Way back in the beginning when there were just two people in the whole world… and really, how much damage can just two people do? But they did. “When the woman saw that the tree was good for food and to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate…”
She knew better. Adam, her husband, had told her not to eat of the fruit from this ONE tree for on the day that you eat of it you shall surely die. All he was doing really was giving her the Word of God.
So when the talking serpent said, “Oh my, doesn’t that look good,” she recited the LAW of GOD in good catechetical style – NOT “but my husband said…” “but God said…”
But instead of LISTENING to GOD’S WORD, she LISTENED to the word of the serpent – and by that UNHOLY WORD an UNHOLY THING was conceived in her, and she gave birth to SIN which separates us from the God WHO KNOWS NO SIN.
But our attention this morning is not so much on THE WOMAN as it is on THE MAN. Where was her husband while this was going on?
HE WAS RIGHT NEXT TO HER. “…and she also gave some to her husband WHO WAS WITH HER…” (Gen.3:6) He did NOTHING. He just stood there and watched as the serpent its unholy seed in his wife. “…and he ate.”
What a coward. What a wimp. He should have protected her. He should have thrown himself between his wife and the serpent and said, “OVER MY DEAD BODY.” But he did NOTHING and his NOTHING changed EVERYTHING.
And now this morning, we are being told that the woman is pregnant once again. But this time, not with the ‘UNHOLY’ word of the serpent,’ but with the HOLY Word of God. This time it is not a talking serpent but a talking angel that speaks. “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy – the Son of God.” (Lk. 1:35)
That was from St. Luke’s gospel where the attention centers on the woman. THIS woman will not be like THAT woman. This woman will listen to the Holy Word of the Holy Spirit and a Holy One will be conceived in her.
But we’re not reading from St. Luke’s gospel. We’re reading from St. Matthew’s gospel where the attention centers on the man. So, what about THIS man? Will he be the man that THAT man failed to be?
“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.”
We’re not given any of the little details about how Joseph and Mary met, or what they’re first date was like, or how Joseph finally popped the question – the kind of stuff that if it were People Magazine we would certainly have been told – even if it never did get to that part about FROM THE HOLY SPIRIT.
Mary was BETROTHED to Joseph. Which is something like our ‘engagement,’ but not quite. The Jewish practice of BETROTHAL was much more binding than our ‘engagement.’ The woman continued to live at home and the marriage was not consummated until the wedding. But even while they are still BETROTHED, they are already referred to as HUSBAND AND WIFE. And if either wanted to break off the BETHROTHAL, a certificate of divorce was required.
Matthew begins his account where Luke leaves off. Luke tells us that after Mary was WITH CHILD BY THE HOLY SPIRIT, she rushed off to visit Cousin Elizabeth where she remains for three months. Matthew picks it up when Mary returns to Nazareth. She’s beginning her 2nd trimester, which means that she’s probably beginning to show.
After being separated for three months, Joseph and Mary would have embraced. And as Matthew so delicately describes it, “she was FOUND to be with child.” But then he quickly adds, “by the Holy Spirit” just be sure that we know that there’s been no hanky panky.
And once again it’s important to remember that, at this point, we know more than Joseph did. The truth has been revealed to us – but not to Joseph.
Again, we get nothing of the conversation that MUST have taken place between these two,
• Mary trying to explain to Joseph about the visitation of an angel, (Angels huh? Really Mary? Is that the best you can do).
• Mary trying to explain to Joseph that child in her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. (Really Mary? I’m a spiritual guy, but I’m not a religious nut).
• Mary telling Joseph that she already knows that IT’S A BOY and that a name has already been chosen for Him. (Come on Mary, you’re being ridiculous about this.)
And it’s right here that we’re reminded of a theme that runs through St. Matthew’s gospel, which is that no one can ever discern the will of God unless it is REVEALED to him.
St. Paul writes, “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how unsearchable his ways! (Rom.11:33) All of which is to say, “Joseph, please do not listen to what your heart tells you!” “Listen to God’s Word.”
