Title: The Person of Advent Text: Matthew 1:18-25

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Title: The Person of Advent
Text: Matthew 1:18-25
Speaker: Pastor Chad Bresson Introduction If you followed along with the Royal Wedding last year, surviving the hours and hours and hours and hours and hours of speculation and drivel of something we (as a nation) swore off in 1776, one of the more superficial discussions among those who have nothing better to do with their day had to do with possible baby names for William and Kate's first baby. And then the second baby. It didn't matter that William and Kate don't have any children and were not expecting a child. The wedding isn't even off the ground… the archbishop of Canterbury hasn't even told William to kiss his bride and commentators and bloggers are suggesting possible baby names for the king and queen to be. These royal wedding are quite the spectacle. And again, we decided as a nation not to pay notice of these things 235 years ago. However, one of the more fascinating things about this discussion about baby names was the thinking of Kate's parents back in 1982 when she arrived on the scene. Kate's full name is Catherine Elizabeth Middleton. The Middletons, it has been well-documented, are not of royal blood. Mom and Dad Middleton were flight attendants for British Airways before founding their own company. Yet in naming Catherine, the Middletons made a decidedly royal decision. Even in royal circles, it has always been common for parents who had any design on their child having a shot at the throne, especially through marriage , you would give your child a royal name that would fit the crown. The middle-class Middletons like many other commoners gave their daughter names befitting a queen in the faint hope that one day she would be. Catherine and Elizabeth are names of royal royal antiquity and an Elizabeth currently occupies the throne. What's also interesting is that when Charles and Diana had the first of their two sons, they had less names to choose from than did the middle-class Middletons. If you are a son born to a royal, especially if the throne is close enough to touch it as it is these days for the House of Windsor, your name is one of 18-25 to choose from, depending on who you ask. William and Henry both are names from the short list. Are those the kinds of hopes and dreams that channel their way into your thinking when you give your children names? Names are certainly tied to identity. But for the most part, here in the West we don't give much thought to destiny when we name our children. But we are reminded about the relationship between naming a child and destiny as we think about the Christmas story. The naming of a child is a fundamental piece of our beloved Christmas story. This is the second in a series on the Advent from the book of Matthew. Tonight we consider the Person of Advent. This particular passage tonight is so tied to the religious Christmas story we rarely hear any mention of this particular passage outside of the holiday season. This passage is among those passages we read every December 24 at the Bresson household.

Title: The Person of Advent Text: Matthew 1:18-25

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Our passage this evening: Matthew 1:18-25. What we have in our passage this evening is the naming of a royal child. And of course, it's not any royal child. But this is an aspect of our Christmas story we haven't thought much about. When you see the shepherds and the angels and the manger and Mary and Joseph and the baby and you sing the carols, does it ever occur to you that the actual naming of the child is a big deal? In fact, in our passage this evening, Matthew doesn't bother with the details of the birth itself. He states it so matter-of-factly. What Matthew is interested in is the nature of the birth. The "why" question seems to be more important than the "what" question. Let's begin with verse 1, then skip to verse 17. The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. So all the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to the Christ fourteen generations. What we have in the first 17 verses is a genealogy of Jesus. The very first line of it in chapter one functions as a summary statement of the rest of the chapter, and in fact, this entire section of Matthew. This particular genealogy establishes the pedigree of Jesus through the royal line of David. Matthew has introduced us to Jesus in his gospel as the one who is David's heir, the heir to David's throne. Circle David in the text. Everything that happens from verse 1 onward is somehow connected to understanding Jesus as the Promised Messiah who is the royal heir to David's throne. Anywhere you go in Matthew, Jesus Christ is being portrayed as the One who has come to make his claim to David's throne. The book of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the legitimate heir to David's throne, a son of Abraham, the patriarch of the gospel through whom all of the nations of the world will be blessed. This is the story of a king who is unlike any kind of a king Israel or the world had ever seen. This is a king nobody wants. This is a king born in scandal. This is a king with scandal in his family tree. This is a king who was targeted in a massacre. This is a king who eventually will be crucified as a criminal. The origins of Jesus Christ, the Promised One of the Old Testament, as these first 17 verses point out, is in line to ascend David’s throne. For that first century church, Matthew is going to paint a picture of a Davidic heir to the throne whose defining mark of an emerging kingdom is humiliation instead of exaltation. Which brings us to verse 18. Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. This phrase connects this section with the previous one. This continues what was begun in verse 1. “The book of the genealogy (or origins) of Jesus Christ, the Son David, the son of Abraham…now the birth of this heir to David’s throne, this Messiah, this child of Abraham through whom all nations of the earth will be

