Believing the truth that God is with us should be at the core of our faith. How does the true meaning of Christmas direct us to this gospel truth more?
Indeed Our God Is With Us
As a man this Jesus empathises with with every nook, cranny, crevice and corner of your pain and your suffering.
“I hope that this Christmas, as we read the story of Jesus, as we enjoy the festivities, as we meet with our friends and family, that we’ll remember again his birth date does not matter, but the reason for why he came, who he is and what it means for us, and what it means for those who are outside of Jesus.”
Topics & Timestamps
00:00 – What did the birth of Jesus mean?
07:30 – Extraordinary God who works in the ordinary
16:14 – Jesus’s adoption and our adoption
21:40 – The God of extraordinary names.
25:09 – Jesus the Saviour
26:41 – God is with us
30:08 – Making Christmas about Christ
Top Quotes: Indeed Our God Is With Us
“Blinded by the consumerism of Christmas in our culture we might be tempted to lose the beauty of this extraordinary truth that Jesus is conceived by the Holy Spirit”
“You might have thought that your biggest problem is finances, relationships, education. But Jesus highlights our biggest problem – this power called sin.”
“As a man this Jesus empathises with with every nook, cranny, crevice and corner of your pain and your suffering.”
Other Content On This Topic
Text: Matthew 1:18-25
Date: December 2020
Location: Christ Church Midrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
What The Birth Of Jesus Meant
Good morning, the reading this morning comes from Matthew 1:18. That’s Matthew 1:18, “Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “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 his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfil what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.”This is the word of the Lord.
Good morning church. Okay, let’s try that again, good morning church. A good morning to you if you’re joining us from home. My name is Blaque Nubon for those who are joining us for the first time and I’m one of the youth pastors here at Christ Church Midrand. I have the privilege of opening up God’s word for us this morning. Thank you to Jeremy for reading that passage for us. It will be of great help to me if you would keep that passage open for today’s sermon. I jokingly or rather I heard a pastor one time jokingly say that he does not even bother preparing sermons when it hits December. Because again, it’s the same sermon every year, I’m going to speak about the birth of Jesus and there’s a couple other sermons leading to the birth of Jesus. So, he doesn’t bother preparing sermons anymore. And so, I thought to myself, ‘Thank God that he’s joking.’ But there’s always truth in our jokes. There’s at least some truth in our jokes if not a whole lot of truth in our jokes. And I thought to myself, if that’s how pastors are thinking I wonder how we’re thinking sitting in the pews. How do we feel about the story of Christmas? How do we feel about the reality of the truth that the king of the universe was born more than 2000 years ago? Is it something that is just another boring story to us? Is it something that we just get on with? We want to get to our dinner tables; enjoy whatever meat that we’re going to eat, drink whatever we’re going to drink, hang out with our families catch up on the … but we come to church particularly on this Sunday before Christmas- Christmas morning, we come to church just so that we can get it over and done with.
What does the story of the birth of Jesus mean to you as you sit here this morning, as you’re listening at home? What is the birth of Jesus, the truth, the reality that the king of the universe was born more than 2000 years ago? I don’t think we should be complacent about that. I think it should excite us; I think it should move us. I think it should take us to a point of deep reflection about our own lives, about the state of the universe not just the state of our country or where we live, our family but the state of the universe. What did the birth of Jesus mean cosmically? I think it was such an important thing that for the early church Christians, they wanted to make sure that they remember the birth of Jesus. That it’s part of the rhythm of their lives, that they put it as part of their calendar. There’s a lot of theories about how the 25th of December came about and I’m just warning all the parents now, I’m ruining Christmas for your kids. We can discuss that later. But kids, you’re probably going to hate me after this. Jesus was not born on the 25th of December, he was not born then. And there’s a lot of theories and speculations about when he was born. It really doesn’t matter when Jesus was born what matters is that Jesus was born. What matters is the reason for why Jesus was born.
One of the theories that I gravitate towards, in fact, Saint Augustine one of our early African Church fathers says that in Luke 1:26-38 they speak of that as the annunciation. And so, they said the early tradition in the Christian Church is that they would celebrate the 25th of March as the day that the angel announced to Mary that she will be with child. And so, what they did is that they just calculated nine months after that and they landed on the 25th of December. So, kids, there it is Christmas is ruined. But that’s the theory I gravitate towards. But the point again there is it mattered to them, it mattered that they remember that the king of the universe was born. So much so that they wanted to mark it in their calendar. So that it’s part of their rhythms and that they would come to a point in the year where they put special attention and focus on the truth that Jesus was born and why was he born.
