Text: Matthew 1:18-25
18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 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. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 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). 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. (ESV)
Brief thoughts about the text:
The birth of Jesus gets a lot of attention this time of year, and that’s good: Scripture strongly emphasizes it, including a lengthy account in Luke and a shorter one with different details in Matthew. When cultures appropriate biblical stories, though—especially with something as commercialized as Christmas—we run the risk of missing the essence of the event itself.
Perhaps no word distills the meaning of Jesus’ birth as beautifully and completely as Immanuel. Jesus is “God with us.” He is both God and Man. We see his deity in that Mary was a virgin when she conceived and gave birth to him; he had no earthly father, but rather he was conceived “of the Holy Spirit.”
We see his humanity (he is “with us”) in the fact that he was born as every other human being has been born, yet in more humble circumstances than many. He was born to Mary, a remarkable young woman in so many ways, but a woman who was completely human nonetheless. Jesus was a helpless baby—totally dependent on his mother as she held, patted, nursed, bathed, and changed him.
Imagine that—God as a helpless newborn! And yet that’s how God chose to come to us. The Creator of heavens and earth—the One who spoke the galaxies into existence—came to be with us as one of us, subjecting himself to the limitations and frustrations of human existence in our world.
And Matthew sums it up with this word: Immanuel. He is “God with us.” God among us, in us, and for us.
It’s no coincidence that Matthew ends his gospel with these words: “I am with you always, to the end of the age.” He came to Bethlehem to be with us, and he remains with us to this day.