Sunday, December 15, 2013

Solus Christus: The Third Sunday of Advent

Today is the third Sunday of Advent, and it is time to start look at the Christmas story itself. We’ve looked at some of it in past posts in order to see how Jesus is the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy, but this Sunday and the next we’ll look directly 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’d like to point out from these stories. First, I think it’s 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 he did this because he was “a just man,” but in the Jewish culture of this time, justice would have meant putting Mary to death by stoning her, not protecting her. Joseph’s justice was foreign to the Jewish culture in which he lived. Thus, right from the beginning, we see that the story of Jesus is going to break the molds of our world’s cultures 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 (heavenly) grace and compassion to Mary. Second, I think it’s incredible to see how God used the most powerful man in the world at that time—Caesar Augustus—as a tool to fulfill a four-hundred-year-old prophecy. In Micah 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, four hundred years later, Caesar decides to take a census, and Joseph and Mary must go to Bethlehem right when she is about to give birth to Jesus. Caesar may have thought he was ruling his empire but really he was just fulfilling part of God’s sovereign plan for redemption (cf. Pro. 21:1).

Take some time on this day of Advent (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. Remember that God’s justice demanded you be put to death, but God did something no culture in our world would’ve expected: He sent Jesus to take that justice so you could be justified and declared righteous before Him (Ro. 3:26). Remember that God is just as sovereign over your life—all of your life—as He was over Caesar Augustus. That’s why He can promise to work all things together for your good (Ro. 8:28), for He’s sovereign over them all. Pray to Him like you know He’s sovereign—expecting Him to do great and wondrous things in your life. Trust Him to work all things out for your good just like He did for Mary, Joseph, and Jesus by using Caesar as His tool. Ask Him to make His sovereignty and His grace your only comfort and to make them great comfort. Rest in Him today, for it is your Sabbath.

By His Grace,

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