Faith & Insight: God with us!
Christmas is a beloved time of year. All over the world, people celebrate the day that marks the birth of Jesus. But, why does the birth of this one man have such a lasting impact on our world?
The answer to this question is best seen when viewed through the miraculous conception. It is that miracle that illuminates our understanding of Jesus’s nature and impacts how we should respond to him. The first chapter of Matthew shows us how the conception of Jesus came about and how it impacted Joseph’s life. We can recognize in his response how we are to respond to the person of Jesus.
In Matthew 1:18-25, we find Joseph in a dilemma. He was faced with a moral choice that left him with no good options. The problem is that he was pledged to be married to Mary, but before the marriage process was finalized, she was found to be pregnant by the Holy Spirit. This is not a natural thing, so Joseph was understandably skeptical. I assume he believed that his bride had been unfaithful though she had not. It is important to understand that he goes through the dilemma because he does not know who the child would be or who the father is. Many struggle with the same question today.
Based on a false understanding of Jesus, Joseph has a difficult choice to make. He is both faithful to the law and compassionate to Mary. According to the law, he should divorce her and bring her before the elders. Instead, he chooses to divorce her privately so he could be faithful to his values while showing compassion to Mary.
Though we see in his choice that he is a good man, we can recognize that he had chosen to do the wrong thing. This is because his decision was not based on truth. Mary had not been unfaithful to him. It is only with an accurate understanding of Jesus, that he can respond faithfully. This is true for people today as well.
It would take something miraculous for Joseph to believe Mary. Matthew writes that an angel appeared to him in a dream calming his fears. He did not need to fear what he could not understand. His wife had not been unfaithful.
In truth, the child, who was miraculously conceived, was a testament to God’s faithfulness. He is the fulfillment of God’s promise made 700 years earlier through the prophet Isaiah. Matthew quotes him saying, “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). The miraculous conception is a testament to the identity of Jesus. The baby to be born is God incarnate.
In Matthew’s account, we find that the birth of Jesus was in reality God becoming flesh. He stepped into our world and took on humanity. He did this so that we could be reconciled to him. This was made clear by the name he was given. The angel declared that “you will give him the name Jesus because he will save his people from their sins.” His identity and mission was laid out to Joseph. It was not until he understood this truth that he could know the right thing to do.
Joseph accepted that the child conceived was God’s plan for redemption. He took Mary to be his wife, and when the baby was born, it was him who gave him the name Jesus. In these acts, he responded faithfully to God and took on the role of a father. He was able to do this because he understood the truth of the conception. The child born was no ordinary child but God in person coming to save his creation. Believing this truth explains why Christmas is beloved and continues to have an impact on the world. We celebrate Immanuel. God with us!