Summary: This message looks at what was meant when Joseph was told that Jesus would save his people from their sins.
Reflections of a Saviour
If I was to ask you to name a story that began on Christmas Eve (without the obvious spiritual answer), some people would answer with “A Visit from Saint Nick”, and that would be a good answer. “T’was the night before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring not even a mouse.” And that is a favourite for many folks.
But I kind of like the story that begins with the words. “Marley was dead, to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that.” Which of course is the opening lines of “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens. And we are going to come back to that in a bit.
This Advent season the staff has been reflecting on the Christmas Story as told in Matthew 1:18-25. And in week one I spoke about a reflection of change how that first Christmas changed the world for Mary and Joseph. Week two Marilyn reflected on the Gift that was given through Jesus on that first Christmas.
Last week Stefan focused on Reflections on Time and looked back 700 years before Jesus’ birth and the prophecy that Isaiah had made to King Ahaz. And then this morning Deborah spoke on “A Reflection of Roles”.
And here we are, Christmas eve and Marley was dead. If you are familiar with the Christmas Carol then you know that the protagonist is Ebenezer Scrooge who was described in the book as “A squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster.”
And Scrooge hated Christmas, he once said “If I could work my will, every idiot who goes about with 'Merry Christmas' on his lips should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart. He should!”
But by the end of the story Scrooge has become a changed person and a committed fan of Christmas. And the transformation came about through the intervention of four ghostly visitors.
Scrooge was first visited by the ghost of his former partner Marley and then by the Ghost of Christmas Past, the Ghost of Christmas present and the Ghost of Christmas yet to come.
But the reality is that the Ghosts simply represented his past, his present and his possible future.
In the middle of the scripture that we’ve been focusing on this season we see this promise to Joseph Matthew 1:20-21 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. And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
And for a few minutes tonight I want to focus on the last part of that promise,
Matthew 1:21 And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
Now in Canada in 2017 we think of Jesus as a pretty special name. If we hear of someone with that name we just assume that they are from a different culture. But when Joseph and Mary were told that their son’s name would be Jesus it wasn’t all that strange.
2000 years ago in Israel Jesus was a common name, it was simply the Greek form of the Jewish name Joshua.
And maybe you remember Joshua from the Old Testament, we have an entire book that carries his name. He was the leader who led the people of Israel into the promised land.
Joshua was as an everyday name, a name that Jesus probably shared with other kids he went to school with. It would be the same if Jesus was born in the late seventies and early eighties and had been named Matthew.
But it wasn’t the name it was what the name meant and Joshua means “Jehovah, or God, is salvation.” Or simply “God Saves”
And in most cases, it was just a name, but the angel tells Joseph that in this case, the name would be indicative of Jesus’ purpose. He would be called Jesus because he would literally save his people from their sins.
So, what does that have to do with A Christmas Carol? Well, actually that’s just the way my mind works.
As I was thinking about where I was going with my Christmas Eve message we went and saw the movie “The Man Who Invented Christmas”, which is a great movie about Dickens writing the novel “A Christmas Carol”. Which prompted me to actually read the novel.