The First Sunday after Christmas
ALMIGHTY God, who hast given us thy only-begotten Son to take our nature upon him, and as at this time to be born of a pure virgin; Grant that we being regenerate, and made thy children by adoption and grace, may daily be renewed by thy Holy Spirit; through the same our Lord Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the same Spirit ever, one God, world without end. Amen.
Galatians iv. 1.
NOW I say, That the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all; but is under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father. Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world: but when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.
St. Matthew i. 18.
THE birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily. But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: and knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS.
In those dark days before the Coming of Christ, we were under bondage of the law as the Galatian Epistle intimates. We could not know God in a personal relationship, but through laws written on Tables of Stone we tried hopelessly to be perfect and righteous. But as the Prayer of Collect tells us, Christ came and took OUR nature upon Himself that we might take HIS Nature upon US. Being made children of God through adoption in Grace, we are kept in His mercy by the constant inner counsel of the Holy Spirit to obey the Law of Love. Being privileged children of the Father, we are no longer in bondage to the law but made members of the very household of God.
Did you believe that the Christmas Season has past? Well, it has not. In fact, we are merely at the center of the Christmas Season according to our Lectionary. The larger picture for the Christian is that Christmas is ALWAYS and unending in its meaning and impact upon our lives. The birth of Christ was so cataclysmic that all of Eternity, and our own time-scale, has been divided into the BEFORE and AFTER of that great event. Despite efforts of the detractors of Christ to change it to Common Era (C.E.), or Before the Common Era (B.C.E.), the question remains: “What happened 2013 years ago to cause the Gregorian Calendar to begin our years with reference to that date?” It was, of course, the birth of Christ. I care not if the world resents this, or cannot grasp it – it is established and irrefutable historical fact!
We have, in the Gospel of St. Matthew, a matter-of-fact account of the birth of Jesus. There are no ‘maybe’ or doubtful expressions about it – the Gospel speaks with the force and effect of complete reality and truth. Before the birth of Christ, Emmanuel (that is, God with us) was only a prophetic promise. After the birth of Jesus, it became a steadfast reality. Matthew addresses the occasion with a focus on Joseph, whereas Luke gives us a parallel account with a focus on Mary. This is entirely logical in reason and timely purpose. The royal line of His Kingship, for legal purposes, came through his presumed father, Joseph. Of course, His true Father was God, but Joseph was the legally recorded father for purposes of lineage and descent. Christ must first be absolute Sovereign before He can be Lord of all. His priestly descent came through Mary, and there never was, or ever shall be, a High Priest after the Order of Melchizadek as was Jesus!
Matthew clearly informs us that Jesus had no earthly descent, but was the only Begotten Son of God. “When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.” Joseph and Mary were espoused to each other, but the marriage relationship had not yet been consummated when Christ was conceived in Mary’s womb by the Holy Ghost of God. All claims of new bible versions to the contrary, this is biblical fact beyond and question.
Let us examine the qualities of Joseph as the caretaker of Jesus. 1) He had a tender love and consideration for Mary. It would have been ‘unthinkable’ in that day and time for a man to wed a woman who was pregnant with another man’s child. So Joseph, unwilling to make a public spectacle of his precious Mary, was inclined to put her away in some secret or distant place so no one would slander her name and character. This would have been an unusual emotion in those days, but Joseph was a “just man.” 2) Once the true identity of the child Father was revealed to Joseph, he was then willing to bear the ridicule and shame of his community by marrying Mary. What may seem dishonor to the world may be immense honor granted by God? It may seem a disgrace to the world for us to proclaim Merry Christmas instead of so-called “Happy Holidays” but the least God expects is that we honor His Son by our view of the event of Christmas.
We know little more about Joseph except that he was a carpenter. Jesus learned that trade from Joseph, no doubt. The focus now turns to Jesus, and appropriately so. The same implements of the carpenter’s trade that built houses and tables were the same used to craft a crude cross for both the manger and the cross of Christ. All things of His life pointed to Calvary.
