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. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 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.” 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). 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. – Matthew 1:18-25 (ESV)
The story of Christ’s miraculous conception is beautiful and moving, but does it really make any difference in the way that we think? A surprising number of New Testament scholars treat the virgin conception as a nice story that we could very well get on without. But they are wrong. At the heart of today’s passage is the truth of Jesus’ title Immanuel – God with us. Consider the rich theology found in the Angel’s message to Joseph on why he should still take Mary to be his wife. We should remember that all his life Joseph had been called Joseph bar Jacob (which means Joseph the son of Jacob). Yet the Angel immediately introduces messianic overtones by calling him Joseph son of David. Then he says:
Do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife,
for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit,
and she will give birth to a son,
and you are to call his name Jesus
for he will save his people from their sins.
Furthermore, this was going to fulfill the word of God which was given through the prophet Isaiah:
Look, a virgin will conceive and give birth to a son.
And they will call his name ‘Immanuel,’
which means ‘God with us.’
This passage makes it clear that Jesus’ origins (the Greek word is “genesis”) come uniquely from God and that in Christ we will experience God’s saving presence. It is not without meaning that Matthew begins his account of the Gospel with the origins of the one called Immanuel (which means “God with us”). The very last words of Matthew come from our Lord when He tells His disciples: “Look, I am with you always, even until the very end of the age (Matthew 28:20).” Jesus is our Immanuel.
MEMORY WORK – Shorter Catechism Q/A 18
Q. 18. Wherein consists the sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell?
A. The sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell consists in the guilt of Adam’s first sin, the want of original righteousness, and the corruption of his whole nature, which is commonly called original sin; together with all actual transgressions which proceed from it.