18Now the birth of Jesus Christ happened this way. While his mother Mary was engaged to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19Because Joseph, her husband to be, was a righteous man, and because he did not want to disgrace her, he intended to divorce her privately. 20When he had contemplated 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 as your wife, because the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21She will give birth to a son and you will name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” 22This all happened so that what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet would be fulfilled: 23“Look! The virgin will conceive and bear a son, and they will call him Emmanuel,” which means “God with us.” 24When Joseph awoke from sleep he did what the angel of the Lord told him. He took his wife, 25but did not have marital relations with her until she gave birth to a son, whom he named Jesus.
Matthew 1:18-25 (NET)
Do you remember when you found out you were going to be a parent? I remember that pregnancy test home kit, and seeing the blue check mark. But, most of all, I remember my husband's reaction. Basically, he was so overwhelmed with emotion at the prospect he was "zombie-fied" for about 3 days. I imagine that is how Joseph must have felt: a carpenter who dreamed of the birth of God.1
Today, Christians talk about Jesus' return, and we say we believe this to be a certainty. I'm sure that the Jews of Mary and Joseph's day felt the same about the coming of Messiah. But, I'm equally sure they felt that "someone else" would be chosen to be His earthly parents. What a shock this must have been!
The mystery of the Incarnation. I can't wrap my mind around it. A friend of mine wrote a Christmas song in which she tried to express the unfathomable fact that Mary gave birth to the One who had created her, who had known her before her own birth. "We Have Met Before" :
"Newborn Son, yet Ancient of All Days"...
God the Father gives to us God the Son. This is the essence of Christmas: God gives us the only path to soul salvation, His very own Beloved One, His Only Begotten.
Do you have a favorite Christmas tree ornament? I do. It is the subject of the picture at the top of today's post. It is not a particularly beautiful ornament, in the aesthetic sense. In fact, it looks out-of-place, nestled in the "front and center" of our tree. The ornament is a long iron stake, a "nine-inch nail", if you will, suspended by a scarlet red ribbon. What is the meaning there? It symbolizes the culmination of Jesus' first Advent, the stake mimicking one that nailed his wrists or feet to the harsh wooden beams, the red ribbon symbolizing His precious blood, spilled for me.
This poignant ornament is there to remind me that Christmas was only the beginning of Jesus's earthly ministry. If He had only been born and then had lived a life marked by sinful choices, or if He had refused to fulfill His purpose here, there would be no spike ornament on my tree, nor would there be any reason for a Christmas celebration at all.
God With Us...Immanuel. You can't take the Babe without the Broken and Suffering. You can't worship the Newborn without embracing the Triumphant King. There is no worship of Jesus apart from embracing His finished work on the cross and His earth-shattering emergence from the borrowed tomb. He loved us ... to death, and back again.
Even after He returned to Heaven, to sit at the right hand of our Father God, He did not leave us comfortless. Through His Holy Spirit, God is still with us, with those of us who have believed and confessed, "I am His and He is mine."
As he lay dying, the renowned 18th c. Methodist evangelist John Wesley is said to have uttered these words: "The best of all is, God is with us."
Amen and amen.
Thanks be to God, for His indescribable Gift! 2 Corinthians 9:15
1 Voskamp, Ann. The Greatest Gift: Unwrapping the Full Love Story of Christmas.