By Jim Newman

This Christmas season some of us may decide we want to read some of the biblical passages which speak about the birth of Jesus Christ. In Matthew 1:18-24 we find the account of how the Lord’s communicated to Joseph that Mary was going to have a child. That was pretty exciting! The problem was, they weren’t married yet.

Joseph and Mary were only pledged to be married. That commitment between them, also called a “betrothal,” was a period of time which was much more binding than our modern-day engagements. Their premarital relationship could only be broken by “divorce.” And that would lead to disgrace, and possibly even death, in the case of sexual promiscuity. Maybe that’s why Joseph had been thinking of just quietly “divorcing” Mary. That’s also about the time the Lord spoke to him. 

An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and told him to not be afraid to take Mary as his wife. No doubt Joseph was pretty scared! Who wouldn’t have been, not to mention a little upset and even confused? He then explained to him that she had conceived this child by means of the Holy Spirit. She would be having a son and Joseph was to name him Jesus. Why? Because “he would save his people from their sins!”

That is “the reason for the season!” The ultimate purpose for the birth of Jesus was so that he could save us from our sins. How would he do that? It would be by his one day dying on the Cross for our sins. He was, in fact, born to die! Not because he was an evil person, but because of the very opposite. He was perfectly righteous (without sin), and His death would atone (pay for) our sins! By taking our sins upon himself we are forgiven and receive, in return, his righteousness. You might call that a great exchange! And it’s all by His grace (meaning we didn’t earn it) and through faith (trust) in Jesus and what He did for us on the Cross. 

The angel also told Joseph that all that which was happening would fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet (Isaiah 7:14): “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him ‘Immanuel,’ which means ‘God with us.’ You see, the virgin birth of Jesus Christ was not only a fulfillment of scripture, it was the means by which God became human and lived among us. In John’s Gospel he puts it this way, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth,” (John 1:14).

This Christmas why not take some time to meditate on these names: Jesus (who came to save us from our sins, demonstrating God’s amazing love for us), and Immanuel (which means God is with us, and will never leave us, nor ever forsake us!)

Jim Newman is pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Exeter. He
may be reached by calling 559-592-2367 or by emailing [email protected]. 

Prays Together is a rotating column between the pastors of the First Presbyterian Church of Exeter, Church of Christ of Exeter, Nazarene Church of Exeter, Church of God of Exeter, the New Life Assembly of God and Rocky Hill Community Church as well as the Lemon Cove Presbyterian Church.

This column is not a news article but the opinion of the writer and does not reflect the views of The Foothills Sun-Gazette newspaper.

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