God spoke to Mary and Joseph each individually. Then, they came together as a couple. Consider how hard it must have been for Joseph and Mary as a couple. This year is the first year I noticed that there were no family members of either side to witness the birth of Jesus. When a baby is born, it’s a big event for the entire clan. Everyone is there, parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, everyone is there to show their support and congratulate you. Everyone who is connected to you wants to be part of the birth so that this new child can be welcomed into the world surrounded by love. Given these expectations, it’s rather noticeable that no family members were present.
Why do you think that is? I imagine Mary and Joseph telling their parents and relatives and close friends about the Son of God being born of the Holy Spirit. What kind of response do you think they got? What? What did you say? Are you kidding me? Is this a joke? Who in their right mind would believe a story so unbelievable? No wonder not a single family member was there to witness the birth. It’s embarrassing.
There was no room in the inn because perhaps rumors had spread and who would want to be associated with his scandalous couple? This is true to life. The faith journey begins with a lot of promise, divine encounters and miracles and excitement and enthusiasm. But as you try to live out your faith day in and day out, it’s difficult. It’s hard work. It’s lonely at times.
Knowing their struggles, God knew that this couple needed encouragement. And that’s exactly what God does. First, there was a census in Luke 2. Luke notes that this was the first one ever taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. Joseph and Mary were in Nazareth but due to the census, they had to go back to their hometown and register in Bethlehem. Why would this be an encouragement? Because centuries earlier, the Messiah was prophesied in Micah to be born in Bethlehem. So this was a fulfillment of Scripture. And if Joseph and Mary were trained as all good Jewish boys and girls were, they would have known that God was actively orchestrating events and using a pagan king to conduct a census so that their personal stories would be aligned with biblical prophecy.
Also, through dreams, God warned them to stay away from Judea because of what Herod was about to do in ordering the execution of all Hebrew boys under the age of 2. So Mary and Joseph stayed in Egypt, which was a fulfillment of a prophecy from Hosea. Then, when Herod died, an angel appeared yet again in a dream and told them to leave Egypt and return to Israel and they ended up in Nazareth, where Jesus grew up. Divine intervention through dreams. Divine protection. A census. Mary and Joseph and the baby ending up in places that they didn’t plan for in order to fulfill prophecies that they likely forgot about. But as the events were unfolding, their jaws must have dropped. Remember what it said in Micah? Or Hosea? Things are lining up. Could this be? No way! All of this to encourage this young, scared, abandoned couple.
God also encouraged them through visitors. While their own family members were not with them, Magi came to worship the baby as recorded in Matthew 2. It’s important that Matthew notes that these Magi were from the East. They were not Jews. They were Gentiles. Gentiles who did not grow up with Jewish traditions and who traveled for miles and miles to worship a new king of the Jews. What an encouragement this must have been for Mary and Joseph.
Lastly, God encourages them by a visitation from Jewish shepherds in Luke 2. If only foreigners showed up for the birth, only Gentiles, then Mary and Joseph might have been worried. We’re Jews. We believe in the God of the Old Testament. Are we following some strange new religion? But the fact that Jewish shepherds appeared must have been a sigh of relief. Whew, we’re not alone. We are still following the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
Mary and Joseph were among the select few whose lives were literally turned upside down during this first Christmas. Their lives were impacted forever. Life-changing impact.
In closing, this is the million dollar question. How can you and I have a life-changing encounter with Jesus during this Christmas in the year 2012?
To answer that, I want to read one final passage and we’ll end.
20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 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.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”—which means, “God with us.” 24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.
This passages summarizes the entire Bible. One of the names of Jesus is Immanuel, or God with us. God wants to be with us because he loves us. God is love. And love is to be with. When you marry someone, you are making a vow, I love this person and I want to spend the rest of my life with him or her.
There is only one thing that can prevent God from being with us. Sin. Sin is what ruins our relationship with God. Sin ruins all of our relationships with our fellow man. Sin even ruins our relationship to self. If we’re honest, when we look inside, when we look at our hearts, we don’t like what we see. We are not comfortable even in our own skin.
Sin is what makes it impossible for us to fellowship with a holy God. And so from the very beginning, from the birth, the mission statement of this baby Jesus is laid out. v21 – he will save his people from their sins. How will he do it? By dying on a cross. He will pay the penalty of sin with his own life. Exchanging his life as a ransom for our lives. To be a Savior on our behalf from the wages and penalty of sin.
His birth and his death go hand in hand. Christmas and Easter go hand in hand. He was born into this world in order to die for your sins and mine. That’s the sole reason He came into this world.
The only thing that will prevent you and me from the Immanuel God being with us forever is unconfessed sin. I invite you right now to confess your sin and to acknowledge your need for Jesus so that you can be forgiven and reconciled. In order to restore fellowship with God.
Confession of sin and receiving the free gift of forgiveness is the only way that Christmas will impact you personally. Don’t let this Christmas pass you by just like it was any other day. Like it did for the nation of Israel 2000 years ago. The day came and went and there was zero impact.
Is Jesus a VIP to you? Is he the most important person in your life? Have you been receiving him this year? Have you been welcoming him? Have you even recognized his appearing in the mundane details of your life? Do you look forward to meeting him each day? If not, you’re no different from the religious Jews who did not welcome the coming of Christ. If this is you, I invite you to repent. Here at Hill Community, we are all about Jesus. He’s the Alpha and the Omega. The first and the last. It’s all about him.
If you repent, there will be life-changing impact. Guaranteed. Your life will no longer be the same. Like Mary, like Joseph, your life will be characterized by a growing faith in Jesus, trust in Jesus and obedience to Jesus. And your greatest reward is that Jesus will come into your heart and dwell with you forever.