Sunday, December 16, 2012

Advent: Day 15

Today is the third Sunday of Advent, and it is time to start look at the Christmas story itself. We have looked at some of it in past posts in order to see how Jesus is the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. This Sunday and next we will look at the story itself:
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. (Mt. 1:18-25)
1 In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 And all went to be registered, each to his own town. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. 6 And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. (Lk. 2:1-7)
There are two things I would like to point out from these stories. First, I think it is amazing that Joseph was unwilling to put Mary to shame even before he knew the baby was conceived by the Holy Spirit. The passage says this is because he was "a just man," but in Jewish culture at this time, justice would have meant stoning Mary, not protecting her. Right from the beginning, we see that the story of Jesus is going to break the molds of this world and that God is the God of grace. Joseph was declared "a just man" not because he was a stickler for (earthly) justice but because he showed grace and compassion to Mary. Second, I think it is incredible to see how God used the most powerful man in the world, Caesar Augustus, as a tool to fulfill a 400-year-old prophecy. In Mi. 5:2, the prophet Micah predicts that Bethlehem will be the birthplace of the "ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days." Then Caesar decides to take a census and Joseph and Mary must go to Bethlehem right when she is about to give birth. Caesar may have thought he was ruling his empire but really he was just doing God's bidding (cf. Pro. 21:1).

Take some time today (especially since it is the Lord's Day, a day of rest) to meditate on God's grace and compassion to you, as well as His sovereignty over your life. And, do not forget to rest on your Sabbath.

By His Grace,

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