Christmas in July - Matthew 1:18-25 (Sermon)




WELCOME

Hi, I am pastor Rob. What is better than Christmas in December? Christmas in July! Who doesn’t like Christmas? There is so much to like. If you ask kids what their favorite part is, what would it be? The presents. Right? Presents are great, usually. What is the best gift you have gotten? What gift do you want? Imagine your dreams come true tomorrow. You get a Tesla with a bow, a new gaming system, Jewelry, or a first-class vacation. 

THE GIFT YOU DIDN’T WANT

What if you got something that was a real show stopper. I mean, something you never expected? What if it was a dud. You weren’t planning on this gift? You have had those. You look at it and wonder where the receipt is so you can return it? You wonder, can you give it away at the next garage sale or white elephant gift exchange? 

THE GIFT OF JESUS

Today, we will talk about a Christmas gift that people did not expect, and some didn’t want. But guess what, it was the best gift ever: The gift was Jesus. He changed the world. He changed my world, he has changed many of your worlds, and he isn’t finished working on us. 

TEXT 

I will have one of our youth interns, R., read for us. Would you mind standing in honor of God’s Word? R. you can come up here now. Thank you.  

Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 


“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, 

      and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). 


When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus. (Matthew 1:18–25)


PRAYER 

Thank you. Let’s pray. Heavenly Father, thank you for sending your Son, Jesus. Thank you for this account. Thank you for the opportunity to hear you speak and respond. Please impact our lives right now for your glory, amen. You may be seated.

OVERVIEW 

We are in week two in our series on the book of Mathew. The big idea is to follow the promised king into his kingdom. The story R. read is familiar. Yet, when we look closer, it is like that unexpected gift. Structurally, Matthew seems to have broken his account into three sections describing several bombshells: 

18-21 - Mary’s conception by the Holy Spirit, Joseph’s intention, and an angelic intervention

22-23 - Prophetic fulfillment of Isaiah 7 

24-25 - Joseph’s obedience to the the angel of the Lord 

Let’s walk through each section verse by verse highlighting the revelations. 

SECTION 1 - SHOCKING PREGNANCY 

If you have your Bibles, look at verse 18.

“Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 1:18). 

Joseph is the central player in these verses. He discovered that Mary was pregnant, and he was not the father. That was the first bombshell. Think about that discovery. Consider the scandal, the shock, the sense of betrayal Joseph must have felt. How do you think Joseph would have responded if you had never heard this story? In the Jewish culture, if a person committed adultery, the community was supposed to stone the perpetrators. It was what was about to happen in the gospel of John chapter 8 until Jesus stopped it. Mary claimed that she was faithful. Maybe she could say super faithful. God caused her to be pregnant, not by another man but by the Holy Spirit. Indeed, no other time in history had this happened or would happen. Do you think she told him? I bet she tried. Can you imagine the conversation? Her pregnancy, in Joseph's mind, was a betrayal. Marriage is supposed to be between one man and one woman, and here she appears to have broken his trust. I picture Joseph furious, a door-slamming, plate-breaking, drive-to-another-state, run-ten-miles kind of upset. She was likely three to four months pregnant because she had left Joseph early on to be with her cousin Elizabeth and returned. What did Joseph do when he saw her showing? Did he shut her out of his life? Did he give her the silent treatment or bury himself at work? What did he think? What did he feel? What did he do? Look at verse 19.  

JOSEPH’S RESPONSE

This is how he responded to this unexpected reality.  

“And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly” (Matthew 1:19). 

Joseph decided he would sever their relationship. He would take care of the problem gently, honorably, and legally, but it would be final. He was done.  

BETROTHAL

You might find this idea of a divorce confusing. I did. How could someone betrothed, or engaged, seek a divorce? They aren’t married. That is a good question. This is where commentaries can be helpful. The cultural understanding of marriage 2000 years ago in the Middle East was different than what we are used to. One scholar wrote, 


The difference between our modern concept of “engagement” and that of first-century Jews is indicated by the description of Joseph already in v. 19 as Mary’s husband and by the use of the normal word for divorce to describe the ending of the engagement. Though the couple were not yet living together, it was a binding contract entered into before witnesses which could be terminated only by death (which would leave the woman a “widow”) or by divorce as if for a full marriage (m. Ketub. 4:2); sexual infidelity during the engagement would be a basis for such divorce. About a year after the engagement (m. Ketub. 5:2; Ned. 10:5) the woman (then aged normally about thirteen or fourteen) would leave her father’s home and go to live with the husband in a public ceremony (such as is described in 25:1–12), which is here referred to as “coming together” and will be recorded in v. 24.


