After presenting an extensive genealogy, something that would have been very important to his Jewish readers (a high value for heritage, inheritance, legitimacy and rights), Matthew moves on to tell us about the birth of Jesus ... It’s a unique story about a unique person with a unique conception and a unique message and ministry.
Matthew tells us exactly what happened (not when, as far as an exact date), who this baby is and why he came (Matthew 1:18-25).
This baby boy is given two names: Jesus and Immanuel. Names held far more importance in that culture than in ours, being thought of as linked with or pointing to the actual character and destiny of the individual.
WHY Jesus came - as Saviour
The name ‘Jesus’ was a popular boys name at the time, being the Greek form of the Jewish name ‘Joshua’ who brought the Israelites into the promised land after the death of Moses. This name was given to boys as a symbolic hope for Yahweh’s anticipated sending of salvation. Matthew sees Jesus as the one who will now complete what the law of Moses pointed to but could not itself produce. He will rescue his people, not from slavery in Egypt, but from the slavery of sin, the ‘exile’ they have suffered not just in Babylon but in their own hearts and lives. This is the central purpose of Jesus’ earthly life and ministry. Jesus was born to be the Saviour of the world.
Our Greatest Need
If our greatest need had been information, God would have sent us an educator;
If our greatest need had been technology, God would have sent us a scientist;
If our greatest need had been money, God would have sent us an economist;
If our greatest need had been pleasure, God would have sent us an entertainer;
But our greatest need was forgiveness, so God sent us a Saviour.
To "sin" means to miss the mark or the target. We all have sinned - individually and as a community. We have done things we knew we should not have done and we have failed to do other things we knew we should have done. We all "fall short" of God's standard. In response to this, religion is spelt DO – us reaching up to god or trying to become like god, through our self-effort. In contrast, Christianity is spelt DONE – accepting what Jesus has done for us, as a free gift. He never sinned and took the penalty for our sin so that we could go free. Christ offers us forgiveness for our sin and power over sin, through the gift of his righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21).
WHO Jesus is - Immanuel ("God With Us")
By contrast, the name ‘Immanuel’ (mentioned in Isaiah 7:14 and 8:8, 10) was not given to anyone else, perhaps because it would say more about a child than anyone would normally dare. It means "God with us." Matthew’s whole gospel is framed by this theme: at the very end, Jesus promises that he will be ‘with’ his people always, to the close of the age (Matthew 28:20).
Often we ask, "Where is God?" ... especially during difficult times. Joseph probably felt the same. He and his very pregnant wife had to go on a 125 km journey to Bethlehem just for a census (not a comfortable trip, when riding on a donkey for over 4 days!), then when he arrived there wasn't even a vacant room. After that, they had to escape to Egypt to avoid the threat of a murderous, jealous King Herod. "I thought God was with us," I am sure he wondered more than once. Yet God was with them, working out everything according to His plan. Only when looking back did it all make sense. And so it so often is in our own lives (Romans 8:28).
Jesus offers us forgiveness as our Saviour today. Like any RSVP, that requires a response. Will we turn from sin to God placing our faith and trust fully in Him? Accept his forgiveness, love and grace … for your guilt and shame.
Finally, trust in God – whatever you may be experiencing in your journey of life. God IS with you and for you … along with all the resources you need (faith, hope and love … and joy). You are not alone. He is not far away. He is right here, right now ... with you. That's good news ... and that's the real Christmas story!