On Monday evening I sat in the lobby of the old Southeast High School building.
I was there because Jesse, our son, was part of the color guard at the event.
As I sat in the lobby a string quartet from East High School played as people entered and milled around.
We were there early, Jesse was preparing and I thought I’d sit and journal.
When music is playing I can’t get anything done. I put my pen down and tuned into the quartet.
The quartet began to play familiar Christmas songs both sacred and secular.
I found myself singing the words as they played.
At one point they began playing, The First Noel and I was singing along under my breath.
And then I paused and considered the words of the song… Born is the King of Israel…
I listened to people carry on their normal conversations about weather and why they were coming to the awards ceremony and about their day at work.
I was struck by the ordinary nature of the event but the majestic message that the music proclaim.
Ordinary Monday night meeting in Wichita and Born is the King of Israel.
At Christmas, the advent, we are celebrating the reality that the mundane meets the majestic.
Humanity and Divinity meet in a virgin’s womb in the person of Jesus.
Mary and Joseph were carrying along in their quiet lives. Preparing a wedding. Preparing a home for the marriage and in their simple mundane world the Majestic slipped in as the angel announced the coming birth.
Listen as we read first from Luke and then from Matthew.
In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendent of David. The virgin’s name was May. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.”
“How will this be,” Mary asking the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be baren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God.”
“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.”
Then the angel left her.
This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.
But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son and they will call him Immanuel” – which means God with us.
Visited by an Angel
We have a common misconception about Angels.
I think in culture we think of them like Clarence from “It’s a Wonderful Life”
Everytime a bell rings, an angel gets its wings.
Great movie – Great story, inaccurate in the representation of Angels.
Angels are spiritual beings who are sometimes manifested to us physically.
They are strong and powerful and in scripture they are terrifying beings.
Where Clarence does accurately reflect an angel is that he is sent. Sent with a purpose.
The word angel means messenger. Angels are sent by God with a message.
Last week Jim spoke of Hope and the promised Messiah.
Jim told us about the 400 years of silence that followed the last prophecy.
Now God is speaking.
He visits Zechariah the Priest in the temple and he visits Mary and Joseph through these angeles
Hope is stirring.
Description and Instructions
Both Mary and Joseph are told to name the child Jesus.
Some have asserted that Jesus was a quite a common name during that time.
The greek form of Jesus’ name was Yeshua which comes from the OT name Joshua.
Common name like – Mike or Bob or in the case of River… Doug. We have Doug Karber, Doug Ledbetter, Doug Shaffer…
The meaning of the name is Yahweh is Salvation or He Will Save.
In giving their boys this name these Hebrew people illustrated the Hopeful expectation that Jim talked about last week. The people were expecting the Messiah.
They were also hopeful that maybe their little boy would be the one.
The child to be born to Mary, will not be like any other child.
He will be called the Son of the Most High.
The child born to Mary would be – HOLY. Set apart
Yes a normal birth, but not a normal conception. He would be and is completely different.
Reign over Jacob’s house (Israel) and be the Son of David
Matthew lays out Jesus’ family tree. Joseph is in the line of David.
In the Hebrew tradition the father would be the one who determine the family line.
Joseph is Jesus’ legal father from an earthly perspective but he is not Jesus’ actual father.
You see this in Matthew’s Genealogy. Jesus is from the house of David, but Jesus is the son of Mary.
Both Joseph and Mary had questions. Let’s start with Mary’s
“How can this be since I am a virgin?”
Luke is not subtle about Mary being a virgin. Luke mentions it twice and then Mary confirms it
Mary’s virginity is a crucial detail that Luke wants to highlight for us.
Mary does not ask this question aloud but she must begin to ponder the question.
“How will I tell Joseph?”
Her pregnancy was not good news. It was terrifying.
Think of the difficulty for Mary to take that news to Joseph.
He must have felt betrayed. Mary was most likely frightened.
When the angel visits Joseph, Joseph is not contemplating, “How did Mary get pregnant?”
