Sermon title:  WHO WAS BORN ON CHRISTMAS MORN?

Matthew 1:18-23, Isaiah 9:6

Immanuel Baptist Church – Sunday, December 22, 2019

 

 

 

Lots of people celebrate Jesus’ birth.

 

But, do they really know

who was born that Christmas morn?

 

Many consider him merely a great teacher.

 

The official web site of the Unitarian Universalist Association

speaks of Jesus as

a moral exemplar,

practicing the compassion, generosity, and mercy

that he preached.”

 

But that’s all—just a man

who was a very good teacher and an example for us.

 

Unitarians may celebrate the upcoming holiday,

but because they view it as

just a great teacher’s birthday

they’re missing

the greatest joy of Christmas.

They don’t really know who was born on Christmas morn.

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The Hindu nationalist leader Mahatma Gandhi,

who helped win India’s independence,

 called Jesus

"one of the great teachers of mankind."

 

Christmas is a legal holiday in the Hindu nation of India,

but the Hindus who celebrate

are just seizing an occasion for festivities,

without recognizing Jesus

for who he is.

 

They enjoy partying and gift giving,

but they don’t really know

who was born on Christmas morn.

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Even some Muslims celebrate Christmas.

 

They don’t decorate or put up Christmas trees or sing carols.

But some Muslim families

sit down together on Christmas Day

and read together

what the Koran, the Islamic holy book,

says about Jesus’ miraculous birth.

 

The Muslim Koran teaches

that Jesus was born to the virgin Mary

as a miracle from God.

 

In fact, Mary is mentioned by name

more times in the Koran than in the Bible.

 

And the 19th Chapter of the Koran is titled “Mary.”

 

The Muslims believe that Jesus was sent by God.

 

They believe that he performed miracles.

 

Their Koran acknowledges

that he healed lepers, gave sight to the blind

and raised the dead by the power of God. 

 

They believe that he was the Messiah—a prophet sent by God,

and that he will come again---at the end of the world.

 

The Koran speaks of the crucifixion,

but it claims that someone else was crucified

in Jesus’ place.

 

And Islam denies Christ’s deity.

 

And it denies that he was the Son of God.

 

Muslims who observe Christmas at all

think of it as the birth of a man—

a very special man,

but not their Lord or their Savior.

 

They don’t really know who was born on Christmas morn.

 

The Islamic Koran tells a story

of Jesus’ miraculous virgin birth.

 

But it’s not a true story.

 

It didn’t really happen the way the Koran describes it.

 

The Koran’s story of Jesus miraculous virgin birth

was written hundreds of years later

by people who wanted to deny

what Christians believed.

 

The First Chapter of the Gospel of Matthew,

which we read from in this morning’s Responsive Reading,

tells the true story of what happened on Christmas morn.

 

Beginning at Matthew 1:18, it says,

 

18 This is how

the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about:

 

His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph,

but before they came together,

she was found to be pregnant

through the Holy Spirit.

 

19 Because Joseph her husband

was faithful to the law,

and yet did not want to expose her

to public disgrace,

he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

 

20 But after he had considered this,

an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream

and said,

“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.

 

21 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.”

 

22 All this took place

to fulfill what the Lord had said

through the prophet:

 

23 “The virgin will conceive

and give birth to a son,

and they will call him Immanuel

(which means ‘God with us’).

 

So, the angel told Joseph

that the child to be born on Christmas morn

1) would be from the Holy Spirit,  and

2) would “save his people from their sins.”

 

It’s hard to imagine that Joseph fully understood

what all of that meant.

 

But, it was enough to convince him

that his fiancée had not been unfaithful to him—

that this really was to be a miraculous virgin birth.

 

The angel in the dream

told Joseph to give this miraculous child the name “Jesus.”

 

Like almost all Jewish names,

the name “Jesus” means something in the original language.

 

And it means something very important to us.

 

Like many Bible names,

the name “Jesus” is composed of the name of God

and one of the attributes of God.

 

The original Hebrew Bible was written

entirely of consonants—no vowels.

 

And the Hebrew name for God,

found thousands of times in the Old Testament

is the Tetragrammaton,

the four consonants Yod, He, Wah, He—

brought into English as YHWH or JHVH.

 

The pronunciation of God’s name

is either “Yahweh” or Yehowah in Hebrew

and “Jehovah” in English.

 

Other Old Testament names

were often combinations of God’s name “Jehovah”

and one of the attributes of God.

 

For example, King Jehoram’s name

is a combination of Jeho and “ram”

and means “Jehovah is exalted.”

 

King Jehoshaphat’s name

is a combination of Jeho and shaphat

and means “Jehovah judges.”

 

Similarly, the name “Jesus”

has two parts “Je” and “sus,”

and it means “Jehovah saves,” or

“Jehovah is the Savior.”

 

And so the angel told Joseph,

 

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.”

It’s a meaningful name,

because Jesus is the one

who saves us from our sins.

And his very name assures us of that.

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But then Matthew explains

that the child would also be called “Immanuel”—

where we get the name “Immanuel Baptist Church”—

because he would fulfill the prophecy

of Isaiah 7:14.

 

Matthew says,

 

22 All this took place

to fulfill what the Lord had said

through the prophet:

 

The virgin will conceive

and give birth to a son,

and they will call him Immanuel

(which means ‘God with us’).

 

And that name is very significant, too.

 

The child born on Christmas mornwould be God with us.’

He would be deity.

