Semi-Retired Pastor Jeremy Stopford
This message was delivered the first year that Pastor Stopford served as pastor of First Baptist Church Earlville, NY , December 13, 2009.
“Immanuel? I thought His Name is Jesus!”
18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. 19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. 20 But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”
22 So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son,
and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”
24 Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, 25 and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son.
And he called His name Jesus.
This is my official first Christmas here at First Baptist. And, historically, this would be the Baby Jesus’ first Christmas – for this is the season that we commemorate His birth.
By the way, do you know the difference between the Christmas Alphabet and the English Alphabet? You bet – the Christmas Alphabet has no L.
We are not looking to Clement More for his approval, though he wrote, “’Twas the night before Christmas”. We are not looking to Bob May – a 1926 classmate of my Dad’s at Dartmouth – for his insight, although he wrote “Rudolph the red nosed reindeer.”
No, no! We are looking to the Gospel of Matthew, the first gospel of The Book. Familiar words. Sometimes TOO familiar.
Today, may the Lord Jesus give us fresh insights into the purposes of that first birth.
- THE STORY OF THE BIRTH (1:18)
“Mary was betrothed to Joseph”. This was a big deal in Jewish circles. Joseph’s and Mary’s parents got together and at one point said, “my son Joseph and your daughter Mary would be perfect for each other. There, that settles it.” Do you wish it were that way today?
So it was the betrothal – a period of time similar to an engagement, but with all the rights of marriage EXCEPT consummation. Joseph and Mary got to know each other better, their likes and dislikes. In the meantime, it was the PARENTS who figured out all the arrangements for the wedding. THEY made the plans. Don’t you wish – sometimes – that parents were more involved in today’s weddings?
And in the midst of all this betrothal stuff are these words of inspiration: “she [Mary] was found with child of the Holy Spirit.” We know from Luke 1:26-38 that by this time the angel Gabriel had visited her and explained to her what was to be. It was near that time that Mary said these words of her true heart which ring down through the centuries: “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” And later, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. for He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant…”. (Luke 1:38; 46-48a). Mary’s heart, her WORSHIP, was forever – and is still in glory – to her own Son.
II. THE JUST HUSBAND (1:19)
So Mary and Joseph were planning their wedding! Can you imagine each of their thoughts as they were wondering how married life would be different from their individual lives as single people? And then came the news: Mary is pregnant. Joseph knew, he just KNEW, that the baby was not HIS. She had violated her vows of betrothal to Joseph! By law, he had a number of choices. Being the espoused husband, he could have Mary stoned to death – PUBLICLY!
Please note that verse 19 comes before verse 20. [“DUH!” You say!]. BEFORE the visit from the angel of the Lord, BEFORE there is any public ridicule upon Mary – much less upon Joseph – the Scriptures in verse 19 say, “being a just man”. The scriptures identify the CHARACTER of this man of God! He was a just husband! He was a private man, with a private personal walk with the Lord, which in turn governed his public life.
We have MANY public figures today with PUBLIC problems – from the President on down. Joseph heart should make us question OUR own hearts – what is OUR character? Who are we when NO ONE (but the Lord!) is looking?
III. THE AMAZING “BEHOLD” #1 (1:20-21)
So Joseph is thinking about “doing the right thing”. Like you and me, he was thinking about all the options available to him. But most of all, he was thinking about…MARY! His heart broke for how her character would be attacked. So while he was thinking about all this, there was an interruption: “BEHOLD!!!!!!!!!”
When I read through the Christmas story, I just want to circle the word “behold”. In fact, I often can wonder how it first must have been said. Can you see the Eternal Bose Mic picking up the word? “BEHOLD!!!!!!!!!”
It was now Joseph’s turn to have a visit from the beloved angel Gabriel. Joseph’s world comes to a stop: When I read through the Christmas story, I just want to circle the word “BEHOLD!!!!!!!!!”. In fact, I often can wonder how it must have been first said. Can you see the Eternal Bose Mic picking up the word? “BEHOLD!!!!!!!!!” The area is inundated with the Glory of God.
God loves to intervene in our history when we are making OTHER plans! He does that in our lives. He does that in eternity and with His eternal purposes. Joseph is now given the BIG picture!
The angel Gabriel takes Joseph from what Joseph thinks is the temporal (the pregnancy of an unwed mother) into the eternal (God becoming Man through the work of the Holy Spirit within Mary’s womb!). Not only is Joseph given the BIG picture; he is also told the Baby’s Name: “Jesus”. “Jesus” is the Greek “Iesous” transliterated. The name means “Jeshua is Savior”. Did you catch that? JEHOVAH IS SAVIOR is Jesus’ name!
This tells Jesus’ MISSION!
IV. THE AMAZING “BEHOLD” #2 (1:22-23)
In essence, Matthew tells us ““BEHOLD!!!!!!!!!” I thought His Name is Jesus”:
He takes us to a quote of Isaiah 7:14, where the Messiah is introduced as having the Name “Immanuel”, that is, “God with us.” This refers to Jesus’ CHARACTER.
I would encourage you to read Isaiah Chapters 7-9. These chapters answer way ahead of time how the Messiah Jesus-Immanuel will be received:
* He will be given the Name “Immanuel” (7:14)
* “Immanuel” will still be waiting for Israel to acknowledge Him as “God with us” (8:8-10)
* “Immanuel” will be exalted (9:6-7)
CONCLUSION: Let’s get practical!
In 1:20-21, Joseph was told what to do (take Mary as wife; she will give birth to a Child Who is the Son of the Holy Spirit) and in 1:24-25, Joseph did what he was told to do!
He OBEYED WHAT HE HEARD!
He understood Jesus’ MISSION: to save the lost!
He understood Jesus’ CHARACTER: God with us.
But he also understood that God’s Son Immanuel would be rejected, that He would patiently wait for our trust, and one day would be exalted to the position which He already holds by character.
How about you? Are you OBEYING WHAT YOU HAVE HEARD?
OR does your trust need to be RENEWED?
At this Christmas time, God is looking for sinners to trust what HE has done for the whole world in sending His Son. God is looking for sinners to trust Jesus as Savior, God with us. God is looking for sinners to trust that Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection was for each of us personally!
Is that your trust today? Did you need to be reminded afresh WHO your trust should be?
IMMANUEL! GOD WITH US! MERRY CHRISTMAS! Close in prayer