And I want to pray for us this morning that as we leave here today, that not just today, but even when Christmas comes and years to come that when we come to this time of the year, we would really be excited to remember why our king was born, to be excited to tell other people about why our king was born. So, won’t you bow your heads with me, and let me pray for us to ask God to help us by his Holy Spirit to do that work in our hearts this morning. Father, thank you that you are an extraordinary God, that in the ordinary workings of our lives when we get caught up in the mundane Lord, we would tend to forget the important things in our lives. And one of those being the truth of how Jesus was born. So, I pray father that you may revive our hearts, evoke excitement in our hearts in light of this truth. And that we may live father knowing the importance of what the birth of your son has meant for Christians 2000 years, has meant for the whole universe, what it means for us even this morning. In your wonderful and holy name, I pray, Amen, amen.
Extraordinary God Who Works In Ordinary People
Thank you, so we’re going to be looking at two points this morning, the first one is probably going to be the longest. And for those who don’t know I’m a rapper. So, my points are very wordy and here’s what the first point is; The God who works in the ordinary shows himself to be extraordinary. I’ll say that again, the God who works in the ordinary shows himself to be extraordinary. So, associated with Christmas again for most of us would be the lights, the noise, the shiny things, and presents that we get that we tend to forget again the significance of this event. But we might also be tempted to forget that the announcement of Jesus’s birth happened to ordinary people like you and I. People who were just going on about their ordinary day-to-day lives. Joseph, who we meet in this passage that was read earlier on for us is just the carpenter. Mary is an ordinary Jewish girl. So, they are very ordinary people. In fact, when Matthew writes his account, this gospel, he’s writing it to a Jewish Audience-They primarily are Jewish audience. And so, when they would have read this account, they would have seen just the ordinary people in this account, and the ordinary things that would have happened in their time, in their culture.
In fact, read with me Matthew 1:18. Listen to what Matthew says there, “Now the birth of Jesus took place in this way when his mother Mary…” Again, if you take note of that word ‘mother’, if you zoom out of your own subjective experience with your own mother however it was and you just look around, even in this room right now, there’s a lot of mothers so it’s not a foreign thing it’s very ordinary. You won’t go to another country and say, “I have a mother.” And people are like, “What is that?” It’s not going to happen. It’s an ordinary thing. You see it there; Matthew calls Mary the mother of Jesus. Later on, in that verse listen to what it says, “When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph…” And that word means engagement. Again, engagements are very ordinary thing in our culture, in this culture. I’m going to embarrass somebody now but Daniel Martins just recently got engaged. If you don’t know who Daniel Martins is, that’s his father right there in the corner. But it’s an ordinary thing, engagement is not a crazy thing. When Lee told us that Daniel was engaged, we weren’t freaked out like his life is ending, it’s ordinary, it happens. Matthew 1:19, listen to what Matthew tells us there, he says, “And her husband Joseph…” Again, the word husband just speaks of the ordinary nature of these ordinary people that were living and going about their ordinary lives. Husbands are a very ordinary thing and I say that with emphasis. Matthew 1:20 you see what Matthew says there of Joseph, he says, “But as he considered these things…” So, he was thinking about what the events that were unfolding around his life which we’ll get into later on in the passage. But the point there is, he was thinking about these things in the quietness of his mind, something that we ordinarily do when things are happening in your lives. 2020 has been a crazy year and most of us have been living in our minds, just thinking about our future, thinking about anxieties, thinking about how life is going to be in the next couple of years. So, thinking in the quietness of your mind again a very ordinary thing.
So, these people were not Prophets, they were not Prophetesses, they were not Major One, Major Two, three, or four right. At best they were Minor One, and Minor Two, right? But there were no billboards for them, there were no headlines. You wouldn’t go on your Palestine Twitter feed and find their faces splashed on your timeline. They were very ordinary folks. But if we take a closer look at these events, again, the first point is that, the God who works in the ordinary to show himself as extraordinary. If we take a deeper look in the events of what was happening in their lives, we see again this God revealing himself as extraordinary. Matthew 1:18, let me read it there for you again, “Now the birth of Mary, the birth of Jesus rather took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, before they came together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Matthew 1: 20, jump over there with me, “But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him (Joseph) in a dream, and saying, “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.” Jump over to Matthew 1: 23, it basically lays it blatantly there for us, “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son…” Matthew 1:24, the last part into verse 25, “… he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.”