Title: The Person of Advent Text: Matthew 1:18-25

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blessed… occurred in time and space, in real history, in the following manner. But as we’ve noted, Matthew (unlike Luke) doesn’t really say much, if anything, about the actual birth. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. OK. Now that's different. The story of the birth that goes along with that genealogy from the start is shocking. The Jewish custom of betrothal seems a bit strange to us. Couples would enter an agreement to marry. The agreement would be formalized in celebration. They would exchange gifts and have a ceremony and have a feast. And then go home. For months. It usually lasted about a year. However, this was more than engagement. This was a contract to marry. Mary and Joseph were considered husband and wife. To break it off required a divorce. If the fiancé died, the one left behind was considered a widow. Sex during this time was considered fornication. With someone else it was considered adultery. While divorce during betrothal was common, being unchaste during this time period was uncommon. And betrothal was arranged by the parents, usually of the husband. Mary would have been between the ages of 12 and 14. If she were sixteen, she would have been considered an old maid. Joseph would have been somewhere between 18 and 20. So immediately, there’s a problem. Mary is still in her betrothal year, they’ve had the ceremony and exchanged the gifts, and it is learned that she is pregnant. Matthew the narrator clues us in as to the nature of this pregnancy, but keep in mind that Matthew is writing years later. This was a huge no-no in Jewish society. This is scandal. This is a scarlet mark that will stigmatize Mary the rest of her life… and as the gospels unfold, it is a stigmatism that will dog the child the rest of his life. Think about that the next time you see a Christmas card with a manger that has a soft glow and smiling sheep. We know the whole story. Mary’s family and friends don’t know the whole story, and in fact, some of them assume the worst the child’s entire life. What Matthew says about the pregnancy is just as shocking. Mary was found to be with child of the Holy Spirit. Much about the genealogy has been unexpected. And the trend continues. “Before they came together.” No sex was involved. The early church hearing this for the first time had heard the stories. And this phrase sets them up for what comes later. But even in that day, this phrase is a shock. Mary is still a virgin. And pregnant. This is pushing to limits of believability, even in Matthew’s day. Notice the passive tense of the action here: was found to be with child. This isn’t something Mary has done. This isn’t something for which Mary is responsible. This action is divine initiative. This is no ordinary child. The implication here is that the child is divine. The conception of this child, the life of this human being borne by Mary, is generated by the Holy Spirit… we have echoes here of Genesis 2… the Spirit breath of God, unaided by humanity, has breathed something new in Mary. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.

