Lectionary Text: Matthew 1:18-25; Literary Unit: Matthew 1:1-25; Sub Literary Units: vss. 1-6, 7-11, 12-16, 17, 18-25
Central Message: The Birth of Jesus Christ
I think this is one of the most fascinating texts of the entire Bible. The birth of any human being is a miracle (cf. Ps. 139:13-16); that of the Son of God was appropriately, more miraculous still, though unfolding according to divine plan (Matt. 1:22-23; cf. Isa. 7:14). There are three things I would like for the reader of this particular text to consider and ponder as one decides how best to approach this text. First, between the betrothal and the wedding of Mary to Joseph (1:18), and apart from any sexual relations between them (1:25), Mary conceived a child by the power of the Holy Spirit (1:18). One should wonder how the writer, Matthew has knowledge of these facts and why he would have such knowledge. The details and facts are puzzling at best, but he offers no real and reasonable explanation of how he can about the details of this holy and wonderful event.
Second, Chrysostom notes that, since neither the angel nor Matthew could say more than that the conception was the work of God’s Spirit, human inquisitiveness should proceed no further. The event like others in the story that follows carried with it its own possibility of misunderstanding and offence (1:19; cf. 11:6). It is interesting that Joseph after encountering the angel in his dreams accepts and believes the divine word he received, took Mary as his wife and did as the angel had instructed him to. Having faith in this season of advent is one of the critical themes and Joseph most certainly was the epitome of one having faith in a coming event (the birth of the Savior of his people Israel.)
Finally the significance of Jesus’ appearance is further indicated by the name Emmanuel, “God is with us” (1:23). At last the name indicates that the birth of the Messiah is a fresh token of God’s favor toward Israel. But this also means that this puzzling event has great significances for the entire world because Christ was not only coming to save his people, but to save the world from their impending iniquities which they had no escape from. Praise be to God for this event, even if we cannot wrap our minds around the unclear details of Matthew’s gospel.
Hymns: “Away in a Manger,” “O Come, All Ye Faithful,” “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”
Leader- My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
Congregation- my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, who has looked with favor on me, a lowly servant.
Leader- From this day all generations shall call me blessed:
Congregation- the Almighty has done great things for me and holy is the name of the Lord,
Whose mercy is on those who fear God from generation to generation.
Leader- The arm of the Lord is strong, and has scattered the proud in their conceit.
Congregation- God has cast down the mighty from their thrones and lifted up the lowly.
Leader- God has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.
Congregation- God has come to the aid of Israel, the chosen servant, remembering the promise of mercy, the promise made to our forebears, to Abraham and to his children forever.
– (Based on Luke 1:46b-55)