So, as we look closer in the events of these ordinary people, we see the hand of this God who’s extraordinary. How is it possible that Mary could be both pregnant and a virgin at the same time? If you ask any doctor, Joseph does not go for the third option. He does not go for the option that this might be God working in her life or their life. In fact, he suspects that it might be the first two options; either Mary was unfaithful, or unfortunately Mary was abused and that’s how she could have had fallen pregnant. And that’s how he justifies it. Read with me Matthew 1:19, listen to what he says, “And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.” And so, he says to himself, well and this speaks so much of Joseph’s character, he’s a just man, he’s a righteous man. “I don’t want to embarrass you.” Again, these people are engaged. And the engagement in first century Jewish culture was not like the engagement that happens in our culture. These people were practically married. That’s how much weight engagement held in first century Jewish culture. In fact, they would get engaged, they would exchange vows, there’d be a waiting period where the man goes and builds a house where they have to live, and the families are planning to throw this amazing wedding for this couple, and eventually they’d get married and consummate their marriage, and then become a married couple.
But if anything would happen in this waiting period, for example what Joseph suspects is happening now is that Mary was probably unfaithful, they would have to have a legal divorce process. And so, Joseph being a just man, he says well I’m going to resolve to divorcing her quietly. I do not want to embarrass her; I do not want to put her into shame. Again, he’s not seeing the extraordinary hand of God working in their ordinary lives. We cannot blame him; we’re sitting this side of the cross so we have the privilege of knowing what’s going to happen. But as he’s going about the exact day-to-day life, he’s not seeing the extraordinary hand of God. But listen to what Matthew says in Matthew 1: 20, “But as he considered these things…” So, Joseph is thinking about it. “Behold…” And that word ‘behold’ anywhere that it appears in the gospel of Matthew, Matthew is forcing us to pause and think. Matthew is saying, “Before you continue reading, just consider what’s about to happen. There’s a shift in the flow, there’s a shift in the narrative. There’s something that’s about to happen- a bomb is about to be dropped.” If we think about what has been happening so far again, ordinary events with ordinary people. Joseph, Mary-very ordinary, Jewish girl, carpenter-ordinary. Engagement- very ordinary, wedding- ordinary. Possible unfaithfulness-ordinary. Pregnancy -ordinary. But behold, behold the conception by the Holy Spirit, that’s extraordinary. That’s something that’s out of this world, this is something that is big. This is something that has cosmic effects, this is something that is going to shift the trajectory of their lives and the lives of all people- conception by the Holy Spirit. Now that’s not ordinary, that’s extraordinary. That is something that is big.
Jesus’s Adoption And Our Adoption
Again, probably blinded by the consumerism of Christmas in our culture, the lights, the noise, we might be tempted to lose the beauty of this extraordinary truth that Jesus is conceived by the Holy Spirit. In fact, the audience of Matthew would have beheld this, they would have stopped to say, “Hey, listen, as we read the next part, we need to really pay close attention. Something is happening here.” These people again would have read of the prophecies in the Old Testament. When you think about the prophecy in Isaiah 7:14 that speaks about the virgin having a son. Which is quoted again for us in Matthew 1:23, they would have paused to say, “Hey, listen, this is a big thing. This is a cosmic shift in the story of the creator and his creation. This is bringing something new in the world.” In fact, when I was preparing for the sermon, I went back to the genealogy in Matthew 1:1-17. Go back there with me in Matthew1:16, read with me Matthew 1:16, there and if you’ll notice that that Joseph out of all the other fathers in the genealogy, he’s the only one who’s (17:29) of all the women that are pregnant in Palestine in that year. But this is something extraordinary, this one is born of the Holy Spirit. Joseph becomes his adoptive father.
Blinded by the consumerism of Christmas in our culture, we might be tempted to lose the beauty of this extraordinary truth that Jesus is conceived by the Holy Spirit
And that truth speaks of the reason why Jesus comes. In fact, Jesus comes and subjects himself to be adopted by Joseph so that in that process we can also be adopted. He’s alluding to the truth of what he’s going to do in this world, the purpose for which he has come here. So that sinners like you and I, people who are born outside of the kingdom of God could be adopted. Jesus here is the perfect model of what adoption will look like when we are spoken of as people who will be adopted by God. We look to him and say, “Indeed, our God has always been with us even in our own adoption, we see how it plays out in his own life.” This is not a God who is far removed from us. This is not a God who’s just sitting on his throne and theorizing on things, but this is a God who comes to be like one of us so that he can bring us and draw us back to himself. In fact, Jesus is the son of God and it’s emphasized by the truth that is born of the Holy Spirit. But yet he subjects himself to adoption. Adoption as the son of Joseph for our sake.