“And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.” Which is to say, he decided to ditch her ‘NICELY.’ And once again, the MAN will be the coward and the wimp and fail to do RIGHT thing.
“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. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
It’s right at this point when every man in the room is slinking down in the pew because he knows what’s coming next. And every woman in the room is thinking the same thought. “I told you. You should have listened to me.” Or at least that’s the way it would have read in People Magazine.
How hard it must have been for Joseph to wrap his heart and his head around this? No doubt, as hard as it is for us.
• The God who fills the universe with His being is a tiny fetus contained within the cramped quarters of a woman’s womb.
• The God who is spirit and who rules over the whole creation takes on human flesh and bones and blood – and is ruled over by His mother – and is TOTALLY DEPENDANT on Joseph to DO THE RIGHT THING.
Once we were told “…she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.” And now a second time we are told again, “…for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.” Who would have ever guessed unless it had been revealed to us?
One of the inalienable rights that parents have is that they get to name their children. Back there in the Garden of Eden, God told Adam to ‘name’ all the ‘living creatures.’ “Now out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would NAME them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was it NAME.” (Gen. 2:19) Adam even names his wife. In fact, he gives her his own name. “She shall be called Ishah , for she was taken out of Ish.” (Gen.2:23).
“Naming” something or someone is significant. To give something its name is to have dominion and authority over it. What you have dominion and authority over – you are responsible for providing for. That which you have authority and dominion over, you are accountable to God take care of.
But here, neither father nor mother will have DOMINION over this child to be born. In fact, the child to be born will have DOMINION over them. He is the One who is accountable to God for providing for them. And so they do not get to name him.
“You shall call his name Jesus…” “Yeshua” in the Hebrew. “Yesou” in the Greek. In both it means, ‘ONE WHO SAVES.’ Literally what the angels says is, ‘You shall call His name Jesus for he will Jesus His people from their sins.’
None of this is accidental. None of this is anything other than the eternal plan of God to redeem His creation being carried out “when the time had fully come.”
“All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:
‘Behold the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name
Immanuel” (which means, God with us.)’”
But even this word from the prophet was just A REMINDER ALONG THE WAY of what the Lord had spoken in the beginning to the serpent in the Garden: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, between your offspring and hers, and he shall bruise your head and you shall bruise your heel.” (Gen.3:15)
There in the Garden where SIN was conceived through a woman, God promised that a SAVIOR FROM SIN would be conceived through a woman. Not a MAN AND A WOMAN. Not “between your offspring and THEIRS…” but “between your offspring and HERS.”
Christmas is God’s redeeming answer to the tragedy of the Genesis account. Whereas in the beginning, God took the woman out of the man – now, in these last days, God has taken the man out of the woman – which is just the way St. Paul put it to the Corinthians, “For as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman.” (1 Cor. 11:12).
He shall be called “Immanuel,” which means “God with us.”
• “God with us” just like He was with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.”
• “God with us” now, in this world that so deeply infected with sin.
• “God with us” as we just sang, “Amid the cold of winter, when half spent was the night.”
So we need to be very careful.
• When we see Him lying in the manger wrapped in swaddling clothes on Christmas morning, all we will see is ‘MAN WITH US.’
• When we see Him bound and beaten and flogged and hanging from a cross, all we will see is ‘MAN WITH US.’
For apart from His revelation by His Word – this is all we can see.
But to us – IT HAS BEEN REVEALED that this Jesus is both MAN WITH US and GOD WITH US.
• He is “God with us,” who has become flesh of our flesh and bone of our bone and BETROTHED Himself to us.
• He is “God with us,” who refuses to divorce us for our unfaithfulness, but instead, throws Himself between us and the devil from hell saying, “OVER MY DEAD BODY.”
• He is “God with us,” who has given us HIS OWN NAME in the matrimonial rite of Holy Baptism – who “has been given all authority in heaven and on earth” to take care of us perfectly.
• He is “God with us,” who will bring His bride to live with Him in His Father’s house forever.
“When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not, until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name, Jesus.”