The holidays can be difficult for many people who have suffered major loss and disappointment in their lives. Not everyone has a Holly Jolly Christmas.
Many people struggle with depression during the holiday season. So if you find yourself in an emotionally hard place, I want to encourage you that no matter how difficult our situation is, God is with you. Immanuel means, God is with us.
Joseph and Mary found themselves in an incredibly difficult situation. Mary was pregnant before marriage. Scandalous! What would everyone say? How would they be judged? And to top it off – she was still a virgin!
They didn’t have the benefit of seeing a Christmas play or reading the Christmas story in the gospels. They were making this up as they went – in real time. Hey, guys, how would you have handled this story from your fiancé?
Matthew 1:18-25 , “18 This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. 19 Joseph, to whom she was engaged, was a righteous man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly.”
Imagine the shock and confusion that Joseph must have experienced with this announcement. He was a good Jewish boy who had fallen in love with this perfect young girl. They have maintained the highest level of moral purity throughout their courtship.
Now she was pregnant and was telling him some story about an angel and the Holy Spirit. I wonder if Joseph listened patiently and then said firmly, “Mary, that’s NOT how it happens!”
20 As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet: 23 “Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’”24 When Joseph woke up, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded and took Mary as his wife. 25 But he did not have sexual relations with her until her son was born. And Joseph named him Jesus.”
This miraculous conception meant that Jesus was conceived by God, not man. Joseph was his stepfather, but God was his Father. That’s why Jesus was not born with the original sin that is passed through the fatherly bloodline. So only Jesus could qualify to be the sinless sacrifice on the cross. He was holy in nature and in behavior. Jesus was the only sinless person who has ever lived.
2 Corinthians 5:21, “For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.”
As a father of three, I can relate to being surprised by questions from a toddler. I had to chuckle at the story of a young mother who was reading the story of Christmas to her preschooler. When she got to the part where the Bible said, “Jesus was born of a virgin.” Her son asked, “What’s a virgin?” The surprised mother looked at her Bible praying for help and replied, “It was the King James Virgin.”
The story of Christmas is often overlooked in the hustle and bustle of the holidays. Political correctness has pushed the manger out of the mainstream. The most you might see is a lonely nativity scene on private property.
But the history of Christmas is more like a saga than a story. There are a lot of moving parts. The Christmas story has many characters, sub-plots, twists and turns, and some wonderful surprises. When you put them all together – you get the greatest story ever told.
It all begins with the most miraculous event that took place since creation. Two Jewish teenagers carefully selected the perfect spouse and honored God in every way. If Israel had Facebook, there would have been countless selfies posted of the young innocent couple.
An engagement back then was as binding as a marriage, but the couple wasn’t living together. Then, all of a sudden, their lives were turned upside down.
Luke 1:26-38, “God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you...Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” 35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God...Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.”
Mary was a virgin and was chosen by God to be worthy of giving birth to the Savior of the World. God gave Mary favor above all other women in history.
Now there is only one miraculous conception ever mentioned in scripture, so don’t go getting any ideas. Even Mary needed an angel to explain her case to Joseph. We’ll take a look through his eyes next week.