Again, on the other side, you and I are sons of Adam, born as sinners, criminals, rebels, but through Jesus, his death, in fact from his birth, his death, his resurrection, we can legally be adopted as the sons of God. He gives himself up, subjects himself to be the son of Joseph so that you and I could be the sons of God. The one and only true son of God. So, you see how this God works in the ordinary workings of our lives, in the ordinary workings of this couple’s life so that he can show himself as the God who’s extraordinary, a God who’s big, a God who comes to rescue us, a God who subjects himself again to adoption so that you and I may be adopted.
I know, I don’t know where you are this morning, I don’t know if you are in a relationship with Jesus. I don’t know if you have experienced this adoption that I’m speaking about. The adoption that the scriptures speak about. Have you experienced this love of Jesus? Where he holds you in his hand, that you can be called a daughter or a son of the most high. There’s a big misconception in our culture especially where I grew up that all of us are born as Christians. I mean, every Thursday our grandmothers go to prayer meeting with all the other grandmothers, and your grandmother prays for you. Therefore, you are definitely born as a Christian. You are born as a child of God. And this passage would say to us again, behold, pause, hold up, you’re not born as a child of God. You’re born as a rebel, you’re born as a sinner, you’re born as a criminal against God. And it is only through the one and only son of God, who subjects himself to be adopted by Joseph, so that you the son of Adam can be adopted as the son of God, or a daughter of God. So, I don’t know where you are this morning, and my prayer again would be that you would give your life to up, you’re this extraordinary God. That today would be a reminder again of why he came, why he was born, why the early Church made such a big deal about remembering the day he was born or even speculating on the day he was born. So that again, we may be reminded that without him we are eternally bound for hell. Without him we are eternally separated from this one, true, loving God. But it is through him that we are reconciled, it is through him that we are brought back to God so that we can legally be called the sons and daughters up, you’re of God.
The God Of Extraordinary Names.
That was our first point, a second point for this morning; The God of extraordinary names. Read with me Matthew 1: 20-23, the God of extraordinary names. Matthew 1: 20-23 again, it says, “But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “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 his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfil what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).
Two things that I noticed there from those verses is, the two names that Jesus is called by. The first name; Jesus-name that is commonly known to us. Again, a name that might seem very ordinary, very boring, we say it over and over again. But there’s something powerful about the name of Jesus. And we see in how he’s announced. That he’ll be with Mary, and that he will be born. His name in fact in the Old Testament is the equivalent of Joshua which means God saves. And that’s the name that he’s given. That he’ll be the one who comes to save his people from their sins. You might have thought that your biggest problem is finances. Your biggest problems is relationships, your biggest problem is education, your biggest problem is poverty. But just in the name of Jesus, God highlights what you and I, our biggest problem is. And that we are suffering from this thing called sin, this power called sin. And Jesus comes to save us from that.
You might have thought that your biggest problem is finances, relationships, education, poverty. But God highlights our biggest problem – this power called sin.
I wonder how many of us sitting here sit around our Christmas trees, December 25th in the morning and talk about sin? I wonder how many of us sit there and open our presents with our children and talk about hell, and talk about our rebellion? I wonder how many of us have that Christmas morning as your wife is cooking, as the kids are waking up, you sit your kids down and talk to them about a baby who’s born to die? I wonder how many of us do that over Christmas? Speak about a baby who was born around sacrificial animals, and those animals were signs pointing back to him as the one who’s going to be the official and ultimate sacrificial lamb of God. I wonder how many of us talk to our kids, our wives, our husbands, our grandmothers, our mothers around Christmas about the crucifixional torture of Jesus. I wonder how many of us do that over Christmas. See, many earthly kings want to be known with many names. They want to be known as the great, as the conqueror, and so on and so forth. You get Alexandra, the great, and you get Shaka, the great conqueror, you get Martin Morrison, the bold. You get whoever, and they call themselves magnificent or whatever name they call themselves. But here’s the king of the universe who get whoever has the only legal right to call himself all of those names. But yet he wants to be known to you. He wants to be known to me as the saviour.
Jesus The Saviour
He wants to be known as the one who comes to save us. In fact, listen to what J.C Ryle says talking about the name of Jesus. He says, “Jesus is a name which is peculiarly sweet and precious to believers. it has often done them good, when the favour of kings and princes would have been heard without unconcern. It has given them what money cannot buy, even inward peace. It has eased their weary consciences and given rest to their heavy hearts.” Kids, what will be your problems with your boss, who hates you and you don’t want to go back to work? What has the name of Jesus been to you? Again, if the saviour saves you from your biggest problem that is sin, what are the problems that you’re struggling with compared to that? This is a saviour you can go back to, cry to, bow to, and he will hear you. And if he wills, he will deliver you from your problems. But if he doesn’t, he will still carry you. If he’s proven himself by becoming like one of us, being born of a virgin, taking our likeness, humbling himself, condescending so that he can look like one of us, so that he can die on that cross. What more of whatever it is that you’re struggling with or facing? What has the name of Jesus been to you in 2020?
