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Christmas Faith (Matthew 1:18-2:23)

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18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows. When His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. 19 And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man, and not wanting to disgrace her, desired to put her away secretly. 20 But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for that which has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21 "And she will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for it is He who will save His people from their sins." 22 Now all this took place that what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet might be fulfilled, saying, 23 "Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel," which translated means, "God with us." 24 And Joseph arose from his sleep, and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took her as his wife, 25 and kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus.

2:1 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, 2 "Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east, and have come to worship Him."

3 And when Herod the king heard it, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 And gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he began to inquire of them where the Christ was to be born. 5 And they said to him, "In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it has been written by the prophet, 6 'And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, Are by no means least among the leaders of Judah; For out of you shall come forth a Ruler, Who will shepherd My people Israel.'" 7 Then Herod secretly called the magi, and ascertained from them the time the star appeared. 8 And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, "Go and make careful search for the Child; and when you have found Him, report to me, that I too may come and worship Him."

9 And having heard the king, they went their way; and lo, the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them, until it came and stood over where the Child was. 10 And when they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 11 And they came into the house and saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell down and worshiped Him; and opening their treasures they presented to Him gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh. 12 And having been warned by God in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their own country by another way.

13 Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, "Arise and take the Child and His mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him." 14 And he arose and took the Child and His mother by night, and departed for Egypt; 15 and was there until the death of Herod, that what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet might be fulfilled, saying, "Out of Egypt did I call My Son."

16 Then when Herod saw that he had been tricked by the magi, he became very enraged, and sent and slew all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its environs, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had ascertained from the magi. 17 Then that which was spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled, saying, 18 "A voice was heard in Ramah, Weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children; And she refused to be comforted, Because they were no more." 19 But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, 20 "Arise and take the Child and His mother, and go into the land of Israel; for those who sought the Child's life are dead." 21 And he arose and took the Child and His mother, and came into the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And being warned by God in a dream, he departed for the regions of Galilee, 23 and came and resided in a city called Nazareth, that what was spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, "He shall be called a Nazarene."

The Faith of Joseph
Matthew 1:18-25

18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows. When His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. 19 And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man, and not wanting to disgrace her, desired to put her away secretly. 20 But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for that which has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21 "And she will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for it is He who will save His people from their sins." 22 Now all this took place that what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet might be fulfilled, saying, 23 "Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel," which translated means, "God with us." 24 And Joseph arose from his sleep, and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took her as his wife, 25 and kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus.

13 "If any man takes a wife and goes in to her and then turns against her, 14 and charges her with shameful deeds and publicly defames her, and says,' I took this woman, but when I came near her, I did not find her a virgin,' 15 then the girl's father and her mother shall take and bring out the evidence of the girl's virginity to the elders of the city at the gate. 16 "And the girl's father shall say to the elders, 'I gave my daughter to this man for a wife, but he turned against her; 17 and behold, he has charged her with shameful deeds, saying, "I did not find your daughter a virgin." But this is the evidence of my daughter's virginity.' And they shall spread the garment before the elders of the city. 18 "So the elders of that city shall take the man and chastise him, 19 and they shall fine him a hundred shekels of silver and give it to the girl's father, because he publicly defamed a virgin of Israel. And she shall remain his wife; he cannot divorce her all his days. 20 "But if this charge is true, that the girl was not found a virgin, 21 then they shall bring out the girl to the doorway of her father's house, and the men of her city shall stone her to death because she has committed an act of folly in Israel, by playing the harlot in her father's house; thus you shall purge the evil from among you (Deuteronomy 22:13-21).

22 "If a man is found lying with a married woman, then both of them shall die, the man who lay with the woman, and the woman; thus you shall purge the evil from Israel. 23 "If there is a girl who is a virgin engaged to a man, and another man finds her in the city and lies with her, 24 then you shall bring them both out to the gate of that city and you shall stone them to death; the girl, because she did not cry out in the city, and the man, because he has violated his neighbor's wife. Thus you shall purge the evil from among you. 25 "But if in the field the man finds the girl who is engaged, and the man forces her and lies with her, then only the man who lies with her shall die. 26 "But you shall do nothing to the girl; there is no sin in the girl worthy of death, for just as a man rises against his neighbor and murders him, so is this case. 27 "When he found her in the field, the engaged girl cried out, but there was no one to save her. 28 "If a man finds a girl who is a virgin, who is not engaged, and seizes her and lies with her and they are discovered, 29 then the man who lay with her shall give to the girl's father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall become his wife because he has violated her; he cannot divorce her all his days (Deuteronomy 22:22-29).

Joseph's options from Deuteronomy 22:13-29:

  • If he confessed he was not the father, Mary would be condemned as an adulteress.
  • If he lied and claimed to be the father, the reputations of all and the qualifications of Jesus as Messiah would be tarnished.
  • His action was to take Mary as his wife, to keep her a virgin until after the birth of Jesus, and to serve as the father of our Lord, protecting him from danger.