R. T. France, The Gospel of Matthew, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publication Co., 2007), 50.


Joseph opted for a peaceful resolution. He must have been shocked by his wife’s pregnancy, but the epiphanies had just begun.

THE ANGELIC DREAM

He was in for a second surprise: an angelic encounter. 

  1. Pregnant Mary 

  2. The angel

Keep reading, verse 20. 

“But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream” (Matthew 1:20).

Joseph had a dream. The angel of the Lord appeared. Frequently, when the angels appear in the Bible, they tell people, “Do not be afraid”. This one didn’t, at least not in his appearance. Joseph could not have expected this dream. Was it only a dream, or was it a reality?  

VIRGIN BIRTH

Then here is a third shocker, the angel announced that the birth was miraculous. 

  1. Pregnant Mary 

  2. The angel

  3. The virgin birth 



But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son.” (Matthew 1:20–21)


This confirmed what the reader and Mary already knew, she was pregnant by the Spirit. 

JESUS 

The surprises for Joseph didn’t stop. I think Joseph had a fourth reality that he had to process. He would name Mary’s son. 

  1. Pregnant Mary

  2. The angel 

  3. The virgin birth 

  4. Naming Jesus 


“And you shall call his name Jesus” (Matthew 1:21). 

In Jewish culture, the father named the child. This was not Joseph’s child. The angel of the Lord told Joseph what to name Mary’s son. Joseph’s obedience to the angel was obedience to God. His submissive attitude was one of humility and faith. Why Jesus? The name was not any old name. It was a derivative of the Hebrew name Joshua and related to the fifth surprise found in verse 21.  

SAVIOR 

“And you shall call his name Jesus for he will save his people” (Matthew 1:21). 

The name Jesus meant something. Names had significance back then, and Matthew told us what Jesus meant. Technically, Jesus stood for “God is salvation” and “he will save his people.” So, Jesus was not going to be an ordinary child. 

  1. Pregnant Mary 

  2. The angel 

  3. The virgin birth 

  4. Naming Jesus

  5. Jesus’s mission 

People longed for salvation. In the history of Israel, the people knew loss, rebellion, exile, and estrangement. They wanted to make Israel great again. They wanted someone to rescue them from the oppression of foreign power. People were looking forward to Jesus ushering in a national revival. You might remember James and John’s mother approaching Jesus in Matthew 20. She anticipated Israel’s rise to supremacy on Jesus’s shoulders. Jumping to chapter 20, verse 20, 


Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came up to him [Jesus] with her sons, and kneeling before him she asked him for something. And he said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Say that these two sons of mine are to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.” (Matthew 20:20–21)


The right and the left seats were seats of honor for a king. The mom was looking out for her children. She wanted what she thought was best for them: power and prominence. Who doesn’t want good things for their kids? However, this was not part of God’s plan. He was going to die before he reigned. When the dust settled, the disciples thought Jesus was there to make something happen for Israel as a country. They asked him, 

“Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6)

Jesus had to set them straight before he ascended into heaven. He would save his people, but not from Rome. From what? The angel told Joseph the sixth surprise. 

SAVING 

Jesus’s mission was spiritual. It had a different scope than people anticipated. 

“And you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). 

Jesus will save his people from their sins. This was not the gift most people were hoping for. They wanted a king. Matthew just built up the royal line of David in his genealogy. Politics consumed some people’s minds. Probably putting bread on the table consumed some. Probably finding work consumed some. Jesus was to be the next great king of Israel. He was to bless all people. He was to create a nation-state that would last forever. For the most part, no one was anticipating a baby who would save the Israelites spiritually; that is what the sacrifices were for in the Temple. They could take care of it on their own. From the people’s reaction to Jesus and my understanding of people, it seems people wanted food, health, freedom, and stability. They were not looking for help with guilt and shame. This was not a gift that they wanted or expected for the most part.  

SECTION 2 (Vs. 22-23)

The following section is a rationale, an interruption, and a climax of the story with a grande finale—the last gift for Joseph. Look at verses 22 and 23. 


All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 


       “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, 

      and they shall call his name Immanuel.” (Matthew 1:22–23)


This was a prophecy from 700 years before delivered by a man named Isaiah. Some think that looking at the context; you might figure he predicted a rescue of God’s people from Babylon in his day or close to it. God had another target in mind, Joseph’s day. In verse 23, we learn this Jesus had another name: Immanuel. What did that mean? Matthew told us, 

“God with us” (Matthew 1:23). 

