Summary: Christmas is so much more than a birth, even a miraculous birth. The name Immanuel reveals the mystery of Christmas. A) Because he's our God in the flesh, born of the virgin. B) Because he is our Jesus, come to save us.

Text: Matthew 1:18-25

Theme: Why Is This Baby Immanuel?

A. Because he's our God in the flesh, born of the virgin

B. Because he is our Jesus, come to save us

Season: Advent 4a

Date: December 19, 2010

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Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. The Word from God through which the Holy Spirit brings us our Savior is Matthew 1.

"The origin of Jesus Christ was like this:

"When his mother, Mary, had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child from the Holy Spirit. Since Joseph, her husband, was just and did not want to make a show of her, he decided to divorce her quietly.

"When he had thought over these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife. For what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. For he's the One who will save his people from their sins. This whole thing has happened to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: 'Behold, the virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call his name Immanuel,'" which means "God with us."

"After Joseph got up from his sleep, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife home. He did not know her until she gave birth to a son, and he called his name Jesus.

"(Matthew 1:18-25")

Dear friends in Christ, fellow saints washed clean in the blood of our risen Savior:

"What should I do? Mary's been unfaithful to me! Three months ago she went to visit her relatives in Judea, and how she comes back pregnant."

Sometimes we so sanitize the birth of Jesus, turning it into a child's bedtime story, that we forget the real-life people and their struggle. Even worse -- in fact far, far worse -- we forget the miracle or at least fail to fully appreciate and value just how astounding and earth-shattering the wonder and mystery of that birth is. It's not just another birth. It's not simply that miracle of life. It's not like after a difficult pregnancy or delivery which we call it a miracle because we were so sure the child or mother wouldn't make it. Even the word miracle fails to bring home to us what a great and mighty wonder this birth is. It's so much greater than turning water into wine or healing the sick or walking on the sea or calming a storm or even raising the dead.

Some of our best loved Christmas carols place the miracle right in front of our eyes. But do we contemplate it as we sing the words or hear the melody? "Round yon virgin mother and child. Holy Infant, so tender and mild" (/Christian Worship: A Lutheran Hymnal/, "Silent Night" 60:1) How can anyone be a virgin mother? That's biologically impossible. Or a holy infant? We're all born sinners. Do you see the wonder? "Veiled in flesh the God head see, Hail th'incarnate Deity! Pleased as man with us to dwell, Jesus, our Immanuel!" (/Christian Worship: A Lutheran Hymnal/, "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" 61:2). What a commentary on that name Immanuel!

As we place ourselves with Joseph today, let's contemplate the wonder of that name: Immanuel. Why is this Baby Immanuel? May the words of the Holy Spirit open our hearts and minds to taste this mystery and believe all the more that this Baby is our God in the flesh, born of the virgin and that he is our Jesus, come to save. That's why he's Immanuel.

A. Because he's our God in the flesh, born of the virgin

Joseph was betrothed to Mary. That's more than a modern "getting engaged." They had made legally binding promises to be husband and wife. Sometime after the betrothal the husband would take his wife home. This was often a week-long wedding celebration with family and friends. It was only at this point that sexual relations would begin.

Joseph and Mary were betrothed, but he had not yet taken her home. There was no way she could be pregnant by him. So what was he to do? The betrothal was legally binding; only a divorce could break it. Should he pretend this was no big deal and go ahead with the wedding? No, that wouldn't be right. He could publicly accuse her of adultery. That would vindicate him and give proper grounds for divorce. But how that would destroy her life, condemning her as an adulteress! So Joseph decided to use the lax divorce laws, like our no-fault divorce. Then Mary wouldn't be exposed to greater public shame.

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