St. Matthew 1:18-25
December 22, 2013
Grace, mercy and peace be unto you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ! AMEN! Our text for this morning’s sermon is taken from St. Matthew’s gospel account the first chapter.
A. The Genesis of Jesus
Beloved in the Lord,
When our parents lost Eden through the consumption of the fruit of the tree all humanity lost God. No longer was He able to be with us as He desired. No longer could He share Himself with those whom He loved. Now under the cover of animal skins humanity must hide its nakedness. Blood must be shed for the forgiveness of sins. Man must stand at a distance from the Lord. As David says, “Who may ascend the hill of the Lord, who may stand in His Holy Place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart.” Such a one was not found among men born of Adam. For in Adam’s sin came Adam’s image to Adam’s children.
St. Matthew records the genealogy of Jesus. All 21 generations were Adam’s children bearing Adam’s image. All were fallen and separated from God. Each passing the stain of original sin from father to son. Each begetting the next in the image of Adam their forefather. Yet the Lord, through Matthew’s gospel would have the world believe that one of David’s descendants, one from the line of Abraham, would come and be the Savior of the World. For Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus who is called the Christ. This Son is different. He is not begotten of Joseph. Though Joseph was His legal father, Joseph did not beget Him. The stain was not passed on to Jesus. Jesus’ was different.
For while Mary His mother was betrothed to Joseph and before they came together, before they lived together, before Joseph took his bride unto himself to know her as one flesh, Mary was found to be with child. Now this child was no bastard, as the Jews to this day claim. He was not the fruit of an immoral union with a Roman soldier. Certainly not! Unlike the majority of young ladies these days, Mary feared God and she was pure. She was a virgin and fully intended to be a virgin until the evening of her nuptials. This child within her womb was flesh of her flesh and bone of her bone, but He was not begotten of man. For St. Matthew tells us that the child within her is of the Holy Spirit! And with such a holy conception the chain of sin was broken. Jesus was not in Adam’s image, though he was Adam’s Son! Jesus was without sin, begotten of the Father, conceived by the Holy Spirit, and born of the virgin Mary.
B. Righteous Joseph’s unbelieving Heart
But who would believe such an amazing story. A Virgin conceiving without a man! Joseph didn’t believe it. He was a righteous man and he loved Mary. Unlike many young men these days, he feared God and didn’t live with her before hand. He didn’t pressure her to prove her love to him. He was a righteous man and he treasured the honor of his bride-to-be. But now her pregnancy was the worst thing that could’ve happened to him, while at the same time it was the greatest thing that could’ve happened to him. From the eyes of the flesh Mary was an adulteress. And the last thing on Joseph’s mind was Isaiah’s oracle. Who would think that a prophecy some 700 years earlier would now be fulfilled right then and there in the little town of Nazareth? Joseph couldn’t marry her. The child wasn’t his! He also couldn’t bring himself to make a public spectacle of her. He loved her. He therefore had in mind to divorce her quietly. Divorcing her quietly removes any doubt of his role in her pregnancy. It also removes Jesus from the legal lineage of David.
We cannot fault Joseph for viewing the events at hand through the eyes of the flesh. Fallen humanity, without the light of God’s Word, can only see things through fallen eyes, observing and making every attempt to understand through fallen reason. We want God to make sense. We want the world around us to make sense. We want everything to be reasoned out, rational, understood by our human capacities. That’s why the world hates Christmas. For it believes neither in Christ nor in the Mass. Christmas is full of miracles, of things that don’t make sense, of God acting in ways that we humans would never expect Him to act. A virgin conceiving without a man! Even some who claim the name Christian, albeit falsely, believe Jesus was conceived by a sexual union of the Father with Mary – that’s what Mormons believe!
The truth is fallen humanity cannot grasp the things of God. When we attempt to have everything make sense before we believe, we put the cart before the horse. Therefore, Baptismal water is just water, it has no power to save. Communion is just bread and wine, there is no body and blood. The office of the ministry is just a hierarchical office in the church, pastors don’t really forgive sins. For the eyes of the flesh only see the outward things and cannot fathom the depths of the riches of the glory of God.
