GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM THE COMING CHRIST CHILD
Texts: Isaiah 7: 10-14; Romans 1: 1-7; Matthew 1: 18-25
Fellow Redeemed In the Blessed Baby Jesus:
This past week “Time” magazine named Mark Zuckerberg the “person of the year.”
This Harvard grad started the wildly popular social networking site on the web called: Facebook. He’s made billions as a result. And no doubt, most of you under 35 have your own Facebook page along with a list of people you’ve “friended.” And yes, because of Facebook the noun “friend” has also been turned into a verb: “friended.”
Today the children have shared a bit of the Christmas message with each of you. And if you boil it all down, they have answered a vital question for all of us. That question being:
WHEN WAS THE DAY GOD’S SON FRIENDED YOU?
Around 700 years before Jesus’ birth, King Ahaz of Israel was deeply concerned. Two of his kingdom’s enemies were plotting and joining forces against Israel. What should he do? Where should he turn for guidance and help? Where would his strength come from? Well, Ahaz prayed and God told him to ask. “Ask the Lord your God for a sign.” But Ahaz was weak and fearful of what God might say. Much like us today, we often fear to ask the Lord for answers unless and until we’re pretty sure it will be the answer we desire.
Well, God responded anyway via the prophet Isaiah. And the answer was amazing! “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: the virgin will be with child and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.”
Yes, if you, like King Ahaz, want true solace for a troubled heart; if you want something you can truly hang onto no matter what; take those words to heart! For in them God promises to “friend” you in, with, and because of the Baby Jesus! That is a direct prophecy of Christmas. A virgin, not just a young woman, will miraculously conceive God’s Son. This long promised Messiah will deliver God’s people from their mortal enemies: sin and eternal death. So, right here Ahaz got far more than he bargained for. He asked for a temporary answer to his problems and received an eternal solution.
Next we turn to St. Paul’s introduction in the book of Romans. This intro was Paul’s way to “friending” these fledgling Roman believers. But, it really wasn’t about his concern and compassion for them. No, it is really all about Christ, Immanuel, God-with-us’s compassion. First, Paul identifies himself as a servant, literally a slave of Christ. Next, he reminds them that Jesus directly called him to his task of being an apostle. Then he goes on to say that his work is to lay before them the Gospel, God’s good news of salvation in Christ, just like the ancient prophets did. You see from all this that “friending” people by God has been around literally since the dawn of time. Then he adds: “And you also are among those who are called to belong to Jesus Christ.” All Christians should be assured of this fact. Why? Because Christ proved His eternal friendship and love towards us when He died on the cross for our sins. He re-confirmed it by rising from our graves. Yes, you might take Him off your “friend” list, but He will never take you off His list of friends! That’s because His love for us is far greater than our love for Him.
Paul knew that God desperately wanted these Roman believers to realize all this. Hence these words: “To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints.” Now comes some clinching words: “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.” Did you ever notice that that sentence doesn’t have a verb. No, instead we have two nouns “grace” and also “peace.” Those are things. They are God’s undeserved love for us in Christ and also a soul at eternal rest because of it. The “Facebook” folks weren’t the first to make a noun into a verb via their “friending.” No, God was! For you see, grace and peace aren’t inanimate things, no, they contain divine power and force. Here they are both nouns and verbs at the same time! They create what they bring—eternal love and a soul at rest. And all this occurred because the Baby Jesus is the eternal Son of God Who created all things and Who now has reached into your soul to create faith within it.
When Was The Day God’s Son Friended You? When was the exact day that He peeled back the shroud covering eternity so that you could peer into the timeless heart of the Almighty with nothing vital hidden away? Of course, the children have already answered that question. It was on the first Christmas. St. Matthew now describes those earth-shaking events in humble, succinct terms.
Mary, a virgin, was engaged to Joseph. Unlike many modern couples, they respected the 6th commandment and didn’t engage in sexual activity before their marriage. But, Mary discovered she was pregnant. We know the angel told her all about it in advance. We know this was the fulfillment of that famous Isaiah passage. Joseph, no doubt, was told of all this by Mary, too. But, it was a bit hard for him to fathom. Sadly, he decided to divorce her quietly to save her from public disgrace. But then, God’s angelic messenger appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
I’ve always had a very fond place in my heart for Joseph. Considering everything he went through, you have to conclude that he was a really, really good guy with a really kind heart. Who better to help raise God’s Son? Well, Joseph obeyed. “He woke up, did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.”
In that dream, Joseph was “friended” by God, by his soon-to-be-born Son. And he knew it. That fact is clearly seen in that when Christ is born Joseph names Him Jesus, which means: “God saves His people.”
Time magazine has never put a picture of Christ on its cover and labeled it: “The Person of the Year.” Quite frankly, if they did it could probably be considered a slap in God’s face. I say that because Christ isn’t about being popular for a mere 365 days. No, He’s really the One, the Only Person in all of history Who matters. He has no compare. He is God with us. Who better to be “friended” by? So, hold your head up. Of all the people on this earth, you truly have something to rejoice over! God’s Son has come to save, to friend, you. Amen