Christmas 1 Mat 1: 18 - 25
This is the very last sermon that I shall preach, as a Reader, as my next sermon will be as your Deacon.
The first sermon that I preached was in 1968 or 69 to my tutor and fellow trainees.
During my time as a reader I have always thought that the most rewarding period spiritual was the five years that I spent working with the chaplain of a Mental Hospital in Oxfordshire.
For example on some occasion one of the nurses would wheel in to the chapel for the service a lady on a trolley.
When this lady was with us I would always change one of the hymns for her to “All things bright and beautiful”
The joy on her face when we sung this hymn was unbelievable; I would go up to her and talk to her, even thou she was unable to talk, she would smile as to say thank you.
Most Sunday a young lady would come in to the chapel carrying a young baby in one arm and a shopping bag in the other.
During the service she would sit down and get a baby’s bottle out of her bag and start to feed the baby.
Towards the end of the service she would bring her baby up to me for a blessing.
I never did check to see how I stood; blessing a doll, but you could see in her face the great joy the blessing gave her.
It is hard for me to try and explain the joy that I could see in their faces, which I can still remember over fifteen years later.
It is even harder for us to imagine the great joy that The Virgin Mary and Joseph had in their hearts as they looked at the baby Jesus just laying there if front of them on that first Christmas Day two thousand years ago.
They both knew that this was not any child, but God’s Son and the great responsibility that they both had in front of them in bringing Him up and keeping Him safe.
The birth of Jesus Christ was different from any of the other births mentioned in the Bible, as hear we have an account of a birth without a human father, but by the Holy Spirit.
The facts surrounding this miraculous conception are stated with dignity and simplicity in the Gospels.
Mary had been promised in marriage to Joseph, but the wedding had not yet taken place.
Betrothal around the time of Jesus’ birth was a form of engagement, but a great deal more binding than engagements are today, as it could only be broken by a divorce.
Although an engaged couple did not live together until the marriage ceremony, unfaithfulness on the part of the betrothed was treated as adultery and punishable by death.
During the time of her betrothal, the Virgin Mary had become pregnant by the Holy Spirit with God’s Son.
God had sent the angel Gabriel to Mary to explain this great event: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you” (Luke 1:35).
But a cloud of suspicion and scandal hung over Mary as people did not know the truth.
In all of human history there had never been a virgin birth, so when people saw an unwed woman who was pregnant, they came to only one possible explanation.
Even Joseph, did not yet know the true explanation of Mary’s condition.
He might have been angry at his fiancée on two counts: First, her apparent unfaithfulness to him; and second, though innocent, he would almost inevitably be accused of being the father.
His love for Mary and desire for justice led him to decide to break the betrothal by a quiet divorce as he wished to avoid the public disgrace which normally accompanied such an action.
While Joseph was working out a plan to protect Mary and clear himself, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream.
“Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, this greeting was doubtless designed to stir up Joseph’s knowledge of his royal pedigree as he was a descendent of King David, and also to prepare him for the advent of Israel’s long awaited Messiah-King.
The angel told him that he should have no misgivings about marrying Mary as any suspicions concerning her purity were groundless.
As Her pregnancy was at the hand of God, not man.
The angel then told Joseph that Mary would bear a Son and he was to be named JESUS, because he will save His people from their sins.
True to His Name, Jesus did and does save His people from their sins.
This Child of destiny was God Himself, visiting earth to save people from the penalty of sin, from the power of sin, and eventually from the very presence of sin.
As Matthew recorded these events in his Gospel, he realized that a new era had dawned in the history of God’s dealings with the human race, and that the world would never be the same again.
The words of a prophecy about a messiah, long dormant, had now sprung to life.
Isaiah’s prophecy was now to be fulfilled in Mary’s Child:
“All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet”
Matthew claims divine inspiration for the words from Isaiah which the Lord had spoken by the prophet at least 700 years before the birth of Jesus Christ.
The prophecy of Isaiah 7:14 included the foretelling of a unique birth “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son and shall call His name Emmanuel”
Matthew in his Gospel adds the explanation of what the word Emmanuel means which is “God is with us.”
However there is no record of Jesus Christ ever being called “Emmanuel” while on earth; He was always known as “Jesus.”
However, the meaning of the name Jesus implies the presence of God is with us.
As a result of the angel’s intervention, Joseph abandoned his plan to divorce Mary and instead looked after Her and the Baby Jesus.
Two thousand years ago The Virgin Mary and Joseph found great joy in looking after the baby Jesus as they knew that it was God’s Son.
We can not go back in time and join Mary and Joseph but we can still look towards Jesus and find that great joy like they found, and know that God is with us, and will always be with us, and the joy that He gives us is everlasting.