He is contemplating, “What should I do now?”
“Should I divorce Mary since she has been unfaithful?”
Both accounts we read claimed that Mary was pledged to Joseph.
In Jewish culture then a man and woman were betrothed or pledged to each other for a period of time before the actual consummation of their marriage. This betrothal was much stronger than an engagement period today, for the two were considered husband and wife except that they did not live together until after the wedding.
Joseph is considering divorcing Mary quietly because at that time the penalty for adultery was stoning. This penalty was not always carried out but it was still in play.
Joseph’s willingness to maintain his relationship with Mary indicates that he believed the Angel’s message. He also believed Mary’s explanation of how she became pregnant.
What is conceived in Mary is from the Holy Spirit.
As we read in Isaiah last week, the Zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.
Yes Joseph take Mary home to be your wife. She has not been unfaithful
The virgin birth is not minor detail to God’s grand story of redemption.
Virgin birth shows that salvation ultimately must come from the Lord.
Just as God had promised that the “seed” of the woman in Genesis 3:15 would ultimately destroy the serpent. God brought this about by his own power.
Look at Jamin’s picture
WE have looked at Jamin’s picture throughout the year. You may remember the little white stitches covering the cracks.
Those stitches represent man’s attempt to fix what is broken by sin.
Mending of the brokenness would not come from humanity’s effort but God’s intervention.
The virgin birth is God’s intervention.
Virgin birth made possible the ultimate uniting of full deity and full humanity.
We call this the miracle of the Incarnation. Jesus fully God and fully man.
Here is how scripture describes the incarnation of Jesus.
The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.
Colossians 2:9 For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form
Where there alternatives to the virgin birth?
Jesus could have come as a full grown man
He would have been an outsider and alien. We could not relate with him.
We would not have seen him as a fully human as we are.
Jesus could have entered into a person with a human father and mother.
He would be more like a superhero.
A Peter Parker bitten by a spider. A normal guy infused with power.
If Jesus came this way we would have a hard time viewing him as God.
Jesus is fully God and fully Man and the virgin birth assured this reality.
Mary and Joseph had questions – What about our questions?
Our Questions (Three)
Could the virgin birth happen?
This is a question about ultimate reality. It is a good question.
Do you believe the world is a Closed system or an Open System?
Closed System – Imagine the universe is a room. No doors or windows. All that is in the room is all that exists. All that came to be in the room came to be with no outside intervention.
Open System – The universe is a room. Like the closed system – it is a system. There is order. There is a door in this room. Input from outside – energy and information formed this universe.
The Biblical narrative is one that describes the universe as an open system.
In the beginning God – He acted and brought the world into being. He intervenes.
Open System or Closed System – both require faith and both require reason.
Most of us in this room think the world is an open system. God exists and intervenes.
The challenge for us is to live out our belief. To live like the world is an open system where God intervenes and is actually central in our lives.
He is not on the margins but He is easy to marginalize.
In the Virgin birth, he entered into our normal world.
If God could speak the world into existence then he could miraculously create a child and implant the child in the womb of a virgin woman.
It could happen but did it happen?
Did the virgin birth happen?
Question about the reliability of the bible.
Some have claimed that the Virgin birth was borrowed from Pagan sources. Luke and Matthew and maybe later church fathers inserted the virgin birth because it explained Jesus’ divinity.
Luke’s intent is clear in his gospel. He is not trying to write “a good story” he is aiming to give a clear and reasoned account of what took place so that his readers could decide.
If his wanted credibility he might do better to eliminate the virgin birth.
Matthew would do better to leave Mary out of the story. He is writing to a Jewish audience and the credibility of women in that time was not high.
Why would Matthew introduce Jesus as the “son of Mary” rather than Joseph if the Virgin birth were not true?
As we have seen throughout the year the bible is
Accurate in prediction – What it says has happened.
- Jesus fulfilled all the Messianic prophecies given in the Old Testament.
