A sermon based on Matthew 1:18-25, for Christmas Eve Candlelight Service December 24, 2018.
Those moments happen so fast in our life. We never could see them coming. By the time we know what is going on, it is too late to change course. One minute we plan how our life will go, but the very next minute those plans do not fit the plan of the Master. Dreams shatter. Life changes. On the surface we see one thing. However, once everything plays out we see things are not exactly how they seem.
Has this ever happened to you? You lay out the best plans possible. The future looks very bright. Then right when everything is going so well, something unexpected happens. However, in the end as you look back, God had a plan, which you could never see nor expect to come.
I thought everything was all planned out. I would soon marry the love of my life. I dreamt of starting a family. We would build our little home where we could live for many happy years. The time drew closer for us to make our marriage official. I tried finishing up everything on my end. That was the moment everything changed.
People started talking. Rumors spread all throughout our village. Mary returned home from a visit with her cousin, Elizabeth. She had been away so long, and I could not wait to see her. Before I could see her, news reached me. I did not want to believe, could not believe it, until I saw with my own eyes. All the evidence was there. Mary was pregnant. My heart sank. All the dreams of a family, a house, a life together with Mary turned into a nightmare.
I had no idea what I would do. In my mind Mary broke one of God’s commands, do not commit adultery. I still loved her. I did not want to embarrass her more than had already taken place. I decided that I would divorce her quietly. We would break things off. This would be better for both of us.
At night I tossed and turned over this agonizing decision. Things would never be the same for me. Worse than that Mary’s life would be changed forever. She had to put up with the dirty looks. The women would talk behind her back. She would face disgrace the rest of her life. I hoped and prayed that those moments would pass for Mary. I wanted her to overcome all the difficulties she would be facing.
It took a few days for me to gather my courage to speak to Mary. I finally mustered all the courage I could. Tomorrow I would speak to her. At that moment God intervened. He showed me a much different plan. It all started when an angle appeared to me. I heard how angels appeared to prophets, priests, and kings. I am just a lowly carpenter. Why would an angel appear to me? What message could be important enough to be brought to me?
The angel delivered a message that I would never forget. Things were not what they appeared on the surface. I did not have to be afraid to take Mary home as my wife. She was not unfaithful to me. The child in her womb was conceived by the Holy Spirit. Mary would give birth to a son. The angel said his name would be Jesus.
Oh, how I trembled at this news. Jesus, the one promised from of old would be born. Mary, the woman I was going to marry, would be his mother. This dream changed everything. My emotions no longer were of pain and anger. They turned to joy and excitement. The Savior of the world, whom I learned about from a young boy, soon would walk upon the earth. The promises found all throughout the pages of the sacred Scriptures of Isaiah, Micah, Genesis, Psalms, and many other places would be fulfilled.
Just the name of this child sent shivers down my spine. Jesus was not an uncommon name. It came from the Hebrew Joshua. It meant, “the one who saves”. This child would grow up to save the whole world from their sins. This child would pay the debt my sins deserved. This child would be the Savior of the world.
This means he would be no ordinary child. Parents want to help their child in every aspect of their life. They will provide over and above what that child needs. They pray the child will grow up to be a faithful, God-fearing person. In my heart I knew this child would take care of me. He would provide for all my needs. He would make sure that I stayed in the faith. All of my failings as a husband and father would be forgiven by this child who would fulfill all the laws perfectly. All the sins of my people and the world would be paid for by this child growing in Mary’s womb.
What is bothering you this Christmas season? Do you carry around the guilt and burden of a particular sin? The unfaithfulness to your spouse that caused a separation or divorce. The shame of being caught in a lie. The guilt of not making God and his Word a priority in your life. These sins, along with any sin you commit, leaves you dreaming of a better life. You want a do over.
Jesus came for you! Jesus came to save you! He took the guilt of every single sin of all time upon himself. He paid our punishment. Yes, I knew this child would one day die. That message brought sadness to my life, but it also brought joy. Forgiveness of sins would be found solely in Jesus. Forgiveness would no longer be a dream. It would become a reality for Jesus, the Savior, came to die for all.
Just so all of this would not be lost on me I thought back to the words God foretold in the prophet Isaiah. A sign would come for the whole world to see. This sign would be that the virgin would be with child. It went against the normal order of things. The world would not miss it. Her son would receive the name Immanuel, which means God with us.
This name brings comfort to all people. At this time of the year we focus on how God came to the world to be with us. Christ’s birth does not mark a time for people to take extra time off from work, eat too many treats, and spend time with family. Christ’s birth is not a time to go around comparing who got the most things. This night is too big for any of that.
I looked down at the child Mary brought into the world with so many things going through my mind. At first I wanted to divorce her. An angel appeared to me saying to bring Mary home as my wife. I looked down to witness a great mystery. God, the eternal one who created this universe, took on human flesh to be born as a little child. All the hopes and dreams of the faithful looked toward this day. Here these dreams were fulfilled.
God with us remains a fitting name for this child. God was with my people all through their history. He remained faithful to his promises even though we were unfaithful. In his time God brought forth a Son to be born of Mary. The dreams of centuries came true in the manger at Bethlehem.
God continues to be with you. You cannot forget about how God remains with you. As worry hangs as a dark cloud over your celebration. Layoffs and wage cuts mean Christmas might be a little thinner this year as money will not go as far. God is with you. The gift of Christ taking on human flesh means the greatest present. As pain marks this time of the year. An empty seat at the table reminds us of a loved one that was called home to heaven this year. God is with you. The news of the peace of Christmas rings true for Christ came to slay death.
All our dreams become a reality in this Christ child. God is right there with us. Peace fills our lives. Jesus comes to bring salvation with his mighty arm. This child comes with great strength. This child comes with such meekness. It is a mystery for all to behold.
This evening marks another anniversary of Christ coming into the world. Does this news ever get old? Do you tire of hearing the familiar passages of the birth of Jesus? Does everything else get in the way? Christ comes for you. A Savior comes to take away the sins of the world. God took on human flesh. God continues to be with you today. All the Christmas Dreams Become a Reality as you celebrate the birth of Christ. Amen.