Title: The Person of Advent Text: Matthew 1:18-25

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If this were a drama, this is what we would say is the dilemma of the story. This is Joseph’s dilemma. Among the family members that assume the worst and don’t know the whole story is Mary’s husband, Joseph. Much could be said about Joseph’s righteous motivations here and his compassion and love for Mary. Joseph did not have to resolve such a scandalous bit of news privately and in secret. This “quietly” and “unwilling to put her to shame” not only speaks to Joseph’s sense of compassion, but also his shock. This is so unlike Mary. The point here is that Joseph knows that the child is not his. This is the thrust of what unfolds in these verses. His actions are typical of a betrothed husband who finds out his wife has not been chaste and has been cheating on him during this interim year. Joseph aims to divorce Mary because he knows he is not the father of the child. 20 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. There’s nothing typical about this story, is there? Mary is with child during the betrothal period. Mary is a virgin. And pregnant. This child is not her doing. This child is divine. An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. This is surprising and unusual. But this twist here now places the story in unfolding drama of redemptive history for Matthew’s readers. They are well-versed in the stories of their Hebrew Bible of angels paying visits, even in dreams, bringing messages on behalf of God. Something significant in the storyline of the Bible is being advanced when angels appear in the text. These angelic visitations bridge heaven and earth with divine messages that most often speak to some great event that is unfolding or is about to unfold that has some great bearing on Israel’s destiny as the People of God and says something about Israel’s hope in the coming of One who would save them and rescue them. Like Jacob at Beth-el, Joseph dreams of angels at night, and probably not lost on Matthew’s church audience is that what we have in this unusual birth story, is that there is another Joseph who is a dreamer. This angel brings the big picture to Joseph. Mary is still chaste. This child is by divine initiative. And we have a reminder that Joseph and this child are part of David’s royal line. But Jesus is not the actual son of Joseph, but the son of God. Not only does an appearance of an angel in a dream place these events in the Old Testament storyline, so too does the angel’s message. The first part of the angel’s message is a divine explanation of the event, an explanation that is the basis of Matthew’s claim that Mary has been found to be with child of the Holy Spirit. It’s also an explanation that comes with an announcement of divine will: Mary is a virgin. Mary is pregnant via the Holy Spirit. Don’t be afraid to marry Mary. The explanation of a divinely initiated pregnancy is the basis of command: don’t be afraid. And this command has an intended result: to take Mary as your wife. The second part of the angel’s message has this same kind of rhythm… divine explanation that comes loaded with an expected response:

Title: The Person of Advent Text: Matthew 1:18-25

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21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus This child who is of divine origin is going to be a son. In fact, because you are going to marry Mary, this child is going to be a son of David. This child will extend the royal line. And the angel doesn’t stop there. The angel doesn’t simply suggest a baby name. He commands it. And you shall call his name Jesus. Here’s the second of the commands in the angel’s message. Don’t be afraid to marry Mary. You will call his name Jesus. It has been pointed out that “Jesus” was a common name for Jewish boys in Joseph’s day. And it’s not a secret that “Jesus” was the Greek form of the Jewish name Joshua. “Jehovah our Savior” is the literal meaning. But this isn’t simply any Joshua. This Joshua is unique. This Joshua is exponentially superlative. This Joshua is heralded by an angel. This Joshua is born of a virgin. This Joshua is of divine origin. There has never been a Joshua like this One, nor will there ever be a Joshua like this one. Just as the appearance of an angel in a dream provides a backdrop of the Old Testament drama of redemption, so too does the naming of a child who is not of this world, Joshua. The original Joshua, who led the children of Israel into the land flowing with milk and honey and conquered Jericho and God’s enemies in taking the land, bears witness to this Joshua. Joseph, that child in your wife’s womb is a New Joshua. And then we come to the centerpiece of the story. This is where the story lands. This is the thrust of the angel’s appearance in a dream. This next phrase is where the genealogy is taking Matthew’s original church audience. for he will save his people from their sins.” This is also shocking and unexpected…at least for those who were expecting the next David to lead Israel in an overthrow of Rome. This Joshua comes to conquer a different kind of enemy and to establish a different kind of kingdom. This Joshua is not a military leader. This one named Jehovah our Savior comes bringing salvation of a different sort. The mission of this son is the point of this passage. It colors everything in this passage. This is the son of Abraham who is coming to save his people from their sins. This is the heir to the Davidic throne who is coming to save his people from their sins. This is not a Davidic heir who comes in all the glory of the throne. This is not a Joshua coming in power and might to overthrow Rome. This is Joshua coming to save his people from their sins. This is a different kind of a baby story. At the center of this birth story is the humiliation of Jesus. Before this baby story is over, there will be difficulty. There will be suffering. As we mentioned last week, in order to accomplish this kind of redemption, this one who is raised in the midst of scandal will have to have his body broken and his blood poured out for the sins of his people.

