generations.
    • à What is an action you can start as a family to put Christ in Christmas?
      • more than trees & lights & dinner reservations…
      • measure through lens of eternal value…
      • See the Gift, Savor the Giver, Share the Grace
        • like a child fascinated with an unwrapped box… open the gift!
      • à How will you emphasize and deepen the relevance of Christ this Christmas?

APPLY/THINK

Matthew 1:21 “you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

I first met Danielle, sorta, in a 10th grade geometry class. We never really talked or interacted but I knew who she was. At that time I was not particularly interested in school. Geometry didn’t seem like something I was going to need for my future (sports & food was about all I needed). Further, our teacher was not really interested in teaching us very much. He seemed to joke and goof off more than the students. He had a special “coffee” cup that looking back I’m not so sure was filled with coffee. He flirted with the cute girls. He let the smart girls take quizzes and tests for the jocks.

My only hope for passing geometry was to be graded on the curve. I banked on the majority of the class failing the assignments so that the teacher would grade easier with a curve. All students benefit when everyone does poorly. The problem was there was generally at least one student who achieved an A. This student challenged the curve. Their success revealed everyone else’s failure. Guess which student Danielle was 🙂

Life is a lot like the curve. We tend to compare and contrast ourselves with everyone else and think that somehow God will grade on the curve. The problem is that Jesus showed up. His righteousness reveals our sinfulness.

The good news is that Jesus is not just the perfect standard but He is also the perfect Savior.

Will you allow the Christmas story to become your story?

– – – – – – – – – – – – –  — – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

[1] Michael J. Wilkins, Following the Master: A Biblical Theology of Discipleship (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992), 176.

[2] Matthew’s list is deliberately discerning of names included and excluded to make his theological point of Jesus’ identity as the climactic fulfillment of God’s work. Further on the #7: God rested on 7th day of creation; Land was to rest every 7th year and the 7th of 7 years was a year of Jubilee to free slaves and forgive debts (Lev 25). Therefore, Matthew is saying that Jesus’ birth marks a life of jubilee for freedom and forgiveness.

[3] David Wenham & Steve Walton, Exploring the New Testament: A Guide to the Gospels & Acts, Vol 1 (Downers Grove, MI: IVP, 2001), 211.

[4] Blomberg, Craig L., Matthew, vol 22 of The New American Commentary, (Nashville: Broadman, 1992), 53.

[5] Mounce, Robert H, Matthew, vol. 1 of New International Biblical Commentary, (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1991), 8.

[6] Craig S. Keener, The Bible Background Commentary NT, 46.

[7] Michael Horton, The Gospel Commission: Recovering God’s Strategy for Making Disciples (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2011), 182.

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