The Gospel, or Good News, was summed up in the name JESUS! That name is ÅIhsou’ß Iesous, in the Greek which means Salvation of God, or Jehovah is salvation. Though Jesus has many names, another profound name for Christ is Emmanuel, or “God with Us.” What a comfort to know that we can enjoy the very presence of God in Christ! He is not a God that is far away and uncaring, When we walk with Christ, we bring the Kingdom of God near us. “The kingdom of God is come nigh unto you.” (Luke 10:9) These two names – Jesus and Emmanuel – are of great importance to us. The first, Jesus, describes His Office and purpose; the second, Emmanuel, describes His nature – that is, WHO He was.
The name, JESUS, was not given to the babe by man, but by God the Father. “. . . thou shalt call his name JESUS (Jehovah is Salvation) : for he shall save his people from their sins.” The Old Testament rendering of this name in Hebrew would have been the commonly known ‘JOSHUA’ of the same meaning. You will note that Joshua led the people of Israel into the Promise Land, and Jesus, the greater Joshua, will lead His people into a greater Kingdom of Promise.
In what way would Jesus “save us’ from our sins? “. . . for he shall save his people from their sins.” He would first save us from the GUILT of our sins. The wages of sin is death. We have ALL sinned. Therefore, we justly deserve death. “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:23) Yes, we ALL have sinned: “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) You can see by this that, under the terms of the law, there can be no hope for our salvation. But the terms of the law were satisfied by His perfect submission to that law in paying the price for our redemption. He took our place on the cross. Therefore, claiming that blood of Christ as remission for our sins, we are made free of guilt. “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.” (Romans 5:8-9)
Secondly, Jesus saves us from the POWER of Sin! Sin has no power over the believer unless we deliberately open the door to the devil. “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death…… Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.” (Romans 8:1-2,12-13)
Thirdly, Jesus saves us from the CONSEQUENCE of sin: “Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.” (Romans 5:9) “For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God; And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.” (1 Thess 1:9-10)
Fourthly, Jesus saves us from the PRESENCE of sin: “And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they? And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.” (Rev 7:13-17)
Jesus is a name filled with glorious comfort and inviting satisfaction: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matt 11:28-30) When we surrender our futile works to Christ, and accept His works of righteousness, how simple and easy do our burdens become, for it is Jesus who carries them.
What of His name, EMMANUEL that informs us of the nature of Jesus? Seven hundred years passed between the prophecy of Isaiah and the fulfillment of that prophecy. The weak human faith may have given up the expectation, but with God, all things are sure and certain. “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14) Please do not tell me that a “young woman shall conceive and bear a son” for it was spoken of god that the young woman was a VIRGIN. Here is how the NRSV corrupts Isiah’s prophecy: “Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14 NRSV) Are you so literarily challenged that you cannot distinguish the great errors being propagated by these apostate bibles? The VIRGIN conceives a Son whose name is EMMANUEL! How does the name EMMANUEL describe the nature of Jesus? First of all, it identifies Jesus as God for it means “GOD with us!” Jesus is the central figure of the Trinity. He is God! In Isaiah 9:6, Jesus is described as the “Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.” Can any demean the name of Jesus? Can the new versions demote Him to simply ‘a son of God’ like unto us, or is He what the Bible claims – The only BEGOTTEN Son of God?
Jesus is also named the great “I AM” revealing the Eternity of His existence. He has existed from Eternity Past with the Father. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men.” (John 1:1-4) Further, “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us (EMMANUEL), (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)
If we would have strength for the journey of our daily cross-bearing, we must be ever mindful of the hope of EMMANUEL. He is WITH us – even unto the end of the world. If you are weak and weary, grasp hold of the name, JESUS – Savior. He is our Advocate to defend us in our moments of weakness and trial. “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1 John 2:1-2)
How will you observe this great event – will it be by a nebulous term such as Happy Holidays, or merry Xmas; or will it be by its true identity of Merry Christmas? Will it simply become one day out of 365, or 365 days of a single day?
It is ALWAYS Christmas since 213 Anno Domini.