This is the prize of all surprises. God with us. You may recall God was with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. He was with Abraham when he showed him the stars of the heavens; he was with Moses at the burning bush, on Mount Sinai, and in the tabernacle. He was with Elijah and Elisha. But never was he in the form of a baby, born to an obscure carpenter’s family living in a podunk town. This birth announcement was incredible and foreshadowed what Jesus will proclaim in Matthew 18:19 and 20 and Matthew 28 verse 20. Jesus said to his audience, 


Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them. (Matthew 18:19–20) 


At the end of the book Jesus concluded with a message to his followers: 

“And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).

The fact was that God is with us today as we gather in Jesus’s name and are filled with his Spirit. He was born a baby, died, rose, and ascended into heaven. The Triune God is omnipresent. The Father sits on his throne, the Son is at his right hand, and the Spirit is in the church. He is here. God is with us: Immanuel. Joseph had to wrestle with seven revelations:  


  1. Pregnant Mary 

  2. The angel 

  3. The virgin birth 

  4. Naming Jesus

  5. Jesus’s mission 

  6. The mission’s scope 

  7. Immanuel 

The author of history wrote himself into history in the form of the best Christmas gift ever. 

YOU RESPOND

How would you respond to waking up and having dreamed all that? Perhaps you would wonder what you ate? Dreams tend to be fears, desires, or experiences. What did it mean? It is hard to know how I would respond. But we do know how Joseph responded. 

SECTION 3 - Joseph’s ReSPONSE 

Look at the next few verses, 24 and 25. 


When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus. (Matthew 1:24–25) 


How did Joseph respond? He believed. He altered his course, obeyed the angel, took Mary as his wife, and named his son Jesus. Essentially, he followed the promised king into the kingdom. In doing so, Joseph preserved the legitimate royal line. 

SCHOLARSHIP BACKS JOSEPH’S PROTECTION OF THE ROYAL LINE 

Scholarship fills in some background. 


The angel’s address to Joseph as “son of David” reminds us what is at stake in the decision Joseph has just reached: the loss of Jesus’ royal pedigree if he is not officially recognized as Joseph’s son. So, despite his previous decision, he is called to take two decisive actions, first to accept Mary as his wife rather than repudiating her and secondly to give her son a name, which will confirm his legal recognition of Jesus as his own son and hence as also a “son of David.” - R. T. France, The Gospel of Matthew, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publication Co., 2007), 53.


Joseph protected the legitimacy of his gift by keeping Mary as his wife and giving the child the name Jesus. Not only that, his refusal to consummate the marriage protected the reputation of Jesus being conceived by the Holy Spirit, not from Joseph’s genes. 

OUR RESPONSE

Put yourself in Joseph’s shoes. How would you respond? You get a gift, like this one. You don’t know what it is. You open it, and things go sideways. You think you understand, but you don’t. God is going to use this incident miraculously for your benefit. 

FANNY CROSBY

Let me tell you a story as you think about how you would respond. In May 1820, a six-week-old girl named Frances had an eye infection and went to the doctor. She surmised the physician’s negligence when she went blind years later. That would be hard to live with. But decades later, at eighty-three, she wrote in her autobiography that her blindness was another physician’s responsibility: The great physician, God. Her book begins: 

“It seemed intended by the blessed Providence of God, that I should be blind all my life; and I thank Him for the dispensation.” 

Would you? She wrote that her blindness gave her a platform to care for the blind, to share the gospel with the world in ways that, by seeing, she could never. She assumed a nickname, Fanny Crosby, writing over 8,000 hymns, including Blessed Assurance, To God be the Glory, and All the Way My Savior Leads Me. Here are some of those lines to All the Way My Savior Leads Me; 

All the way my Savior leads me

What have I to ask beside?

Can I doubt His faithful mercies?

Who through life has been my guide

Heavenly peace, divinest comfort

Ere by faith in Him to dwell

For I know whate'er fall me

Jesus doeth all things well 


For I know whate'er fall me

Jesus doeth all things well 


Fanny was able to thank and praise God for the shocking gifts he gave and sing again and again and again. 

UNEXPECTED GIFT

What might the gifts be that God has given you? What if you open it, and tomorrow you find God prunes you, inflicts you with a thorn in your side, an ailment that you need medicine for, or a new hat to wear, a role to play you didn’t expect? God has you here and invites you to follow him. Your circumstances are not entirely of your choosing. God, in his providence, sets the table for us. Our interruptions, health, talents, limitations, and resources are primarily out of our control. God gives us the stewardship of the moment to follow him. Joseph believed and obeyed. Will you? What would it look like for you to follow him this week? The king is on the throne and inviting us on a journey. Will you follow him into his kingdom? 

PRAY

Let’s pray. Dear God, thank you for your Word. It is light and life. We are so grateful for Jesus. Use him in our lives, amen.  


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