GOD'S MIRACULOUS CHRISTMAS GIFTS TO YOU
Dear Friends in Christ,
The books of the Bible named Matthew, Mark. Luke and John are called the Gospels. They cover the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. During most worship services, we read three readings, one from the Old Testament, one from the Epistles, the last twenty three books of the New Testament, and from one from the Gospels.
The book of Mark was written by John Mark. He once accompanied Paul and Barnabas on the first of three missionary journeys Paul took. John Mark didn’t do so well. He turned back when the heat of opposition turned up. With more Christian maturity he became a valued worker for the Lord. Many believe that Peter used John Mark to write the Gospel. It seems to have been written for non-Jews. Luke was a doctor. He wrote his Gospel, along with the book of Acts, for a man by the name of Theophilus. Theophilus seems to have been a very influential man. The Gospel of John seems to be written for the world anyone and everyone. The Gospel of Matthew was written for Jewish people. Matthew quotes from the Old Testament over sixty times. Jews would have been familiar with the Old Testament. He wanted show how the prophecies about the Messiah to come were fulfilled in Jesus.
Today, just a couple of days before the celebration of Jesus’ birthday, we turn to one of those incredible prophecies as Matthew explains “Four Christmas Miracles that God Gives to Us.
The first is the divine news of Jesus birth and what it means for the people of this earth. Obviously that includes you. Joseph, the foster father of Jesus, had his life shaken to 8.2 on the emotional Richter scale when he found out that the woman whom he wanted to marry was pregnant. He knew he wasn’t the father.
How people got married back then was a whole lot different than the way it happens these days. Romance and courtship did not play much of a role. Most marriages were arranged between the parents of the couple. That doesn’t mean, however, that the bride and groom were simply thrown together to be a loveless match. Directly or indirectly parents heard comments by their children that they had feelings for a certain person of the opposite sex and had potential to be a future son-in-law or daughter-in-law.
What probably happened was that Joseph alerted his parents to the fact that there was a certain village girl that he had an eye for. Joseph and his parents probably discussed the young lady and her family. Then Jacob, the father of Joseph, paid a call on Mary’s parents.
Mary’s parents were probably courteous and acted surprised as they winked at each other. Parents then began negotiation. Marriage was considered a covenant between two families. All was arranged. Joseph and Mary were engaged. But then after some time came the monkey wrench. The bride to be was pregnant.
It is a little difficult to figure out the timing on all this. Luke tells us that the angel Gabriel had appeared to Mary and announced that she would be the mother of the most important baby in the history of the world. The Bible says she went to live with her cousin Elizabeth, who would just so happen to be the mother of John the Baptist, for three months. Admittedly this is my theory, Mary came back and she was pregnant.
Joseph’s life was turned upside down. The Bible says, “Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.” A covenant had been made. It had to be dissolved. Divorce was to take place. He didn’t want to make it so public. He wanted to end it privately. He wasn’t a vindictive man. He was a man of God.
One night, probably a very restless night, he eventually fell asleep. “An angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.”
God gave him some news – good news. God had a different plan in mind. That baby that she was carrying was conceived from the Holy Spirit. Mary was indeed the Virgin Mary. This was miraculously good news. A baby doctor, who makes his living delivering babies and knows all about the process how babies are made, wouldn’t be able to figure this one out. This baby and the way he was conceived was like no other. But then this baby was Christ the Lord.
The Christian faith is a religion of miracles. We don’t apologize for them. That’s how God proves who he is. He does things no mere human being can do. That’s what makes God different from us. Pew research did a poll that stated 51 percent of respondents celebrate Christmas for religious reasons and 32 percent view it as a cultural holiday. Is it because they can’t accept the miracle of “Conception by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary?” That fact proves this baby is more than a cute little kid. The cute little kid is our God in the person of Jesus who came to save. That’s divine news!
Let’s talk about this a little more. Let’s take a little closer look at this divine deed.
Every life is a miracle and God gets the credit. The psalmist writes, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” How sad and despicable it is when people call the killing of a baby in the womb a right. It sure wasn’t for the baby whom the Lord created. How despicable it is when the Lord’s creation is tossed into the trash dumpster.