The source of Joseph's faith:

  • a dream
  • an angelic message

The content of Joseph's faith:

  • Mary was pregnant in a unique and miraculous way--Jesus was virgin born.
  • The virgin birth was a fulfillment of Isaiah 7:14, a text no doubt not viewed as messianic at the time.
  • The Lord Jesus was destined to save His people from their sins.
  • The appearance was the opposite of reality, thus requiring faith:
  • The appearance: Mary and Joseph had an illegitimate child, and Jesus was, as such, disqualified from normal access and worship (Deuteronomy 23:2).
  • The reality: Jesus was indeed the Son of God, supernaturally conceived by the Holy Spirit, and thus sinless and qualified to become the sin-bearer for the sins of men.
  • The appearance would cause many to reject Jesus (John 8:41); the reality was that which men must believe to be saved.

The Faith of the Magi
Matthew 2:1-12

1 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, 2 "Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east, and have come to worship Him." 3 And when Herod the king heard it, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 And gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he began to inquire of them where the Christ was to be born. 5 And they said to him, "In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it has been written by the prophet, 6 'And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, Are by no means least among the leaders of Judah; For out of you shall come forth a Ruler, Who will shepherd My people Israel.'" 7 Then Herod secretly called the magi, and ascertained from them the time the star appeared. 8 And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, "Go and make careful search for the Child; and when you have found Him, report to me, that I too may come and worship Him." 9 And having heard the king, they went their way; and lo, the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them, until it came and stood over where the Child was. 10 And when they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 11 And they came into the house and saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell down and worshiped Him; and opening their treasures they presented to Him gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh. 12 And having been warned by God in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their own country by another way.

The source of the revelation which was the basis of the Magi's faith: A star

  • "King of the Jews"(?)
  • The prophecy of Micah 5:2
  • The contrast between the Magi and the Jews of Jerusalem:
  • The Jews had the Old Testament prophecies
  • The Magi had a star
  • The "King" was the "King of the Jews"
  • The Magi were surely Gentiles
  • The Jews had 7 miles to Bethlehem
  • The Magi came from afar
  • The Jews did not visit Jesus
  • The Magi did
  • The Jewish king Herod sought to kill Jesus (taking 2,000)
  • The Magi came to worship, bearing expensive gifts
  • The Magi (purposely, or they were directed there) went to the palace of the King of Israel, King Herod. What splendor they must have seen. Here was where one must expect to find a royal king.
  • The star led the Magi to the place where Jesus was found
  • He was not an adult, but a baby (which they expected)
  • He possessed no crown, but a cradle
  • He was not surrounded by riches and splendor, but poverty
  • No evidence of royalty was found, other than the star
  • If they were in the stable, they would have smelled the aroma of the barnyard, and the babe would have been surrounded by animals. There were no other worshippers. They could have stepped in barnyard stuff as they stood by.
  • What was it that the Magi believed?
  • The "King of the Jews was born" (His humanity)
  • They were actually looking for a baby
  • He was to be worshipped (His deity)
  • They believed in a very supernatural birth
  • They rejoiced greatly
  • They worshipped the child, giving expensive gifts (see Isaiah 60:6)

1 "Arise, shine; for your light has come, And the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. 2 "For behold, darkness will cover the earth, And deep darkness the peoples; But the Lord will rise upon you, And His glory will appear upon you. 3 "And nations will come to your light, And kings to the brightness of your rising. 4 "Lift up your eyes round about, and see; They all gather together, they come to you. Your sons will come from afar, And your daughters will be carried in the arms. 5 "Then you will see and be radiant, And your heart will thrill and rejoice; Because the abundance of the sea will be turned to you, The wealth of the nations will come to you. 6 "A multitude of camels will cover you, The young camels of Midian and Ephah; All those from Sheba will come; They will bring gold and frankincense, And will bear good news of the praises of the Lord (Isaiah 60:1-6).

They disobeyed Herod, going home a different route

The Faith of Herod
Matthew 2:1-9; 16-23

3 And when Herod the king heard it, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 And gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he began to inquire of them where the Christ was to be born. 5 And they said to him, "In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it has been written by the prophet, 6 'And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, Are by no means least among the leaders of Judah; For out of you shall come forth a Ruler, Who will shepherd My people Israel.'" 7 Then Herod secretly called the magi, and ascertained from them the time the star appeared. 8 And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, "Go and make careful search for the Child; and when you have found Him, report to me, that I too may come and worship Him." 9 And having heard the king, they went their way; and lo, the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them, until it came and stood over where the Child was. . . 16 Then when Herod saw that he had been tricked by the magi, he became very enraged, and sent and slew all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its environs, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had ascertained from the magi. 17 Then that which was spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled, saying, 18 "A voice was heard in Ramah, Weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children; And she refused to be comforted, Because they were no more." 19 But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, 20 "Arise and take the Child and His mother, and go into the land of Israel; for those who sought the Child's life are dead." 21 And he arose and took the Child and His mother, and came into the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And being warned by God in a dream, he departed for the regions of Galilee, 23 and came and resided in a city called Nazareth, that what was spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, "He shall be called a Nazarene" (Matthew 1:1-9; 16-23)

