Summary: Jesus saves his people from sin and its ill effects.
Once upon a time lived a mighty king, whose heart was completely smitten by a beautiful young maiden. But how could the king express his romantic desires, since she was a mere commoner? Should he descend on her cottage with the royal entourage heralding his coming with blaring trumpets? Should he dazzle her with his royal crown, kingly robe, and exalted title? Should his minions display the wealth of his throne as he kneels to ask her hand in marriage? Or, perhaps the king should simply demand her betrothal. After all, as sovereign ruler he was entitled to the queen of his choice. But if he relied on his rightful authority, how he would know if she truly loved him? Then the wise king (for he was very wise) decided to leave his crown, his riches, his servants, and his power at home. Alone and tattered, he arrived in the woods disguised as a beggar, seeking first her favor and love, then her hand in marriage, before he would reveal his true name.
Jesus is the King of kings, perfect in all his ways, wise beyond measure, of royal lineage, and (holding all power) able to rule his people his people, while overruling all his and our enemies. In fact, in the verse right after our text, wise men from the east, scientists and astronomers come to see, not a beggar, but the baby born king, and to worship him, for they saw the signs in the stars. But for all his royal pedigree, King Jesus leaves his throne to woo and win hearts, rather than demand the allegiance that is his right. A few did recognize him under the tattered rags, but most saw only a man of sorrows, despised and rejected, worthy of contempt, if not death.
The difference between the appearance and the person of Jesus is the story of Christmas, the tale of the King in the guise of a servant, the love of God revealed in Matthew 1.18-25. Please give your attention to the reading of God’s word.
[Read Matthew 1.18.25: Pray.]
In December of 2003, the Wall Street Journal, published Vincent Carroll’s article, “They Come But Once a Year.” He wrote: “On Christmas Eve, in line with my custom in recent years, I will arrive at my church in Denver at least 90 minutes before the service. After scouting out an empty pew near the front, I’ll lay down a couple of magazines to reserve space and then retreat outside briefly to phone my family with instructions on where to find me at the appointed hour. Then I’ll return to the pew and spend the next hour or so reading while fending off attempts by other churchgoers to horn in on my turf.
“This ritual is necessary in part because the Mass we attend occurs at an attractive time for families with children. But that is not the only reason for the overflow crowd. Late December is the season of the holiday Christian, that insouciant fellow whose religious practice consists of nine parts nostalgia and one part worship.
“To the many holiday Christians who long ago stopped attending church with any regularity, Christmas… somehow doesn’t seem complete without dipping a toe into the cultural waters of their youth. They attend Christmas services in part for the same reason that they wear a Christmas tie or hang a wreath on the front door: it’s part of the total holiday experience. But if they no longer practice their faith with much conviction, they still respect its memory. And, after all, it is just possible that a child was born in Bethlehem who changed the world, and it’s never a bad idea to hedge one’s bets.”
Who is Jesus, and what does his birth matter for us today? Was just another baby born two thousand years ago? Should Christmas be nine parts nostalgia? Is the church simply a club for the betterment of her members? Who is Jesus, and what does his birth matter for us today? Was he unique, God with us, the promised one? Is his life and death the crux of space and time? Should Christmas be ten parts worship, regardless of how we feel about the nostalgia? Our text helps answer these questions as it tells us about:
• the Christ of Christmas;
• his purpose; and
• how he changes holiday Christians into true worshippers.
Let’s begin by asking…
1. Who Is This Baby?
The first thing we must know is that he is…
1.1. The Christ (Matthew 1.18-20)
Twice, Matthew tells us that this baby was “from the Holy Spirit.” In other words, he was not from Joseph, and God adds something else to state clearly that this pregnancy did not result from promiscuousness – the conception was prior to Mary and Joseph coming together. And it is this miraculous act of God which makes him the “Christ” (v. 18a): “Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way….”