Christmas is for Keeping Promises (Matthew 1)



December, and the months before are a time of waiting​ ​for​ ​Christmas. ​​Quick vote with hands:​ ​

–       How​ ​many​ ​you​ ​can’t​ ​stand​ ​to​ ​wait​ ​on​ ​Christmas?

–       How​ ​many​ ​of​ ​you​ ​as​ ​kids​ ​feel​ ​like​ ​it​ takes​ ​Christmas for-ev-er to arrive?!?​ ​

–       How​ ​many​ ​of you​ ​secretly​ ​unwrapped​ ​and​ ​rewrapped​ ​your​ ​presents? 😊

–       How many of you research your Amazon account history to see what gifts your spouse may have ordered for you? 😊

Just as children can be bad at waiting for Christmas, so are adults. As soon as the season changes from summer and the calendar hits September, Christmas advertising and shopping activity begins. Christmas consumerism has inched ahead earlier and earlier each few years. It used to be after Thanksgiving, then the week before Thanksgiving, then right after Halloween, and now they don’t even wait. We move from swimsuit season to pumpkin spice to peppermint mocha in the blink of an eye. Hardly anyone likes to wait for Christmas.

Yet, for some of us, you’re not eager for Christmas tensil and trees, or all the extra friendly parties and family gatherings. The holiday season can have a dark side, and not just because of the new Star Wars movie coming out. For some, the holidays are the hardest time of year because of who is no longer present. And so, waiting is that much more weighty.

Or maybe your waiting isn’t about the holiday season but about other issues of life.

–        Waiting on four daughters and a son to learn how to cleanup after themselves, do laundry, and earn extra income.

–        Waiting on a doctor’s diagnosis.

–        Waiting on a phone call or email for that desired job.

–        Waiting for that nursery to be filled in spite of previous heartache of miscarriage.

–        Waiting for someone to return home – military, family conflict, etc.

–        Waiting on someone to make better decisions – healthy food choices, maturity, substance abuse, etc.

–        Waiting for a next season of life with different circumstances – even when you don’t know what you’re seeking and hoping, “just different.”

–        OR just plain waiting on God to answer a prayer.

All of us are waiting in some area of our life. Today’s message is meant to encourage you that waiting can be worthwhile and worshipful because God is faithful. We are looking at the reminder that Christmas is for keeping promises in Matthew 1:18-25.

Christmas Messages 2017 - 1


Matthew 1:18-25 (ESV) 18  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. 19  And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20  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. 21  She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22  All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 23  “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). 24  When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25  but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.


Waiting on God’s surprising plan.

–        “the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way”

o   Matthew’s Gospel opens with a long genealogy[1] (vv.1-17). Jesus’s genealogy becomes the link between OT and NT prophecies. The entire birth, life, and death of Jesus is presented as the fulfillment of God’s promise to send Israel’s redeemer and Messiah. Jesus has the title “Christ” – Anointed One in verse 1 and 18, identifying Him as the Messiah.


–        “Mary had been betrothed to Joseph”

o   Betrothal:

  • A Jewish midrash that God took six days to create the world and the successive days He is creating marriage matches.[2] The midrash telling is a priest explains God’s activity in the world to a woman who scoffs at God assuming such a simple task. The next few days she contacts 100 men and women and match-makes. At the end of the week she has men coming to her with black eyes, bloody noses, and bruised shins, and women at her doorstep with frightful tears and a host of trials. The next week at synagogue the woman tells the priest, “There is no God like Jehova!”
  • Betrothal was a legally binding agreement between families for the marriage of a son and daughter. The wedding occasion for the Eastern world was unique.[3] The groom sends a friend of the bridegroom to conduct negotiations with the woman’s parents to establish a dowry for purchase. The reason for a dowry was the family would miss out on the workforce efficiency and required assistance for its loss (cf. Gen 29:18; 1Sam 18:25). So, the man pays for the wedding – – – which, as a father of four daughters I am herby instituting a policy #DowryForDadsOfDaughters!
    After a dowry was agreed upon the wedding couple would enter a betrothal period; stronger than the modern version of being engaged. In fact, to separate from a betrothal agreement would have required a divorce (Mat 1:18; Deut 20:7). During the betrothal time the groom would ensure the woman’s purity and wait for intimacy, and during that time would also go prepare a place for his bride with the assurance that he would return to take her to himself (cf. John 14:2-3). On the night of the wedding procession, both parties would dress as elegantly as they could afford (Rev 21:2). The groom would come to the house of the bride and together they’d march through the neighborhood celebrating with music and dancing and joy. Friends would come along to help light the path at night (cf. Mat 25:1-13). The wedding feast would last an entire week with guests coming and going. Again, the groom was financially responsible to host a huge feast of food and wine for the community (Mat 22:1-13). In return, the community dressed in wedding garments brought gifts to help offset the costs and to help the new couple get started establishing their family.


o   God’s plan to choose a carpenter and peasant girl to birth the Messiah – the King / the God-Man – was surprising. Why Joseph or Mary? The answer is simply because God chooses the least likely in this world so that our faith doesn’t rest in humanity but in Him.

  • 1Cor 1:27-29 “But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things… so that no one may boast before him”


è Christmas shows us the surprise that God cares even for those on the ‘naughty list’ or whom have nothing to boast (cf. 1Tim 1:15). Christmas shows us that we do not find God but He comes to find us.


è Family (marriage) is the fertile soil that God uses to grow greatness, even in spite of earthly dysfunction God can redeem.