Title: The Person of Advent Text: Matthew 1:18-25

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The reason Joseph is to call his son Jesus isn’t because this is a nice baby name for Jewish boys. The son will be called Jesus because of his mission. The mission gives rise to the name. Mission is tied to identity. His name is Jesus precisely because of what he does for his people. This child of divine origin is a New Joshua as an heir to the Davidic throne because of what he does for His people. The mission attached to the name is telling Joseph and the church to whom Matthew writes that this child will fill out the royal vocation of his lineage, and will exercise rulership over his people by saving his people from their sins. But there’s more. First the angel made the announcement that the child conceived by Mary is a son who is of divine origin. Now, Matthew the author quotes from the Old Testament, which testifies to the angel’s announcement. 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). Matthew understands the angelic announcement of a divine son born of a virgin to be the fulfillment of an Isaiah passage, Isaiah 7:14: The Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. There are three things that are important we should see here. First, the word fulfill means to fill up to the fullest measure. And when it is used of the Old Testament, it means to fill up the meaning and intention of the Old Testament type or passage to its fullest and highest measure. This prophecy first given to Ahaz had implications not only for Ahaz, but for Joseph, and Mary and Matthew and the early church to whom Matthew writes. This child which has been conceived by the Holy Spirit in Mary’s womb brings the meaning and intention of the Isaiah passage to its fullest and highest measure. Even though it had meaning for Ahaz, it is this child about whom the passage is ultimately speaking. The second thing we need to see is that the angelic announcement to Joseph in his dream is a variation on a quote from Isaiah. The language of the angelic announcement is not an accident. It is an allusion to the Isaiah passage, which is why Matthew has quoted it here. But there are some of significant changes. The words “young woman” in Isaiah, rendered “virgin” in our Bibles, is unmistakably “virgin” in the Matthew passage. I’m not going to get into the academic arguments here. But Matthew leaves no wiggle room for interpreting Isaiah and Mary’s pregnancy as anything but the divine miracle that it is. The other change is that Emmanuel has been changed to “Joshua” or “Jesus” in the angelic announcement. It is here that Matthew gives us the big picture in vivid detail. If we miss this, we miss the meaning of the Christmas story. The angel has used the Isaiah passage and the Old Testament Joshua story to tell us something of the Person of Advent. The New Joshua being carried by Mary, the New Joshua who will be born in

Title: The Person of Advent Text: Matthew 1:18-25

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scandal, is Emmanuel. Emmanuel, who has been divinely conceived in Mary is the New Joshua. Mary is pregnant with “God with us”. This son who is causing so much angst to Joseph is none other than the embodiment of all that God ever promised in the Old Testament regarding his dwelling with man. This is the One who called out in the garden, Adam where are you? This is the burning bush. This is the torch and firepot. This is the pillar of fire and cloud of Sinai. This is the glory of the tabernacle. This is the glory of the temple. This is the covenanting Jehovah who said, I will be there God and they will be my people… and I will dwell with my people forever. Everything everywhere stated about God’s presence with his people lands here… Mary is pregnant with God come to dwell with men. No Joshua in history was ever like this Joshua. The parallel between “you shall call his name Jesus” and “they will call his name Emmanuel” cannot be overstated. Jesus is this child’s personal name, while Emmanuel is the divine name that defines the essence of this Jesus. And just as the phrase, “he will save his people from their sins” colors everything in this passage, so too it colors Emmanuel. How is it that this Jesus will be God with us for his people? Jesus will be God with us for his people by saving them from their sins. Oh the divine erasure. Sin is such an enemy. Sin and God cannot be present. Sin cuts off relationship with the Creator. This New Joshua has not come as in political power or military might. This Emmanuel God with us, deals a fatal blow to sin, and reconciles his people to God… so that he may dwell with them forever. But there is a third change between the Isaiah passage and the Matthew passage that is so subtle yet so profound it’s easy to miss. In fact, I never saw this until this week. And it’s right there in front of us. In Isaiah, it says the virgin shall call his name Emmanuel. Joseph is to call his adopted son Jesus. But notice the way Matthew quotes the Isaiah passage: the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel”. Did you hear it? Did you hear the change that would have resonated with Matthew’s church audience and courses down through the ages into our assembly this evening? Who is it that calls his name Emmanuel? It is “they”. “They” shall call his name Emmanuel. First, it was “(the virgin) shall call his name Emmanuel” (Isaiah 7:14). In the angel’s announcement to Joseph, it is Joseph who “will call his name Jesus”. Now, in Matthew’s interpretation of the angel’s announcement via the Old Testament, it is “they” who will call his name Emmanuel. Mary. Joseph. They. But who is the “they”? Oh, this is what Matthew wants us to see in the baby’s fulfillment of the Old Testament’s expectations of God come to dwell among a people whom he has saved from their sins. The “they” is those whom Emmanuel has saved from their sins! The baby name for this child with whom Mary is pregnant has moved from Mary’s lips in the Isaiah passage, to Joseph’s lips in the angel’s announcement, to the grand chorus of lips of those for whom this child will die and with whom He will dwell. Mary is in need of a Savior. Joseph is in need of a Savior. Matthew’s church audience is in need of a Savior. The assembled here this evening need a Savior. And that Savior is none other than the Creator of the universe who comes in the scandal of an out-of-wedlock pregnancy to “save His people from their sins” by having his body broken and pouring out his blood.“ God

