Sunday, December 22, 2013

Mark's thoughts: God with us in difficulties until there are no more

Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 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. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel”(which means, God with us). When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus. (Matthew 1:18-25 ESV)
These words from the Gospel of Matthew remind us that the first Christmas was not quite what Joseph had planned.  He was betrothed to a nice girl.  They were going to be married.  Everything was going along just fine.  And then Joseph learned that his fiancĂ©e Mary was pregnant.  Joseph was not the father and it was apparent that Mary had been unfaithful by breaking the Sixth Commandment through sexual immorality.  Joseph was a righteous man and so he was not going to marry an adulterous woman.  At the same time, he didn’t want to make an example of Mary in a way that might harm her, and so he decided to break off the engagement quietly. 

However, just then the angel of the Lord announced to him in a dream that the child in Mary’s womb had been conceived by the Holy Spirit.  Joseph was told to give the name “Jesus” (which means “the Lord saves”) to the child because He would save His people from their sins.  Matthew tells us that this event provided the ultimate fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy about the virgin who would give birth to Immanuel – God with us.

Christmas reminds us that in the incarnation, God Himself entered into our world as the Son of God became flesh and dwelt among us.  It tells us that in Jesus Christ we meet the One who literally is Immanuel – God with us.

The Good News about Jesus Christ – Immanuel – brings comfort to us as we experience events and situations in our lives that do not quite go as we had planned.  Christmas tells us that God has not left us alone in the midst of our difficulties.  Instead, our God is Immanuel – God with us.  He has joined us in the midst life’s difficulties in the person of Jesus Christ.  Jesus has won the victory over sin for us and His resurrection assures us that we too will share in His ultimate victory on the Last Day.  

These facts give us comfort as we face life’s difficulties.  Christmas points us to the God who was with us as a child in the manger and a man on the cross in order to save us.  It points us to the God who continues to be with us in His Sacrament as He gives us His true body and blood in the Divine Service and strengthens us in the faith.  It points us forward to the God who will be with us in glory on the Last Day when everything will once again be “very good” (Genesis 1:31).

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