Christmas Eve – “The Promise” (Matthew 1:18-25)

C-11 Christmas Eve Early (Mt 1.18-25)Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen. The text for the sermon is the Gospel, which was read earlier.

The time has finally come. The birth of our Savior is upon us. We have the promised Messiah come to the virgin as foretold by the prophets: “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” Everything is in line with the prophecy of the Messiah: line of David? Check. Virgin birth? Check. But one thing doesn’t add up: just how did Mary get pregnant if she is a virgin?

Sometime after the engagement, Joseph discovers that Mary is pregnant. The angel Gabriel had visited Mary and told her that she would bear the Christ Child, but Joseph hasn’t yet been visited by the angel and knows nothing of what has taken place. So when Joseph learns that Mary is pregnant, he is torn.

Apparently, Mary has chosen to be unfaithful, or that’s how it appears to Joseph. Per the law, Mary was to be put to death, along with the man who impregnated her. If there was ever a godly man who kept his promise, it was Joseph. He was a devout Jew intent on obeying God’s laws but whose obedience was tempered by compassion. He was not just a law-abiding man, but also a man of compassion, and so he was torn as to what he should do. Instead of having Mary put to death, he decides to divorce Mary privately. That way, she can slip away to live with relatives or whomever else she desires.

Mary does go away with relatives. After she becomes pregnant, she goes to stay with her relative Elizabeth. Meanwhile, Joseph is left to figure out how to proceed, but he doesn’t get far.

From all outward appearances, it would seem as if Mary had committed adultery and became pregnant by some unknown man. But that’s not the case at all. The angel’s words set the story for who this child is: “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save is people from their sins.”

Without missing a beat, Joseph does all that the angel tells him. He takes Mary as his wife. He accepts this Child born to Mary as his own and names Him Jesus, a name that means “the Lord saves.”

Not only did Mary not sin in conceiving this Child, not only did Joseph not sin by disobeying the Old Testament law concerning adultery, this Child that is to be born is both sinless and the solution to man’s problem of sin. In Jesus, God has kept His promise to His people. Because of Jesus, we have the salvation that is promised.

God has kept His promise; giving us confidence to meet His Son as He comes to us in the manger, for tonight, God put Himself into a box. God had promised long ago to our first parents that He would provide the means of salvation and that promise is fulfilled tonight in the Christ Child born to two lowly parents.

This promise was made in the Old Testament many centuries before it ever happened. Isaiah, one of the prophets who recorded many prophecies of the coming Messiah writes, The Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”

The writers of Scripture have a gift that we do not have and that is the divine inspiration. Through that divine inspiration, they are able to communicate the promise of God to a people in desperate need of salvation. We come here to receive that promise for ourselves, a promise made in our Baptism, a promise reinforced in Christ’s body and blood and ultimately finished on Calvary’s cross.

God comes to us, despite our being unworthy of His coming. When we had most certainly committed many shameful acts, the Lord could have simply abandoned us. That is what we deserved. We were supposed to be faithful only to Him. Yet we went running after every false idol that could entice our fickle hearts. We deserved the public disgrace of falling under God’s judgment and being cast away forever. He could have simply acted out of His justice, and given us what we deserve. He could have let His anger break forth against us. He would have been perfectly justified in doing so.

But instead God had compassion on us. Out of love, He did not want to treat us as our sins deserve. He made a plan to rescue us from the disgrace of our sins. It was a secret plan, a mystery hidden for long ages until He revealed it in the Virgin’s Son. God became flesh. God became one of us. God became Man for our sake.

Although becoming a Man was not humiliation in itself, Christ had to go through all kinds of things that were humiliating. He had to endure the indignities of being a helpless infant. He had to bear the pains inflicted by the sinfulness of people around Him, many hurtful words and malicious actions. He had to suffer sickness and sorrow, hunger and thirst, growth and loss, and everything else that goes along with being one of us. He subjected Himself to the life of sinners, even though He was not a sinner.

Even that was not enough. He had to fulfill every last Word of promise that He had made for the sake of His beloved people. He exposed Himself to the public shame we deserved. He made Himself a spectacle, a scandal, and a sign of foolishness as He hung upon a Cross. He let all the guilt and disgrace of all sin fall upon Him, so that it would not fall on us.

For this reason He became a Baby. This was the plan all along. To save us, shameful sinners, He took our flesh and lived our life. For this reason, a Virgin was pregnant with a little Boy.

This is the miracle of Christmas, that God would come down to us, that He would take on the form of man and be laid in a box. This is Jesus, the one whom we embrace by faith and trust, the one who makes holy so God declares us holy for Christ’s sake.

This day is truly all about promises kept: God keeping His promise – the promise made to Adam and Eve, the promise renewed to God’s people through millennia of Old Testament time, the promise voiced by the Isaiah and the prophets of old – the promise that God would send His Son. This promise gives us the confidence to know that God will indeed keep His promise of bringing us to be with Him for eternity. All of that and more, accomplished tonight as God comes to us through the Babe of Bethlehem. In Jesus’ name, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.