Dec 18

What Mary and Joseph Heard at Christmas, Part Three

This week I have been reflecting on Mary and Joseph’s experience at the first Christmas.  What did Mary and Joseph hear from God?  So far I have pointed out that Mary and Joseph heard answers to their questions (Part one), and they heard their identity in Christ (Part two).  What did Mary and Joseph ultimately hear?  
     To Joseph God says:
“She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”  All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”)…” Matthew 1:21-23 
     To Mary God says:
          You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus.  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, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end…” Luke 1:31-33
 Mary and Joseph heard of their involvement in the birth of Christ, which is a fulfillment of prophecy given long ago.  The prophecy was given to the prophet Isaiah by God almost 750 years before Mary and Joseph found out that Mary would give birth.  During the period of history of the divided kingdom of Israel (930BC-722BC), Ahaz, who was king of Judah feared his reign would come to an end because of an alliance between the king of Israel and the king of Syria.  They were planning to invade Judah and replace Ahaz with another king.  Isaiah declared that God would not allow such a thing to happen, and reassured Ahaz that a descendant of David would sit on his throne forever (the same promise God gave king David).  In confirming that the two kings would not conquer Judah, God offers king Ahaz a sign, which is found in chapter 7 in the book of Isaiah:
     “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel…”  Isaiah 7:14
God’s sign to Ahaz that pointed Israel to what was to come had finally arrived.  God had promised that Israel would not be destroyed, that they would not perish, but that they would be redeemed.  The fulfillment of the sign was the birth of Jesus.  Where sin had separated God and his people, the world broken by evil,  experiencing suffering, death, disease and destruction, exile…God answer was to come for His people once and for all.”  God was saying, ” I will come and ransom captive Israel.”  Israel needed to be saved.  We need to be saved.  Mary and Joseph heard God’s redemptive hope for his people.  Salvation had come through Jesus.  No longer are the wages for sin is death, but the gift would be eternal life in Christ Jesus.  What Mary and Joseph heard was that there would be no other name by which people can be saved than by the name of Jesus Christ.  Mary and Joseph heard God’s redemptive hope for His people because He was inviting them into God’s redeeming work by bringing Jesus into the world.
What do you need to hear from God this Christmas?  What can the Christmas story reveal to you?  We are often wrestling with the similar questions that Mary and Joseph were wrestling with.  “How can I be at peace with God?”  “How can I be sure of God’s love?”  “Who will ever believe that I decided to follow Jesus?  Who would ever think that my life has changed since I decided to follow Him?”  The truth is, outside of God’s redemptive hope, we might never have significant answers to those questions.  It is the identity that God gives us in Jesus Christ that redeems us as part of His purpose for our life, and through faith, God’s plan makes perfect sense.