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Are you getting excited about Christmas? Perhaps, as you get older, you don’t have the same level of excitement and engagement as youngsters do? Perhaps you can’t wait for January, to get back to normal? As Christians, we should be those most excited – not for presents, tees, carol services etc., but because we are conscious of the significance of the incarnation of Jesus Christ, born of a virgin, conceived in Mary’s womb by a sovereign act of the Holy Spirit, according to the holy will of the Father.
The second person of the Trinity came into this world and dwelt amongst us. This is a great mystery, one we will never be able to get our mind around. It is not something mystical that we cannot get an understanding of. It is so unique it can never be fully comprehended. Here is an event which continually fills us with awe and wonder.
We should never be tired of considering these things. We should never think of just going through the motions of another Christmas. Here we encounter a glorious miracle; Jesus was not just a mere baby, He was supernaturally begotten of the Holy Spirit – the miracle of the virgin conception, the birth of a sinless person, one promised by God 4,000 years prior to the event. In Genesis 3:15 God promises the woman’s seed – a singular word – one who would come from the woman, in due time, who would be there conqueror of Satan, and who would be the one who would release them from their captivity to sin.
In the person of Jesus Christ, the woman’s seed, the Saviour comes – miraculously conceived in in the womb of a virgin – a great and glorious miracle of God. Marvel afresh at the mystery and the miracle of our Saviour’s birth. Matthew, like Luke, wants to emphasise the wonder of this event by pointing to the reality of the virgin conception.
“Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ,” (Matthew 1:16). ‘Of whom’ is feminine, not masculine. The original language is unambiguous; Jesus is the son of Mary, not the son of Joseph. That great lineage that we read at the start of Matthew 1 is emphasised in the original language, that He is born of Mary.
“Now the birth of Jesus Christtook place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothedto Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 1:18) There is an emphasis on the absence of sexual relationship between Mary and Joseph. A betrothal has taken place, something more than an engagement. We are told specifically, as the Holy Spirit guides Matthew, there was no sexual relationship between Joseph and Mary that could have led to her conceiving. Indeed, we are told in verse 18 and re-emphasised in verse 20, as the angel speaks to Joseph, Mary was not involved with any man, “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.” (Matthew 1:20). Joseph need not worry that Mary had been unfaithful to Him.
“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). Matthew 1:23 Matthew quotes Isaiah. He uses a word in Greek that only means virgin. The Holy Spirit guides Matthew, confirming it is a virgin who gives birth. Mary remains a virgin up to His birth. Subsequently, we know Mary has a further four boys and at least two girls that Joseph fathered. But in this instance, Joseph has no involvement in this conception. A virgin conception leads to a virgin birth.
If Jesus was the natural child of sinful parents, then there would be no reason for us to celebrate Christmas, to be excited, to be full of awe and wonder at His birth. If Jesus were not the Son of God who entered into this world via the virgin’s womb, He could not be the Saviour of His people. The name Jesus that was given to Him, by direction of God through the angel, means Saviour. It’s a name that was a fairly commonly used in Bible times. It has an Old Testament version, Joshua. Of all the boys that were born down the centuries that bore His name, there was only one who was truly the Saviour, bringing salvation to those born in sin. This Jesus is Immanuel, God with us. Here is the one mysteriously, miraculously conceived, the one who brings hope to a hopeless, lost world.
This Jesus is Immanuel. We are told this is God, God with us. Here is the one who is mysteriously, miraculously conceived, the one who brings hope to the hopeless. Here is one who is fully God, never anything less than that. It is important for fallen human beings to ascend to God, to approach the holy one, to draw near to this holy God. It there was ever to be a renewed fellowship between sinful men and the holy God, God must come down, for man cannot go up.
Sharing in this remarkable event, in this mysterious, miraculous occurrence, God comes – one who is fully God, but one who is also the fullness of God. “For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell,” (Colossians 1:19), “For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily,” (Colossians 2:9). In this one person the fullness of God was found in bodily form. An incredible mystery! It is phenomenal – not just a bit of God but the whole of God. It’s only God the Son who is conceived of the Holy Spirit, who is born. But such is the unity of the Trinity that when one person of the Trinity comes, then the whole of God comes, in Jesus of Nazareth, the one who is Immanuel.
How amazing it is that the God we have sinned against and rejected, condescends to come. He doesn’t sit in glory and say, ‘Do your best to get to me,’ for that is impossible. He comes! Who is it that can pay the infinite price for sin other than the infinite God. It is God the Son who will offer Himself up, as a sacrifice, taking the punishment from our sin, in our place, upon the cross. The Father will pour out upon Him the wrath the should rightly consume each one of us.
It is the one who is fully God, the one who is the fullness of God, who pays the penalty that God requires, so that we can be forgiven and receive salvation, eternal life, that renewed fellowship with God which is the essence of what life is – an eternal union with Christ through faith, that draws us into the very communion of the godhead itself. We don’t become divine, but through Christ we are drawn into the divine, and we know salvation. Immanuel. It’s God. It is God with us.
He is God but He is also fully man. He identifies full with us in our humanity. He is therefore able to represent us and take upon Himself the responsibility for our sin. It is not an angel who comes in order to die, it is a man, for it is a man who fell into sin and brought into captivity all his descendants. We are all sinners by our nature and by our deed. We share in the responsibility for Adam’s sin. We cannot say, ‘It’s unfair because it was Adam who fell not me.’ The reality is Adam fell, and I fell in him, but I have continued to fall in sin and I must bear the responsibility.
But a Saviour comes! One who is fully God but who is also fully man, one who identifies completely with me in order that He can take the responsibility of my sin upon myself.
He is sinless, protected by the Holy Spirit from the contamination of sin, by this virgin conception. This perfect man was perfectly God. He knew no sin. But God made Him, who knew no sin, to be sin, by taking the responsibility of our sin. He is not condemned, as He dies upon the cross, because of His own sin, but because He has identified so fully with me that He becomes me, in the eyes of the Father. As He hangs upon that tree, He bears the full weight of the punishment of my sin. He is God with us.
He is our great High Priest. He identifies with us so fully. He has experienced all the trials of our lives. He is moved with compassion towards us. He has loved us so much that He has given Himself as the sacrifice for our sin. His great desire is for our eternal good and well-being. He intercedes on our behalf before the Father. His purpose is to keep all those who, repenting of their sin, trust in Him for forgiveness. He is going to keep every single one of these people safe in the salvation that He has accomplished for all eternity. There is not one that will not be kept or preserved, to stand before the God of glory in eternity. There is not one who will be separated from Him. There is not one who will not be kept and preserved by His grace, through the power of the Holy Spirit, to stand before the throne of God in glory and to worship for eternity.
The great triune God. Here is Jesus, the Saviour, who is Immanuel, God with us. Two natures in one person. Here is the mystery and miracle of Christmas that brings true joy, that provides sure and certain hope of salvation. Here is the reason why we should be full of praise and thanksgiving. Here is the Saviour. Here is my Saviour, my God, come down for me, that I might ascend to His glorious presence and enjoy eternity, in fellowship with Him. Are you excited, full of awe, full of wonder?