Grace, Mercy and Sacrifice in the Christmas Story
Matthew is one of the most fascinating individuals in the Bible. He was a publican who collected taxes from his own people on behalf of an occupying empire. The people saw him as a traitor. The Pharisees believed that he couldn’t go to Heaven. He was a social outcast, and his only friends were the other marginalized individuals of his day: prostitutes, sinners, disabled, and other publicans.
Matthew knew what the religious folks thought about him, and he was well acquainted with their hatred of him. When he held a dinner for Christ, Jesus was criticized for dining at his house.
Yet, Jesus called Matthew to be His disciple, and He called him while he was in the act of collecting taxes. What’s fascinating about Matthew is his rise from social outcast and wretched sinner to being one of the men closest to Jesus. Furthermore, he becomes one of the four authors who wrote an account of the Gospel.
Matthew was a tax collector. He was a financial guy with an eye for detail, and who knew how to find authorization for anything. Thus, as Matthew gives his account of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, he is careful to point out how Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament.
He gets right down to business in chapter 1, as he shows the genealogy of Christ, then records how His birth fulfilled scripture.
No matter how you analyze his reaction to the news that Mary was expecting, he conducts himself with grace, mercy and faith. He was a very faithful man.
Tradition teaches that Joseph believed Mary to have been unfaithful… a rumor dispelled by the appearance of the angel of the Lord. Joseph, being a loving and forgiving man, was willing to give Mary a private divorce and spare her the shame and punishment for her alleged transgression. That is, until the Angel intervened, and Joseph learned the truth and stepped into his role as step-dad to the divine Son of God.
Had that been the case, then Joseph acted with Grace and Mercy. He was gracious in that he showed undeserved favor to Mary, in being concerned for her well-being. He showed mercy by considering a private divorce as opposed to a public stoning. All of these are Christlike attributes.
Despite our sin and rebellion against God, and our betrayal against Christ, the Lord gave His life on the cross to redeem us from sin. He showed grace and mercy in giving us time to learn the truth, to come to faith, and to repent and believe.
We should not only learn about God’s love for us, and realize the grace and mercy He bestowed upon us, but we should extend Grace and Mercy to each other.
However, suppose Joseph knew the truth. Suppose he knew exactly Who the child Mary was carrying was. Suppose he, believing that the virgin would conceive and bring forth a son, decided that he would not defile the virgin. To honor God, he would quietly break-off the engagement so that Mary could live the purpose God had for her.
In doing so, Joseph was giving up what was most precious to him, his beloved wife. That’s sacrifice, which is also a Christlike trait.
Jesus sacrificed the glories of heaven, comfort and adoration in order to live among sinful men, and give His life on the cross to redeem the very people who were mocking Him. He gave up what was precious to Him for our well-being.
From this, we learn how valuable we are to Christ, and we learn that, like Christ, we should not approach life with a “what’s in it for me” attitude, but rather, “how can I help?”
And finally, as we see the angel of the Lord give assurance to Joseph, we see Joseph respond in faith. Joseph’s faith was marked by his obedience to God’s will.
Obedience is an act of faith. Is your faith revealed in your obedience, life choices, and priorities?
There is a lot to learn from Joseph’s reaction to the news of the birth of Christ. May we all turn our hearts to the Lord so that He can transform us, so that our actions reveal the faith He was cultivated within us. God bless you, and Merry Christmas!
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
I can remember the exact moment my oldest son was born. I did not get to see his birth, as there was a curtain between me and the doctors performing the c-section. However, I can remember the exact moment because he cried, and the moment we heard his cry, my wife’s condition went from discomfort to absolute joy and ecstasy. I can still remember her tears of joy as we welcomed him into the world.
My wife delivered all three of our biological children via c-section, and each situation was different, but there was one thing that tied them all together. Regardless of the difficulty of the delivery (two were emergency c-sections), or the level of discomfort, all of that was secondary to her joy in holding our baby for the first time.
When our oldest daughter was born, my wife refused orders from the nurses to rest, demanding to hold her. When my oldest son was born, the hospital staff was surprised that we never sent him to the nursery so we could rest. When my youngest was born, immediately he and my wife became best friends.
There is this indescribable feeling that comes with the birth of a child. It’s a moment when you realize that your life is forever changed for the better. There’s joy. There’s hope. There are dreams, and there’s excitement. There’s a sudden desire to do better, and there’s a sense of responsibility knowing that this child has been entrusted to you by God for his care.
