December 24, 2017 Christmas Worship Service Sermon
Matthew 1:18 – 25
“God with Us”
Merry Christmas everyone!
Today is the day we celebrate Christmas and remember how Christ was born and came into this world.
I am truly grateful that we can all gather for this Christmas service and give thanks for God the Father sending His only begotten Son to us.
And I also pray that many people will gather tonight for the candle service and celebrate the birth of our savior Jesus together.
We just saw the Christmas play“Christmas Bell (original title:”Christmas Bell”.” It's a story about a church with a bell that rings when somebody presents the greatest gift.
The rich and the king appeared in the play, saying “I'll be the one to make the bell ring!” Then they with enthusiasm presented expensive gifts such as jewels, treasures, and even the king's crown.
However, even when they presented things that were precious in human’s eyes, the church bell did not ring. In the end, the bell rang when one boy (Mark) quietly offered a silver coin and prayed.
The bell rang not because of the silver coin, but because their kindness (that they showed to the woman collapsed in the snow) and because of their genuine hearts (they offered what they had to God with humility).
When I saw the affluent people getting all confident they'll ring the bell, I feel like I saw myself in them. Why is that? It's because I felt I too would say the same thing, “God, I'm doing my best, so please answer me!”
Also, having watched the play, I realized the things I think I do for God are not actually for God, but rather I want to gain other people’s favor by doing deeds where people can see.
Through this play, I was once again reminded that God is pleased with the kind of humility that says “I'm only doing what I must. This is all I am able to offer.”
One thing we must never forget during Christmas is that the one who gave the greatest gift was God Himself. If God had appeared in that play, the one to ring the bell would've been God Himself, no doubt.
That is because God Himself gave the greatest gift to us humans. That gift is Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is God's greatest gift to us humans.
God gave us the savior Jesus Christ as a present. Let us all grow daily in our thankfulness for this great grace.
Today, during our Christmas service, let us read Matthew 1:18 – 25 and listen to what the Bible has to say about the birth of Jesus, God's greatest gift to us.
Chapter 1 verse 18
18 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit.
Mary and Joseph were engaged. At the time in Judah, it was the custom for the parents and marriage intermediaries to decide someone's future marriage partner from a young age.
And then, when the two reach a certain age, they would give their consent to marriage. Once they consent, the two are officially “engaged.” The period of engagement was one year.
This period of engagement was treated the same as actual marriage. They only didn't live together yet. Joseph and Mary were in the middle of their engagement period.
During this time, it was found out that Mary was pregnant through the Holy Spirit. (v18) “ she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit.” This was done not simply to paint Jesus Christ's birth as miraculous and dramatic.
“She was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit.” This means that human will, human decisions, and human effort had no bearing on the birth of the savior.
It was not through humans, but through God’s decision to “save humanity” that the savior Jesus Christ was born. This is reflected in the verse “She was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit.”
In addition, while Jesus Christ was born as a human, the fact that Mary was “pregnant through the Holy Spirit” also supports the important Christian belief that “Jesus was God and was God since the creation of the Earth.”
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning.
It is not that “Jesus was a human at first but then became God after dying on the cross and resurrecting.”
Jesus Christ was God before He was born as the Son of Man. And Jesus remained God while He was in a human body from the time He was born and until He finally died on the cross. This truth is reflected in the phrase “She was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit.”
At any rate, the pregnancy caused problems for Joseph and Mary. The discovery of pregnancy before the two were officially married was a trial for them. According to the law, Mary may have been found guilty of adultery.
I think Joseph may have been desperately thinking “What should I do…”
The Japanese Bible says “Joseph was a righteous man” in verse 19. The English translation says “faithful to the law.” At the time, “righteousness” meant faithfully following the law.
But he wasn’t just righteous in form, but he was faithful to the essence of the law and to God’s will. The law’s essence and God’s will meant to “show others kindness and compassion.”
If he had exposed the out-of-wedlock pregnancy to the public, Mary would have been stoned.
If a man marries a woman who becomes displeasing to him because he finds something indecent about her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house,
Joseph had the option of exposing Mary to the public and letting her be stoned to death. However, he also had the option of giving her a certificate of divorce and keeping the matter secret, thus saving Mary’s life.
To get through this difficult situation, Joseph decided “this is the only option.” That’s when the Lord’s angel appeared to Joseph in a dream.
“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.” (verse 20)
The Lord’s angel said “Do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife…” “To take” here means to “go from engagement to official marriage.”
“Do not be afraid.” From the angel’s words, we know that Joseph was afraid as he made the decision. Now what did Joseph fear?
First, the fact that “She was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit.”Who would believe something like that? Joseph himself probably did not believe that at first. We humans need courage to decide to believe someone. We also worry “what will we do if our trust is betrayed…”
However, he heard from the angel that “what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.” This meant that “that child is an important entity loved by God, and you have the important task of being that child’s father.”
This would be a difficult and scary situation for most people. But Joseph was told by the angel that he was now to “live together with Mary and the child that was to be born.”
Another thing that Joseph probably feared was accepting Mary and the child (Jesus) inside her, “accepting strangers as his own.” In other words, he feared living together with someone else.
He feared the sudden change of going from living alone to accepting and living together with a stranger. After all, it’s difficult to live with someone whose personality and ways of thinking are different.
Marrying Mary and living together with her and the child in her would be a very big change in lifestyle. Joseph was compelled by the voice of the Lord’s angel to surrender himself, obey the voice of God and “live together with a stranger.”
The angel continued to say “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
“Jesus” comes from the Hebrew “Yeshua.” The name means “God is salvation” or God will save.” And how will God save us? Let’s see in verse 23.
“The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).
“God with us.” Our God Jesus Christ will save us by “being with us.”
God is not promising that He will solve and take away all the troubles and pains we experience in life, and not in ways that we can see directly. He does not promise to save us in the ways that we hope.
God promises to “be with us.” In such a way, God will save us. By “being with us,” He will save us.
“Be with us” means to “always” be with us. Let’s look at the end of the book of Matthew.
And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
The God Emmanuel will always be with us. He is not a god that helps us when He feels like it, or only occasionally shows His face, but He is a god that is always with us.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
No matter the circumstances, if God is together with us, then we will not be afraid. Because the Lord is with us, we need not fear everything that happens in life, we need not fear accepting and living together with someone. We can have peace.
I think that Joseph was afraid of living together with Mary and the new life inside her (that was conceived through the Holy Spirit). For God as well, even if it wasn’t fear, it must’ve been a difficult decision to send His only son Jesus Christ to be born on Earth and to entrust His life to humans.
God gave His only son Jesus Christ to humanity because He loved humanity intensely. God Himself had made the decision to be born as a human and then “live together” with humans.
“To live together” is to take utmost concern for someone, to share in their pains and joys, and to spend your time on that person.
Being together with someone is actually difficult. It might be easier for us to just be alone. However, God told us to “accept others and live together with them.”
By being “with us,” God took away our fears and gave us humans salvation. Having received salvation, this Christmas season let us resolve to “accept and live together with the people that are put in our lives.
And what does “others” practically mean for us? Who “others” refers to varies from person to person. Even if they are not close family or spouses, these “others” become involved with us in many ways and then we live together with them. This is especially true of the brothers and sisters in one church.
Today on Christmas day, let us reaffirm our decision to “live together,” to “accept and live together” with those that are put in our lives.
And let us all remember with great joy and thankfulness the birth of Jesus Christ, our God who is with us.