151209 Matthew 1:18-25

Last Updated on Wednesday, 09 December 2015 Written by Pastor Pagels

Text: Matthew 1:18-25
Theme: A Dream Come True

Can you remember what you dreamed about last night? Whether you are the kind of person who is able to recall every detail or the kind who rarely remembers a thing, I think almost everyone has had the following experience.

Something is dominating your thoughts, so much so that you are unable to think about anything else. Maybe it's a deadline at work. Maybe it's a problem at school. Whatever it is, you can't put it out of your mind. You can't even escape when you go to sleep because somehow it tunnels its way into your subconscious and becomes a part of your dreams.

Do you think it's possible that Joseph had a similar experience as he wrestled with a very difficult decision? He was happy. He was engaged to be married. He was looking forward to the future. But then he learned that Mary was pregnant, and he knew that he wasn't the father. He was upset. He was troubled. He was hurt.

You could say that Joseph's life had become a nightmare...until he had that dream, a very special dream, a dream that answered his questions, and dream that removed all his doubts and fears. When the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph, everything changed, for him and for us. And as we take a closer look at this miraculous encounter we will see that it was much more than a dream. For every child of God it is...

A DREAM COME TRUE

In Israel, engagement (or betrothal) was tantamount to marriage. Even though Mary and Joseph were not yet living together as husband and wife, it was still necessary for Joseph to obtain a certificate of divorce to end the marriage. But Joseph was a righteous man. He didn't want to expose Mary to public disgrace. He didn't want to get revenge either. Because he didn't want to make a bad situation even worse, Joseph decided to send her away quietly.

Just when Joseph had made up his mind, the Lord decided to change it. The Lord sent an angel to Joseph in a dream that he would not soon forget. The angel said to him: "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" (1:20).

The angel knew who Joseph was. The angel knew what Joseph's problem was. And with one miraculous statement, he gave Joseph's problem a divine solution. It was true. Mary was pregnant, but her pregnancy was not the result of her unfaithfulness. The child in her womb was the direct result of God's faithfulness.

In the Garden of Eden, God promised to send "the seed of the woman (Genesis 3:15)" to crush the serpent's head. That promise was passed down from generation to generation, from fathers to sons, from Abraham to Isaac, from Isaac to Jacob, from Jacob to Judah. As a son of David, Joseph believed that a Savior would come from his ancestor's royal line. But Joseph had no reason to suspect that the Lord had chosen Mary to give birth to the promised Messiah.

Imagine how Joseph's feelings must have changed as the angel's words sank in. Besides the relief he felt knowing that Mary had not been unfaithful to him, besides the excitement he felt knowing that their marriage plans could go forward again, God had chosen him to play a key role in the most important birth in the history of the world.

We call this miracle the virgin birth. Mary was Jesus' mother, but there was no human father. Even though we can't understand it, we believe it in our hearts. Even though we can't explain it, we confess it in the Apostles' Creed: "I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary..."

It's a common dilemma today for parents today. The expecting couple goes to the doctor's office, and when they do they have to decide if they want to know the sex of their unborn child. Joseph didn't have to make that decision, but not because there were no ultrasounds in ancient Israel. Joseph didn't have to make the decision because God made it for him.

The angel told Joseph: "She will give birth to a son" (1:21). It was a miracle that an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream. It was another miracle that this child was conceived by the Holy Spirit. Here is one more miracle. The angel revealed to Joseph that Mary's unborn child would be a boy.

And we can add to that impressive list of miracles the fact that this birth was the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy: "All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 'The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel'—which means 'God with us'" (1:22,23).

Those words were originally spoken by the prophet Isaiah. The Lord sent Isaiah to assure King Ahaz that he would protect Judah from its enemies (in spite of the unfaithfulness of Ahaz). And the Lord told Ahaz to ask for a sign to prove it.

In a show of false humility, Ahaz refused because he said that he didn't want to put the Lord to the test. In reality, Ahaz refused because he had already decided to ask Assyria for help. And so Isaiah responded: "If you won't ask for a sign, the Lord will give you a sign." "The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel" (Isaiah 7:14).

Isaiah didn't live to see the ultimate fulfillment of those words, but seven hundred years after he died God did become one of us. In a stable on the outskirts of Bethlehem, a virgin gave birth to a son. The prophecy of Isaiah was fulfilled in the birth of God's Son.

At this time of year, it is natural to think about Jesus' coming to live among us. While it is a great comfort to know that Jesus took on human flesh and lived on this earth two thousand years ago, it is also important to remember that there was never a time when he was not with us.

When we are in danger, when we are afraid, we can say with David: "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me" (Psalm 23:4). When we are unsure about the future, when we feel like we are all alone, we can take comfort in Jesus' promise: "Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age" (Matthew 28:20). Our Savior always was and always will be Immanuel, "God with us."

But Immanuel was not the only name the angel used to describe this child. And Isaiah was not the only one who prophesied about him either. The angel told Joseph: "You are to give him the name Jesus" (1:21). The Hebrew equivalent for "Jesus" is "Joshua," and both names mean "The Lord Saves." It was not uncommon for Hebrew parents to name their son Jesus/Joshua as a testimony to God's promise to send a Savior.

But when the angel instructed Joseph to name the child Jesus, that name was not merely symbolic. It was prophetic: "You are to give him the name Jesus," the angel said, "because he will save his people from their sins" (1:21). From Joseph's perspective, the angel's prediction was a promise for the future. From our perspective, it is a prophecy fulfilled because...

We know that the son of Joseph and Mary has lived up to his name. Jesus is our Savior. He saved us from sin. He saved us from death. He saved us from the devil. And because the Son of God became one with us, because he lived a sinless life for us, because he sacrificed his life for us, because he has ascended to prepare a place for us, our hope of heaven is not some kind of pipedream. Thanks to Jesus, it will be a dream come true. Amen.

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Compelled by the love of Christ, St. Matthew’s Evangelical Lutheran Church and School seek to reach out to our families, community and world, using Law and Gospel to make disciples, growing and nurturing them in their Christian faith and life.

 

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