Matthew 1:20-21 From Heaven above to earth He comes! Advent 4 December 22, 2019
Pastor Ken Mellon, Trinity Lutheran Church and School, Pleasant Valley Rd., West Bend, WI
God’s grace and peace are yours through Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, our ever present help. Amen.
God’s saving Word is written in Matthew 1:20-21
These are your words heavenly Father that we may grow in trusting Jesus. Your Word is truth. Amen.
Dear People of God in Christ,
How would you respond if the FBI called you and asked that you leave the safety of your home to travel to the worst section of the country to live among gangs, murderers and criminals who would do anything to harm you? None of us would be willing to go on such a mission! But, from eternity when God the Father told Jesus His plan to save sinners, God’s Son did not hesitate, even when it meant giving up His life.
From Heaven above to earth He comes!
First, God chose a humble birth from Mary, chosen virgin mild! Mary and Joseph were privileged. By God’s grace Mary was chosen to carry inside of her the Son of God. An angel had appeared to Mary to tell her that the Holy Spirit would create a baby within her. By faith Mary accepted the message and at God’s Word, Jesus was created within her. How amazed Mary must have been with the message and her pregnancy. For Mary’s sake, it would have been nice if the angel reappeared once a week or so, to answer other questions she had; like how do I explain this to Joseph, my husband? Will Joseph want to remain with me? What will happen when God’s Son is born? How will I take care of Him?
After the angel’s announcement, Mary left for about three months to spend time with her cousin Elizabeth who was pregnant with John the Baptist. Sometime later she returned and Joseph noticed that she was going to have a baby. He decided that the best thing to do was to write a letter of divorce and hand it to her in front of 2 or 3 witnesses so that she could move on with her life, with, he supposed, the father of her baby. But, that would be impossible, since His father was God! Joseph fell asleep in prayer while thinking about this.
It states, “As he was considering these things, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit’” (v. 20). Please note that Joseph didn’t dream about an angel. The angel appeared to him in a dream. With the authority of God, the angel convinced Joseph that Mary had done nothing wrong. The Holy Spirit had created a son within her. Jewish people generally respected the message of dreams and Joseph was no different. He was willing to welcome Mary as his wife and her child as his adopted son.
Mary and Joseph were convinced! It was a miracle that a child was conceived in a virgin, but His identity was more amazing. At no other time in history had God created a human body for His Son. God had promised to do it for 1,000’s of years, but now it happened. Joseph and Mary were privileged to hold the most important child in the world. That helpless baby had more authority than an emperor and more power than all the angels in the sky. He was the eternal Son of God in human flesh. John wrote, “Beyond all question, the mystery of godliness is great: [God] appeared in a body” (1 John 3:16). The Son of God assumed a human nature, yet He appeared no different than any other child. As his adoptive father, Joseph would teach Jesus God’s Word at the dinner table, he would help Jesus learn to make things as a carpenter.
Second, Jesus came “from all your sins to set you free!” Joseph was told, “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus” (v.21). Jesus means “The Lord saves”. It was a fitting name, because Jesus’ purpose in life was to save people. Some people feel important, because they know someone famous. What should it mean for us that we know Jesus as our Savior? The angel said, “He will save his people from their sins” (v.21). The word “save” has several meanings in the original language. One meaning is to rescue. Imagine being held hostage by a murder. He doesn’t care if you live or die. But, someone is willing to take your place to save you. The devil holds us captive. We didn’t have power to escape his deadly hellish hold. Only Jesus could rescue us.
Also, sin pollutes us. It makes us unclean before a holy God. We could never enter heaven on our own. But Jesus was conceived by God so that He was holy. He lived His entire life without sin. John wrote about Jesus’ death: “The blood of Jesus, God’s Son, cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:9).
Jesus saved us from the consequences of sin. Sin requires punishment, which begins at death and goes on forever in hell. We deserve eternal suffering. But, Jesus saved us from the consequence of our sin by making full payment for us on the cross. His death satisfied the justice God demanded. Due to Christ’s death and resurrection, death has become our entrance to life!
Jesus not only died to save us from sin, death, and hell, He saves us now! He was tempted just as we are, but without sin. He knows how powerful and dangerous temptations can be. He is always praying that we keep our faith. The Bible promises, “[Jesus] is able to save completely those who come to God through Him, because He always lives to intercede for them” (Hebrews 7:25). What a temptation it must have been for Joseph when he heard that Mary was pregnant, knowing that he wasn’t the father. But, God guided him so that rather than leave Mary, He did as the angel commanded and “took Mary home as his wife” (v.24). We get tempted when things happen which we can’t explain. We need God’s guidance and assurance that all is well!
Also, Jesus offers us strength! The angel told Joseph that Jesus would be “Immanuel,” which means, “God with us” (v.23). In Old Testament times, the armies of Israel armies would carry the Ark of the Covenant when they went to fight a battle. As long as they trusted in God and not in the ark as a good-luck charm, they won their battles. So, Jesus is our Immanuel, God with us. We don’t have to see Him or have an angel appear in a dream to believe that He is present. Jesus promised to be with us always (Matthew 28:20). He keeps His promises. With Jesus beside us, we can say no when we’re tempted to sin or to live in rebellion against God. Jesus sets us free to serve God by not allowing our evil thinking to control us. If we realize we are sinning against God, we can repent and know that Jesus is beside us to forgive us and guide us by His Word.
Because Jesus came into this world to save sinners, Mary and Joseph could be sure that they would be in heaven one day. Their child would save them. As believers who turn from sin each day to Christ, we are all on our way to heaven. We know that it doesn’t depend on us, any more than it depended on Joseph to conceive Jesus in Mary’s womb. It all depends on God who sent His Son to save us. We don’t need an angel to convince us of the truth. Each time we read or hear God’s Word, God convinces us of the truth. He has claimed us as His heavenly children through His Word and baptism. Jesus is now our Savior and we will continue to receive great blessings as long as we trust in Him!
From Heaven above to earth Jesus came. His coming was a miracle beyond what we can comprehend! God’s Son is among us to save us from our sins. Even as a baby, while Jesus was held safely in the arms of Mary and Joseph, He was living to save us, to take the punishment we deserve, to keep us safe from this evil world, and to make heaven our permanent home! An angel appearing to Joseph was only the beginning of the great things God would do as His Son came to earth to save us! Amen.