Accurate in description – What the Bible describes coheres with the reality we experience
- The history that Luke describes has been confirmed in archeology
Accurate in prescription – What the Bible tells us to do actually works
It could happen and It did happen but what does it matter if the Virgin Birth happened.
Why does it matter?
Jesus can be our Savior
Jesus can relate with us.
Let’s stand and read this passage together.
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
Jesus can be our Savior.
Because he was born of a virgin, he was born without sin.
Even though he was tempted, he did not sin.
Because he was sinless, He can be the only one who remedies the brokenness that sin created.
As the angel said to Joseph – name him Jesus for he will save the people from their sins.
Sin is humanity’s biggest problem. Every evil we experience is a result of the cracks that fill our world caused by sin.
Sin is looking for life apart from the will and ways of God.
2 Corinthians 5:21
21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
A sinless sacrifice was required.
Without the virgin birth, Jesus would not be free from Sin.
He is sinless but not free from temptation.
Jesus can relate with us.
Hebrews says that he is able to empathize with our weaknesses, and he is tempted in every way, just as we are.
He experienced the effects of living in a limited human body.
His body got tired and hungry.
He knows what it is to be a 5 year old boy and a 12 year old boy.
He knows what it is to go to work.
He experienced the effects of sin committed by those around him.
He experienced betrayal, physical abuse, and being made fun of.
He experienced loneliness.
He can relate with your loss.
He can empathize with our experience of life. He can empathize with our weakness.
As we talk about weaknesss, we are not talking about weakness in regards to ability.
“I’m not good at math. That is a weakness for me.”
Weakness that makes us vulnerable to temptation that might lead us to sin.
What do you do with weakness?
When I think about my own weakness, I feel ashamed.
When I consider the weakness of others, I become annoyed or repulsed.
We are not drawn to weakness and I’m not trying to say we should be the weakest people we can be.
I am saying we are weak but Jesus can relate with our weakness.
Young children are weak but they don’t make excuses for their weaknesses. They ask for help. They are often unashamed in asking.
Maybe this is why Jesus said, you can’t enter the Kingdom unless you become like a child.
In coming as a lowly baby, Jesus moved towards weakness.
He took on human flesh and entered into our weak circumstances
Jesus meets us in our weakness.
What if we move towards weakness in ourselves and others?
Could it be that weakness is the place where we can experience Jesus?
In our weakness He Jesus is made stronger.
Weakness is not a curse.
Weakness is a blessing.
Weakness is an invitation for us to experience God.
This week as you experience human frailty in yourself and others, I would challenge you to move towards weakness. Jesus did.
Application: Hebrews tells us to do 2 things.
Let us hold firmly to the faith we profess
Your faith is not a crutch. Your faith is not a weakness.
Your faith in Jesus is reasonable.
Everyone lives by faith.
The faith that we hold to claims Jesus is God in the flesh. He lived a sinless life and died a cruel death and then rose again conquering death. Jesus will return and those who follow him will have glorified bodies. Not weak and frail.
Death is not the end.
Let us approach the throne of grace with confidence.
Throne = Majestic, royal place where the King reigns. It is terrifying place because the king has absolute power and authority.
Grace = You have an underserved audience with the King.
Come to the throne of grace with your weakness. Jesus can empathize with you. He is not put off by your weakness.
His invitation to us is to Approach with confidence. In your weakness come to him.
Someone asked me this week if I had a word for my message.
Jim last week had a word. His word was HOPE.
At first I did not have a word. As prepared and refectled the word that came to mind is
That the mundane would meet the majestic in the virgin birth fills me with WONDER.
The Incarnation of Christ – Fully God and Fully Man would come together in this infant child who would grow and become a man.
He is the majestic King who sits enthroned, but his throne is a throne of grace.
He says, “approach me with confidence. Don’t hide. He meets us in weakness.
It is amazing and wonderful. It is awe inspiring.
He says, I will meet you in your weakness because I have been tempted just like you are.
Approach my throne of grace.
Hold firmly to this reality so that you will find help in your time of need.