While the life of any unborn baby is sacred, Jesus’ conception and birth is one of a kind sacred. The apostle Paul calls Jesus God’s “indescribable gift.” He is not toying with exaggerating superlatives or practicing some impressive phraseology by saying he is God’s indescribable gift. The gift of Jesus defies full description and understanding. The Divine became mortal; the Infinite became finite; the Son of God became the Son of man; the Creator became the creature; The Son of the Highest was that “little baby wrapped in strips of cloth lying in a manger.”
I defy you to understand that? I defy myself to understand that and try to explain that. Isn’t it a miracle? Isn’t a miracle by definition something that defies human logic and reason? We are talking God at work here. Instead of protesting and questioning just get down on your knees and thank God he can do all things. Thank God he became flesh to save us. Thank God he can change things we can’t change and do things we can’t do. Thank God for his miraculous deed.
The third gift is the miracle of his divine word. Maybe I am appealing to the sinful ego. It is cool to have your name mentioned in a published book. A pastor from another Lutheran Church body wrote a book about the history of Lutherans in Georgia. My name is mentioned in the book when God called me to start our church in Lawrenceville back in 1977. My wife’s name is on the dedication page of a book that a woman wrote about Christian women. Judy was an inspiration to her. She is now a pastor’s wife.
While they were not mentioned by name in the Isaiah’s prophecies about the Virgin Birth of Jesus, God certainly had them in mind when he spoke through Isaiah. “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).
The prophecy is found in Isaiah seven. The background is very interesting. King Ahaz, the king of Judah, was at war with King Pekah of the Northern Kingdom of Israel and King Rezin, the king of Syria. Pekah and Rezin had made an alliance. Ahaz needed help although he didn’t deserve any. He was an unbelieving man who did all kinds of damage to the people of God.
Isaiah was sent to Ahaz by God to assure Ahaz that the Lord would protect him against Pekah and Rezin. To prove his faithfulness God told Ahaz to ask for anything and he would receive it. In mock humility Ahaz refused. He didn’t believe in the Lord. The Lord said he would give a sign anyway. The sign was the Virgin birth of the Messiah. Ahaz wouldn’t live to see it. It was out there 700 years in the future, but our God who is timeless is also faithful to any and all promises even to the individual ones he makes with people.
Matthew, as I said in the introduction, quotes more than sixty Old Testament prophecies that were fulfilled in Christ. Is there any greater proof of the Bible’s divine origin?
The patriarch of my favorite TV show got a lot of print this week for statements he made about something that the Bible is very clear about and other sins too by the way. You can see the divide between believer and unbeliever. Read comments and you can see that there is a lot of mission work that needs to be done here in the United States. Mr. Robertson quoted pretty accurately from the Bible. What people should do is look more seriously about the Bible. If they think that Mr Robertson is some sort of whack job, maybe they ought to consider what these words from Matthew say to us.
If we look at this prophecy of the Virgin Birth, if we look at all of Matthew and study the 60 passages just in Matthew that found fulfillment in Christ, aren’t we moved to say, “How did that happen? How did that all get done?” There is only one reason. Matthew and Isaiah weren’t the authors. Someone wiser, more powerful and greater is…and that is Almighty God! And this is his divine word to us. Love it. Read it. Rely on it.
When people listen to God like Joseph did, true faith comes. He woke up from the vision and his life was different. “When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.” Doubts were gone. Faith replaced them. Mary was the one whom God chose to mother the Messiah and Savior of all. Mary was the virgin Isaiah had prophesied 700 years earlier.
I don’t know how many people outside of Mary Joseph had told about the vision he had that night. If he did, there were probably people who said he was crazy. There are people who are saying Phil Robertson is crazy too. But you know something? When God speaks to us in his word about miraculous things like a Virgin Birth, about Jesus and anything that is found in this book, many may call us crazy like they do Phil Robertson. Like Phil Robertson said one day the Lord is going to sort it all out. That’s not crazy, that’s the truth.
Enjoy the God’s miraculous Christmas gifts for you: 1) his divine news, 2) his divine deed, his divine word, his divine gift of faith.