+ In Nomine Jesu +
Grace to you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
The first Adam was born from the dust of the ground. God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and He became a living creature. You know the rest of the story. For Adam, it wasn’t enough to be WITH God. Rather, he wanted to be like God, perhaps to even TRANSCEND God. In time, by the cunning of the serpent, Adam shunned his creatureliness that he might become like God.
The consequence of Adam’s rebellion was evident in his own family. You’ll recall Adam had two sons. One, Abel, was a man of faith. The other, Cain, was an unbeliever. It happened one day that Cain and Abel both gave an offering to God. God accepted Abel’s offering but He rejected Cain’s. In a jealous rage Cain then lifted up his hand against his brother and killed him.
The consequence of Adam’s sin was devastating. From walking with God in the garden, enjoying complete peace, the first family now knew things like jealousy, and rage, death and even murder. In an instant their world was turned upside down. And the most devastating part of it all was that God was no longer visibly among them. Oh, it’s not that God had forsaken them! Not by any means! Rather, they were afraid of God. Afraid because they were ashamed of what they had become.
From that point on, God would communicate with His creation in a different way. The writer of the letter to the Hebrews says, “God spoke to His people of old by the prophets.” God sent prophets because He no longer walked among His people as He did when Adam was formed from the dust of the ground. Men were appointed to be the voice of God! They spoke and the people listened. Or, at least, the people were supposed to listen. They knew God, as it were, through His prophet.
Beyond the prophets, God’s promise to “crush the head of the serpent through the seed of the woman,” was portrayed before their eyes in the Temple sacrifices. As the blood of the sacrifice was scattered out over the people, they knew, as Isaiah would finally prophesy, that God would ultimately provide the Lamb to end all sacrifices. Ultimately, God would come to His people again!
Which brings us to the gospel reading for this morning. Joseph, we are told, was a righteous man. Which means, like Abel, he believed God’s promises were true. It also means, His righteousness was not achieved. Rather, like your righteousness it was given to him.
Joseph’s righteousness was also evident in his obedience to the word of God. While he no doubt found it incredibly difficult to believe that Mary, his betrothed, had conceived a child by the Holy Spirit, he nonetheless, did exactly as the angel said. He took Mary as his wife and did not know her until the child was born. And then he called Him Jesus, because He would save His people from their sins!
So, the first Adam was born of the dust of the ground. Though he was created innocent and righteous, after God’s own image, he fell into sin. The second Adam was born from the seed of the woman! Innocent and righteous, He was made sin, that you and I might be the righteousness of the God in Him. Paul, who writes, at length, about the relationship between Adam and Jesus, tells how the one brought judgment, while the other brought justification and righteousness. “The judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.”
What the first Adam destroyed, the second Adam restored! God would dwell among us again. Jesus, whose name means, “God saves,” would also be called Immanuel, which means, God with us! In the verse I read earlier from the Book of Hebrews, where it said, “In many and various ways God spoke to His people of old by the prophets,” it goes on to say, “but now, in these last days, He has spoken to us by His Son.”
When God’s Son speaks, He says, “lo, I am with you always, even to the very end of the age.” The birth of Jesus was more than simply the manner in which God chose to give His Son to save the world from sin. Jesus’ birth is God saying, “I am with you always, even to the very end of the age.” God has come to the world! He has given Himself for the sake of His creation! He has not considered it beneath Him to walk with you and me again, not in the sense that we see Him, but, in the sense that we are never really alone, nor are we ever forsaken!
Thomas, the disciple who doubted that Jesus had risen from the dead, stood before Him one day and put his hand into Jesus’ side and His finger into the nail prints in Jesus’ hands. Jesus had said, “I am with you always to the very end of the age” but Thomas, who knew all about Jesus’ crucifixion, couldn’t see how that could be true. You’ll recall, Jesus said to him, (Thomas) you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
It all finally comes down to faith, doesn’t it? Faith to believe that Jesus was born for you! Faith to believe that He died for you and that He was raised from the dead for you! And yes, faith to believe that He is with you always to the very end of the age!
A noted minister in some circles a couple of generations ago, once said, “I do love Christmas; to me it is like a Gothic ruin come to life for 24 hours.” That minister may well have loved Christmas, but his assessment of it is vastly understated.
Christmas is more than a 24-hour event, for its influence, beyond the daylong festivities, goes on for a lifetime. It speaks of the unique way in which God brings into the world His promised kingdom through the “Son of the Most High,” God, becoming the second Adam, to take away the curse of the first Adam, God coming to us in human flesh that we might know Him aright once again.
For Joseph, the promise was first given by a prophet, then by an angel, but ultimately it was fulfilled in the child of his betrothed. “The virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel (which means God with us).” In Jesus’ name. Amen.
The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.
+ Soli Deo Gloria +
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