 

He would be divine.

 

And he would come to earth to be ‘with us’.

 

That prophecy was from Isaiah 7:14.

 

Then, a few verses farther on in Isaiah,

Isaiah Chapter 9 told us more

about who would be born to that virgin

on Christmas morn.

 

It said,

 

6 For unto us a child is born,

unto us a son is given:

and the government shall be upon his shoulder:

and his name shall be called Wonderful,

Counsellor, The mighty God,

The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

 

That passage shows us

that the child born on Christmas morn

is many things.

 

He is “a son”—the Son of God.

 

At Luke 1:30, the angel Gabriel

also gave that information to Mary.

We read at Luke 1:30,

 

30 But the angel said to her,

“Do not be afraid, Mary;

 

you have found favor with God.

 

31 You will conceive and give birth to a son,

and you are to call him Jesus.

 

32 He will be great

and will be called the Son of the Most High.

 

The child born on Christmas morn

 is “the Son of the Most High”—the Son of God.

 

Isaiah 9:6 continued,

and the government shall be upon his shoulder.

 

The angel Gabriel went on to tell that to Mary, too.

 

He said,

“The Lord God will give him

the throne of his father David,

33 and he will reign

over Jacob’s descendants forever;

his kingdom will never end.”

 

 

 

The child born on Christmas morn is our eternal King.

Isaiah 9:6 continued giving Jesus other meaningful names:

 

and his name shall be called Wonderful,

Counsellor, The mighty God,

The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

 

When we first learn about Jesus

we just begin to scratch the surface

about who he is.

 

And, as we spend our years following him,

he reveals himself to us, more and more.

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The Gospel of Mark, Chapter 4,

shows us that even Christ’s disciples

thought, at first, that he was just a great teacher.

 

Beginning at Mark 4:37,

it tells us how, at one point, early in his ministry,

the disciples took Jesus with them in a boat

to cross the Sea of Galilee.

 

And what happened next

caused them to re-examine who their teacher really was.

 

It says,

 

37 But soon a fierce storm came up.

 

High waves were breaking into the boat,

and it began to fill with water.

 

38 Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat

with his head on a cushion.

 

The disciples woke him up, shouting,

Teacher, don’t you care

that we’re going to drown?”

 

39 When Jesus woke up,

he rebuked the wind and said to the waves,

“Silence! Be still!”

 

Suddenly the wind stopped,

and there was a great calm.

 

40 Then he asked them,

“Why are you afraid?

Do you still have no faith?”

 

41 The disciples were absolutely terrified.

 

Who is this man?” they asked each other.

“Even the wind and waves obey him!”

 

So, even though they had already been with Jesus for a while,

they had not yet begun to grasp

who it was that was born on Christmas morn.

 

Who is this man?” they asked each other.

 

They had already seen him

free a man from demonic possession.

 

But they didn’t yet realize who Jesus was.

 

They had already seen him

heal Peter’s mother-in-law

who had been sick in bed with a fever

until Jesus walked into the room

and made her well instantly.

 

But they didn’t yet realize who Jesus was.

 

They had already seen

every sick person in the town of Capernaum

come to Jesus and be healed.

 

But they didn’t yet fully realize who he was.

 

The disciples had already seen Jesus

go into a nearby town

and cure a man of leprosy.

 

But they still didn’t grasp who he was.

 

They had already seen

a paralyzed man brought to Jesus on a stretcher

made to walk again,

so that he picked up his own stretcher

and walked out carrying it.

 

But they still didn’t understand fully who Jesus was.

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So, these disciples had been with Christ for a while,

and had seen many things,

but they were astounded

when he commanded the wind to stop blowing

and calmed the waves of the sea.

 

Who is this man?” they asked each other.

 

“Even the wind and waves obey him!”

 

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Could that be us?

 

Could we be like those early disciples?

 

Could we have been celebrating Christmas each year,

year after year,

without fully realizing who that was

who was born on Christmas morn?

 

Yes, that is possible.

 

In Chapter 3 of his Letter to the Ephesians,

the Apostle Paul showed that

 we all have room for growth

in our walk with God.

 

In Ephesians, Chapter 3, beginning with Verse 16,

Paul prayed for those Ephesian Christians

to come to know Jesus better.

 

He prayed that God

 

“would grant you,

according to the riches of his glory,

to be strengthened with might

by his Spirit in the inner man;

17 That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith;

that ye, being rooted and grounded in love,

18 May be able to comprehend with all saints

what is the breadth,

and length, and depth, and height;

 

19 And to know the love of Christ,

which passeth knowledge,

that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.

 

We may have been following Jesus for a while,

like those early disciples were following Jesus

before they saw him stop the wind and calm the sea.

 

We may have been following Jesus for a while

like those Ephesian Christians Paul wrote to.

 

But, we may not yet fully grasp

what is the breadth,

and length, and depth, and height;

 

We may not yet see all the dimensions

of the power of Christ in our own lives.

 

We may not yet see how

that baby who was born in Bethlehem—

and who now has

“All authority in heaven and on earth”—

we may not yet see

how he can stop the stormy wind in our lives

and how he can calm the waves that hammer us.

 

But he can.

 

Paul concluded his prayer at Ephesians 3:20 by saying

 

20 Now unto him that is able to do

exceeding abundantly

above all that we ask or think,

according to the power that worketh in us,

 

21 Unto him be glory in the church

by Christ Jesus throughout all ages,

forever and ever. Amen.