Isaiah 9:6 says “Unto us, a child is born.”
In the darkest days described by Isaiah 9:2, a child would be born unto the nation of Israel which would restore their hope. At that moment, Israel would be changed forever. His birth would bring joy and hope, and the nation would bring forth the Christ, through whom all the nations of the world would be blessed.
Think about what that meant for Mary and Joseph. Those two were chosen by God to raise His only begotten Son, who was the Savior of the world. Joy, hope, excitement, but what an incredible responsibility!
Isaiah 9:6 goes on to say, “Unto us, a Son is given.” This phrase takes the promise a little further. The child is born unto Israel. He would be one of them, but the Son would be given to the entire world.
The Son would be sent from the presence of God to live among men, as a man, and would conquer sin and death and reign forever. While this verse does not directly address the suffering He would endure to accomplish that, we know from other Bible passages that His suffering was what accomplished His mission of salvation.
It’s the giving of the Son that Jesus spoke about when He told Nicodemus in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
It is through His Son, given unto us, that hope, redemption and salvation came. It is that hope, redemption and salvation that gives us joy.
Jesus Christ is the child born unto us, the Son given to us, who brought salvation, joy and hope to us. He truly is the reason for the season.
Isaiah 9:6 as been fulfilled. God kept His promise. He is worthy to be praised and worshiped. Christmas Eve falls on a Sunday this year, and I can think of no better response than to dedicate that day to the Lord by attending worship at one of his churches.
–Leland Acker has served as pastor of Life Point Baptist Church since its inception in 2008. Sunday, He will bring a special Christmas message from Isaiah 9. Sunday School begins at 10 a.m., Morning Worship at 11 a.m. Life Point meets at the Early Chamber of Commerce at 104 E. Industrial Dr. in Early, TX.
Keeping Promises: The Virgin Birth
Luke 1:26-27 says, “And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, (27) to a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary.”
The virgin birth, the fact that Jesus Christ was born to a woman who was a virgin, (meaning she never had relations with a man (Luke 1:34)), is a fundamental doctrine of true Christianity for a number of reasons. First, the Old Testament not only foretells the virgin birth, the New Testament proclaims it. Secondly, it is the fulfilled prophecy in scripture that is used to validate the Bible as the Word of God. Third, the virgin birth is fundamental to the sinless nature of Christ. (Had Jesus been born of the union of a man and a woman, He would have been a sinner like the rest of us, and thus incapable of paying for our sins on the cross.)
There have been some that have tried to re-define the word “virgin” in scripture to mean, “a young maiden.” While the word was almost exclusively used to describe a young woman, it was limited in which young women it described. A young woman described as a virgin was one who had not been defiled, was not married, and was pure.
Furthermore, if the sign of the birth of Christ was to be a virgin birth (Isaiah 7:14), and if “virgin” only meant “young woman,” then Christ’s birth wouldn’t have been anything special. However, Isaiah 7:14 said the birth would be a sign, therefore the virgin birth described in Isaiah 7:14 is special, and thus depicted a child being born to a woman who had not had relations with a man. Any denial of the virgin birth is a denial of the scriptures, and the power of God Himself… but I digress.
The virgin birth was about God keeping His promise to His people. In Isaiah 7:14, God promised His people the Messiah… and He told them what to look for in the fulfillment of this promise. “Therefore, the Lord Himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a Son, and shall call His name, Immanuel.”
The name, Immanuel, means “God with us.” As mentioned in this post, God’s desire has always been to dwell with His people. The Son promised in Isaiah 7:14 would not only be the Son of God, but also God in flesh. God promised the coming of Jesus Christ in Isaiah 7:14, and the sign that He gave for people to look for was the fact He would be born of a virgin. It would be a unique situation that would mark the fulfillment of God’s promise.
That’s why the Gospels of Matthew and Luke pay special attention to the fact that Mary was a virgin when Christ was conceived, and thus born. They were documenting the fact that God kept His promise, sent the Messiah, who, being God in flesh, dwelt among us before dying for our sins on the cross.
God keeps His promises, and they are promises which should bring you rest. God promised a Savior, and He gave us Jesus. God promises to save all who believe in Jesus, and He does. God has promised that Jesus will return and establish His Kingdom on Earth, and He will. Are you ready to receive that promise?