Joseph can only see Mary’s pregnancy through the usual order of things. Too many Christians these days only look at things with the eyes of the flesh and the fallen reason of their minds. They lack faith in the power of God who created them, the God of the heavens and the earth and all therein! For, when faith follows understanding, faith then has nothing to grasp.
C. You will give Him the Name Jesus – He will Save His People
Faith must have an object. The soul must trust something, be it what it sees, hears or understands. The heart must have its god. Joseph trusted his understanding. Ahaz, despised the Word of God. But Mary, on the other hand, surrendered her reason and held the Lord’s Word firm in her heart, even as He grew in her womb.
Because Joseph had in mind to divorce her quietly and follow the understanding of his mind, God intervened. And how does the Lord intervene in the happenings of men? He brings to them His Word. An angel of the Lord came to Joseph in a Dream echoing the prophet Isaiah. “Behold a virgin shall be with child and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel, God with us.” “And you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”
God gives Joseph a Word – a prophetic word fulfilled. Without this Word Joseph has nothing to grasp, his faith has nothing to cling to. But the Word given Him is the Word of Isaiah and the Word made flesh. This child is not like other children. He is without sin. He is without blemish, without spot or stain. He is conceived by the Holy Spirit! Does this word make sense to Joseph? No! But He believes it nonetheless. He believes it because He is righteous man. He is man of faith and faith must have an object. The soul must have something to trust, the heart must have its God. Therefore Joseph’s faith seizes the Word! The Word of the Angel, the Word of Isaiah, the Word made flesh. For within Mary dwells the One who will come and save Israel and the entire world from sin.
This child, and this child alone has clean hands and a pure heart. He will not lift up His hands to idol, but stretch them out on the cross. He will not swear deceitfully, but promise eternal life to all who believe on His Name. His Name will be Jesus, for He will save His people, all who call on His Name, from their sins. He will suffer and die and rise again. He will fulfill the promise made to Eve and crush the serpent’s head. David’s house will be established forever and ever and ever as He reigns from His throne and distributes gifts to His people, gifts of mercy, forgiveness, life and salvation!
B’. Joseph’s Faith seizes the Word
This Word, this Word made flesh shall be the object of faith! With this child Joseph’s faith has its object, his soul can trust in Him, His heart has its God! And He is for you as well, for you and for all the world. With Mary and Joseph and all the saints, let your fallen reason bow before the mystery of God’s Word. Arouse your weary eyes and behold the Word of our God with faith. Let your understanding follow your faith. Believe now that you may understand later. Let your heart be captive to the Word of God and receive the gifts He has to give you. Recall your baptism – these holy waters washed you of your sins. Feast on His Supper – the body and blood are there for you and the forgiveness of your sins. Cling to the pastor’s Word of absolution – it is the very voice of Christ’s mercy in your ears. These are holy things as your God comes among you, to be Emmanuel for you, to save you from your sins. These deliver Mary’s Son into your heart, if you receive them in faith.
Through these things the blessings of Eden are given to a people dwelling in the wasteland of this fallen world. The God of Creation shares His holiness with you whom He loves. He is with you from age to age, from baptism to the gates of eternity whereupon His sainted children enter again the promised land of Eden forever and ever!
A’. The Name above all Names
Beloved in the Lord, the world hates Christmas, because it cannot see with faith. Your eyes have been quickened by the Word of our God. Mary’s Child is not like other children, though he is flesh of our flesh and bone of our bone. His conception breaks the line of Adam’s image and restores humanity to God’s image. Those who believe this Word of God are recreated, reborn in Christ Jesus. Sin has no power, death has no claim on those whose faith apprehends the Name above all names. Therefore, like righteous Joseph, do not be afraid to take unto yourself this Holy Word, to claim Him as your own, to love and cherish Him as your God. Amen!
The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding keep your heart and minds through faith in Christ Jesus. AMEN!