  • Notice the difference in the "messengers" of the good news to Jerusalem--not angels, but foreign nobility--Gentiles.
  • The star led the men to Jerusalem--and went out
  • They had to ask Herod, thus announcing the news
  • The star then went back on outside Jerusalem, leading them right to the Lord Jesus
  • Herod had a kind of faith
  • He believed there would be a "king"
  • He believed this king would come and rule Israel
  • He believed the Old Testament Scripture in Micah 5:2
  • His "faith" was very different than that of the Magi.
  • His faith made him fear this king.
  • He wished to kill Him, not to worship Him.
  • Secretly, he set his plan in motion, killing 2,000 infants.
  • He did not want a Savior who would change the world.
  • He did not want a Savior to forgive his sins.
  • He wanted things just as they were.
  • While the Magi rejoiced with exceeding great joy, Herod and all Jerusalem found the news of their King troubling. While these Gentiles came hundreds of miles, they would not walk the short distance to Bethlehem to see this king or to worship Him who had come to save His people from their sins.

Jeremiah 31:10-18 Hear the word of the Lord, O nations, And declare in the coastlands afar off, And say, "He who scattered Israel will gather him, And keep him as a shepherd keeps his flock." 11 For the Lord has ransomed Jacob, And redeemed him from the hand of him who was stronger than he. 12 "And they shall come and shout for joy on the height of Zion, And they shall be radiant over the bounty of the Lord-- Over the grain, and the new wine, and the oil, And over the young of the flock and the herd; And their life shall be like a watered garden, And they shall never languish again. 13 "Then the virgin shall rejoice in the dance, And the young men and the old, together, For I will turn their mourning into joy, And will comfort them, and give them joy for their sorrow. 14 "And I will fill the soul of the priests with abundance, And My people shall be satisfied with My goodness," declares the Lord. 15 Thus says the Lord, "A voice is heard in Ramah, Lamentation and bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children; She refuses to be comforted for her children, Because they are no more." 16 Thus says the Lord, "Restrain your voice from weeping, And your eyes from tears; For your work shall be rewarded," declares the Lord, "And they shall return from the land of the enemy. 17 "And there is hope for your future," declares the Lord, "And your children shall return to their own territory. 18 "I have surely heard Ephraim grieving, 'Thou hast chastised me, and I was chastised, Like an untrained calf; Bring me back that I may be restored, For Thou art the Lord my God'" (Jeremiah 31:10-18).

Jesus' birth was not just an occasion for the rejoicing of those who received it, by faith. Nor was it even the cause for some being troubled, as those in Jerusalem were disturbed by the news of His birth. It was, for many, the occasion for great tragedy and mourning. In His frantic effort to rid himself of the threat posed by the Messiah, Herod killed 2,000 infants in Bethlehem, fulfilling yet another Old Testament prophecy, undoubtedly not recognized as such.

How could God allow such tragedy and suffering to accompany the birth of His Son? How could God spare His Son, but allow the 2,000 sons of other parents to be slaughtered by Herod? How can this text bring us joy?

  • God would allow the rulers of Israel to put His Son to death.
  • The context of Jeremiah's words links divine judgment and divine deliverance. Before Israel was restored, they must first endure the divine chastening which their sins deserved.
  • The reality is that these 2,000 children were delivered, by death, into the hand of God.
  • Jesus' words, spoken early in His public ministry at the Sermon on the Mount, suggest to us that it is those who mourn who turn to the Savior for comfort and salvation.

Conclusion

Many were those, that first Christmas night, who did not have any idea that the Savior of the World had been born.

Most of those who were informed of His birth were troubled by it.

Few came to grasp the meaning of the event.

Things have not changed.

To truly rejoice at this Christmas time, one must view the event through the eyes of faith, like Mary and Joseph, the shepherds of old, the Magi from the east, and a handful of others. They must look beyond appearances, and see the reality. They must understand the event in terms of the prophecies of the Old Testament Scriptures, and in the light of the revelations given at the time of His birth.

You must believe in the virgin birth.

You must believe that He came to save men from their sins.

You must believe that He will come again to reign as King of all the earth. All of these truths were made known at the time of the Savior's birth, and those who rejoiced were those who believed them, and believed in Him, falling before a baby, in worship.

Related Topics: Christmas, Faith