–        “before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit”

o   God had to become human because we cannot save ourselves.

o   Jesus is God as the perfect power to provide our salvation.

o   Jesus is man as the perfect representative to do what the first Adam could not at creation in obey God.

o   Jesus was virgin born so not to have a sin nature. 100% God + 100% Human = Infinite & Intimate.

o   Virgin Birth – If you believe God created the world and/or rose from the dead, why not virgin birth? Nothing is impossible with God (Lk 1:37). Matthew emphasizes the virgin birth at least 7x

  • v.16 “Mary, of whom Jesus was born” not Joseph was the Father of Jesus
  • v.18 “before they came together”
  • v. 18 “she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit”
  • v.19 “Joseph was unwilling to put her to shame
  • v.20 Angel to Joseph “that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit”
  • v.23 fulfillment of Isaiah “Behold the virgin shall conceive and bear a son”
  • v.25 “Joseph knew her not until she had given birth to a son”


è Christmas miracles are surprises God brings into your life that if you allow them into your life will bless beyond understanding.


–        “Joseph”

o   Joseph was a just man

o   Joseph was unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce quietly.

o   Joseph considered these things… and an angel appeared.

o   Joseph did as the Lord commanded.

  • Waiting is not passive but active.


è Joseph was surprised by God. We must not get so comfortable in circumstances or predictable in faith that we don’t have room for God’s surprises. God’s surprises are not meant for our distress (fear) but to deepen and develop you. Don’t miss Jesus because you want life to be predictable or comfortable.


o   Tim Keller says, “The message is ‘If Jesus Christ comes into your life, you are going to kiss your stellar reputation goodbye.’ And this is just Matthew 1. When we get to Matthew 2, Joseph will see that having Jesus in his life means not just damage to his social standing but also danger to his very life. What is the application to us? If you want Jesus in your life, it is going to take bravery… When you come to Christ, you must drop your conditions. You have to give up the right to say, ‘I will obey you if . . . I will do this if . . .’ As soon as you say, ‘I will obey you if,’ that is not obedience at all. You are saying: ‘You are my adviser, not my Lord. I will be happy to take your recommendations. And I might even do some of them.’ No. If you want Jesus with you, you have to give up the right to selfdetermination. Selfdenial is an act of rebellion against our latemodern culture of selfassertion. But that is what we are called to. Nothing less.[4]


Waiting on God’s unwavering promise.

–        “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet”

o   “fulfill” in Matthew 15x

o   Quote from Isaiah 7:14. Originally Syrian armies to conquer Israel. Isaiah prophesied to evil King Ahaz a child would be born to a virgin to assure that Israel would not be completely destroyed and David’s line would remain. In other words, no army shall overthrow God’s purposes.

  • Virgin: 1) never intimate 2) young woman yet to be married. The original prophecy came true for the second but no one thought the prophecy would also be true for the first for greater fulfillment.

o   Likewise, the angel was reassuring Joseph that God was faithful to His promises. Though Joseph’s nation and life appeared bleak, God would provide blessing.


è God is active in history and even present. He always keeps promises to sustain His people and save them from despair and darkness.


–        “You shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” “they shall call him Immanuel – God with us”. 

o   The name “Jesus” indicated God’s plan but the name “Immanuel” indicated God’s purpose. Salvation from sins would be the single mission while saturation of His presence among His people would be the eternal vision. Do you understand God’s great intent? The incarnation is an invitation for you to be in a permanent and powerful relationship with God.

o   “By refusing to let Mary and Joseph name their son, the angel was essentially saying something like this: ‘If Jesus is in your life, you’re not his manager—he’s your manager. You don’t name him or tell him who he is—he’s come to tell you who you are.’” (Tim Keller, Hidden Christmas)
o   The story of Joseph and Mary with Jesus shows us that Christmas isn’t about comfort and celebration surrounded by the Yankee Candle smells of “Bubbly Pomegranate,” “Sparkling Cinnamon,” or “Alpine Martini.” Instead, Christmas is the assurance of God’s presence in the midst of life’s pressures and pain. Jesus is in the center of all our hang-ups and hurts, and only by allowing Him into our life can we get through the journey.

  • Psalm​34:18:“The​Lord​is​near​to​the​brokenhearted​and saves​those​who​are​crushed​in​spirit.
  • Psalm​73:28:“as​for​me,​the​nearness of​God​is​my​good,​I​have​made​the​Lord​God​my​refuge.
  • Psalm​145:18:“The Lord​is​near​to​all​who​call​upon​him,​to​all​who​call​upon​him in​truth.



–        Joseph and Mary would live under a misunderstood reputation and somewhat the sentence of death. Mary was perceived as immoral before marriage, worthy of stoning (Deut 22:23-24). Joseph and Mary didn’t get their storybook wedding, their big house and business in a comfortable neighborhood. In fact, if they had received those dreams they most likely would have missed out on Jesus. The same is true for us. In life we can pursue all our plans but miss Jesus. Joseph and Mary whisper softly to us that all our broken desires and dreams are worth the opportunity to have Jesus. Brokenness is the means to wholeness.

–        “called his name Jesus”

à  Salvation is found in the baby… what is a baby step for you to take toward faith?
à  Christmas is centered in Jesus… work to wade through the meanings of celebration, hope and love, and there you will find Him.



[1] The list contains people with conspicuous history and that is precisely the point for who Jesus came to save!


[3] Insights from Fred H. Wight, Manners and Customs of Bible Lands, Chapter 14: Marriage Customs.

[4] Tim Keller, Hidden Christmas, p.56, 58.

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