The Christmas message

Posted: December 18, 2012 by J in Bible, Church, Mission

What message will there be at your church this Christmas?

After preaching Luke all year, I’m going with Matthew’s Gospel this time, for a change. Here’s the main things I’m finding there.

Matthew 1

Genealogy

The genealogy sets up the whole story (Mat. 1:1-17).

1. This is the final chapter in a very old, Jewish story. We’re still in Israel’s history, salvation history.

2. Matthew’s real interest is in the three phases of that story (v.17) Abraham’s, King David’s, exile. Those 3 phases can be summed up as 3 questions:

i. What happened to Abraham’s promised son who would bring blessing to the nation? The blessing never came.

ii. What happened to David’s heir? God promised David’s son would sit on the throne of Israel forever. But they’re lost.

iii. What happened to Yahweh? He promised to always be with his people, but he went away and has been gone these 500 years, living the nation unprotected.

Matthew gives pretty big hints that his story is going to answer these questions: check out his intro, v.1

The genealogy of Jesus Messiah, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham

 

Jesus’ birth (Mat 1: 18-25)

This story mainly tackles the third question: where is Yahweh? Mary and Joseph seem as lost and messed up as the rest of Israel: child out of wedlock, wedding off, etc. But it turns out something new is happening. Joseph gets a visit that completely changes his view of events. What did he hear? Matthew emphasises two things about this unexpected development:

i. The Spirit of God is back, present and active again, bringing new life. The Spirit is mentioned twice, highlighting this point.

ii. The child is the fulfilment of the Isaianic prophecy about Immanuel, the son who would be ‘God with us.’ By quoting and then translating this for us, Matthew gives it special prominence.

These were the words Israel most needed to hear. If the Spirit is back and the son has arrived who is ‘God with us’, then the long years of exile are finally over.

God has not just returned, he has come close in an unprecedented, extraordinary way: taking on human flesh and human existence, to be among us as a child. This child is the place where God is fully present and can be fully known.

In our society where God has been pushed so much to the fringes of life, people are wondering the same question as the Jews: where is God? People are even afraid he no longer exists. Not many people want that. Most people want to know where God is. Now that Jesus has come and God’s Spirit is active and present, there is an answer to people’s longings. Where is God? He has come right up close to us, so we can know him. He’s done it by his Spirit and in Jesus.

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