God Is With Us
Listen to the other name that Jesus is called within Matthew 1: 23, ‘Immanuel’, meaning God with us. Least we’d be tempted to think that again God is far removed from us. God is sitting on his throne, he’s unconcerned, he doesn’t care about what is happening. some of us predict that we might be in this pandemic mode for the next two, three, four years. Is God unconcerned? He’s just sitting on his throne; he’s letting us just go through whatever it is that we’re going through and suffer the way we are suffering. Well, read the name Immanuel, the name Immanuel, this extraordinary name will remind us that Jesus has an extraordinary nature. 100 percent God, 100 percent man. Not 50 percent man, 50 percent God but 100 percent man, a hundred percent God. And so, as God, he sees and understands all the pain and suffering that you’re going through. Again, he can’t deliver you from it, or he can carry you through it. Whatever his will is. But as a man, this God, this Jesus rather, as a man he empathizes with us, he empathizes with every crook, with every cranny with every crevice and corner of your pain and you’re suffering, he knows it, and he knows it experientially and he gets it. he’s not just far removed from us. Immanuel is with us, Immanuel is with you right now in your pain, Immanuel is with you in all your struggles. Immanuel, again, this God he leaves his glory, he leaves his splendour, descends, becomes like one of us, walks the dusty streets of Palestine. Subjects himself to breathing the air that we breathe, he hungers, he thirsts so that he can be like one of us. So that when we are going through our suffering, he can turn around and say to you, “I get it, and not just in theory but I know it, I feel it. I’m there with you.” And even in all of that, this Jesus is without sin. Immanuel is there with you. He gets it.
As a man this Jesus empathises with with every nook, cranny, crevice and corner of your pain and your suffering.
Again, J C Ryle, and I’ll close with this. Listen to what he says about splendour Immanuel he says, “We shall often find as we read the gospels, that our saviour could be weary, and hungry, and thirsty. Could weep, and groan, and feel pain like one of ourselves. In all this, we see the man Jesus Christ. We see the nature he took on him, when he was born of the virgin Mary. But we shall also find in the same gospels that our saviour knew man’s hearts, and thoughts. And he said, “Before Abraham, I am and I and my father are one.” In all this, we see the eternal God. We see him who is over all, God blessed, forever amen.” And this is the Immanuel, the God that is spoken of more than 2000 years ago when the angel announced to Mary. He announced that there will be a cosmic shift, an event that will change the history of the universe. An event that will change your life and my life. This God man, this Jesus, the saviour, this Immanuel, this God who dwells in human flesh. This God, who comes to be with us, will walk the same streets of Palestine, and be subjected to death and death on a cross for you, for me.
Make Christmas About Christ
And I hope that this Christmas, as we read the story of Jesus, as we enjoy the festivities, as we meet with our friends and family, that we’ll remember again his birth date does not matter, but the reason for why he came, who he is and what it means for us, and what it means for those who are outside of Jesus. You might be watching this and you’re forced to come to church because again, it’s Christmas season and you don’t know who Jesus is. He’s birth more than 2000 years ago and has an impact on your eternal standing with God. So, give your life to him, give your life to this God who came to rescue you, who came to pull you out of the kingdom of darkness, who came to pull you out of sin to save you from the clutches of hell and Satan. Give your life to him and your life will be changed forever. You will be known as the son, or the daughter of God.
And for us who are Christians, let this excite us, let us be the focus of why we celebrate Christmas. Let us remember that we’re enjoying the freedom we’re enjoying. Even still with the residue of sin, we’re enjoying the freedom of being set free from sin, never having to experience hell again because there was a baby that was born to die and he died for you, he died for me.
Let’s pray. Father, thank you so much that you are God who loves us. And Father your love is not just the thing that we speak about, and not know of but Father that that cross is a perfect display of your love for us. And Father to think that the cross was 33 years later, that the day Jesus was born, was an announcement that human history will never be the same again. He perfectly existed as God the son but so it fit to subject himself to be like one of us. Lord I pray that this truth may not just go over our heads, I pray that this truth father may not just be something that we speak so lightly about. But I pray father that this truth may grip our hearts, grip our minds, excite us again to live in the craziness of what is going on in the world. Father, you came, you were born, Jesus you died, you rose, you ascended into heaven, and you’ll come back again. So, help us to have hope in that and to trust that. Pray all of these in your wonderful name Jesus, amen.