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with Us” comes to save His people from their sins, and their grateful, worship-filled response is to “call his name Jehovah our Savior.” The response of a people who have been saved from their sins is to call their Savior “Emmanuel”. That is the Jesus of Christmas.

Some 33 years later, this same Jesus announced by the angel to Joseph, will die and rise from the dead for his people, and will stand on a mountain and declare to his church through the disciples, “behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Emmanuel goes with and dwells among his redeemed people to the ends of the earth, as those kingdom citizens expand the visible kingdom over the circumference of the globe. Christ’s mission has become his people’s mission. As the kingdom spreads through the establishment of churches among all people groups, the dwelling place of Emmanuel spreads among all people groups. Emmanuel is with his people to the end of this age and beyond. What is true of this age, is true of the age to follow, because this dwelling with His people in the age to come has already begun in the present age. The very covenantal summary that pointed to the future in the Old Testament and is now true of the church in the New Covenant will be true in the New Heavens and New Earth. Revelation 21 and 22 tell us that the New Joshua who purchased men for God from every people group all over the earth will dwell among his people, and He will be their God and they will be His people. And “they” shall call his name Emmanuel. Having been assured that the child in his bride is not his, yet divine, Joseph responds as a faithful participant in the history of redemption: Verse 24: 24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25 but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus. Joseph, as the angel had commanded, married Mary, and called the name of his adopted son Joshua… Jesus. Joseph responds in faith. This again is surprising, if only he was asked to place his faith and trust in the One residing in his wife’s womb by acquiescing to an unbelievable tale. What does this mean for tomorrow, and the next day and the next day and the next day? When we hear this announcement and when we read the response of Joseph, we are to put ourselves in Joseph’s shoes. We are to respond in faith to the heir to the Davidic throne who now occupies that throne as the living and exalted New Joshua. We are in need of a name; we are in need of a King. We are in need of the New Joshua-Emmanuel of Advent. Even in the midst of our own scandal, and suffering, and difficulty, we are assured that the same Joshua-Emmanuel born to Mary and Joseph is with us here right now as the one who has saved us from our sins. The very same Spirit who conceived the New Joshua in Mary has breathed into

Title: The Person of Advent Text: Matthew 1:18-25

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existence Christ’s church. We have been given his name. We have his identifying mark on us as His gathered people. And it extends beyond these doors. Because he has saved us from our sins, and because he now dwells with His New Covenant people, we live our lives in a hostile world as kingdom citizens of another world bearing the name of the One who bought us: Emmanuel. We carry that name as we go and make disciples, baptizing them and teaching them to observe the commands of King Joshua, our Emmanuel. This Jesus, announced to Joseph in the midst of scandal and heartache, is God with Us, living and dwelling in His New Covenant temple, the church. The very dwelling presence of God for which Ruth pined, is ever living and ever present among those whom he has saved from their sins. This New Joshua is our God, and we are His people. He is Emmanuel among us and for us, forever.

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