CHRISTMAS DAY 2015

SCRIPTURES – Matthew 1:21

 

“You shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

 

Boy, what a list of names we heard in Matthew’s Gospel this morning! Why did he start his Gospel with this genealogy? What difference does it make?

 

Well, there are some interesting things we can learn from this list of names in Matthew 1. Some great men of God from Israel’s history are mentioned, such as Abraham; David; Solomon; and Hezekiah. But, great sinners and their sins are also mentioned:

  • “Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers” – who hated their brother Joseph. They attacked him and threw him into a pit, and then sold him into slavery. Remember?

  • “David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah.” Remember how David had Uriah killed after committing adultery with his wife Bathsheba and getting her pregnant?

    Haters; liars; dividers of family; adulterers; and even murderers. What great sinners were these ancestors of Jesus! And so are we. He was not ashamed, however, to be connected to them by blood by being descended from them.

     

    But, there is a difference with Jesus. Did you pick it up in Matthew’s Gospel? He concludes his list of names with: “Jacob [was] the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born.” Notice how careful Matthew is in indicating that Jesus came from Mary – “of whom Jesus was born” – and not Joseph. For, Joseph also was a great sinner, as Matthew goes on to tell us. He wrongly assumed Mary was guilty of adultery and was going to divorce her! Jesus is connected to such sinners; but, He is not conceived by such. Of Mary, and not Joseph, was Jesus conceived and born. He is bound to sinners by heritage, but not by nature. We are conceived by sinners and so are sinful when we are born. Already within is selfishness and rebellion and opposition to God and His ways. Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit of a virgin and so was born pure and holy. Already at His birth His heart is filled only with love for God and the desire to do His will. How unlike us He is!

     

    Jesus came, like us and yet unlike us, that in Him there might be a new beginning. He was descended from us that He might be one with us and that we might then be descended from Him. He came into our family of sinners to make for us a place with His holy Father in heaven. “You shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins,” the angel commanded Joseph. The holy Son of God takes us as His people! He comes to rescue us from our sins and give us a new heritage, a new life that is good and holy and eternal! God tells us this through Matthew. It is even pointed out in how Matthew records his list of names.

     

    If you count carefully the names in Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus, you will see that he lists them in three groups of 14. First, there is Abraham through David; then, there is David through Jeconiah; then, there is Jeconiah through Jesus. Ah, but in this last group there is a difference. Jesus is the 13th name; there is no 14th. What is the Holy Spirit, who inspired Matthew, telling us? There is room for you!

     

    It is in Baptism that you are born into Christ, who was born for you; and your name is added to the list. And, no matter how many new names are added, there is only one Christ and one Baptism into the one God. In Christ “the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people” we are told in Titus 2, and we are made “a people for his own possession.” “To us a Child is born,” says Isaiah (chapter 9); and, “To you has been born a Savior,” the angel tells the shepherds. He came to be like us, to be our brother. And so, in Him you are made God’s child.

     

    Does this change your life? Yes; as you allow it to do so and make it do so. You are not just a person of this life and world. In Christ you are an eternal person, a child of God who has His eternal life within you and His eternal home awaiting you! So, “renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives,” as St. Paul urges. Live as a child of God! Be “zealous for good works,” as was Jesus. This is your heritage. This is your birthright. You do not admire the new clothes you received at Christmas but then set them aside. You wear them throughout the year! Even so, put on the Savior who was born for you in Bethlehem and born in you in your Baptism. Be zealous for good works; for God’s works! In this way the gift given to you at Christmas – Christ and His heritage – will be seen in your life throughout the year.

     

    This will involve sacrifice. In taking Mary as his wife Joseph bore not only the burden of instant fatherhood; he also endured being gossiped about and thought ill of because of her unexpected pregnancy. But, God watched over him. He sent His angel to help and serve him. He will also help you, for your Father in heaven honors those who honor Him.

     

    This is the background of Christmas. This is what the birth of God’s Son means for you. God has come into your family and joined Himself to your heritage that you might be in His family and have His eternal heritage! Merry Christmas to you, and a happy new life in Christ!! Amen.