It’s Christmas Eve. Tonight many will gather in churches to hear one final message about Jesus’ arrival to earth. I’ve heard suggestions lately that preachers find Christmas difficult because it’s the same story every year. Well, thanks for that dynamite drop in, but so is the gospel you’re called to preach every week.
Recently, in a staff prayer meeting, our lead pastor asked us to describe something in the Christmas story that has special significance to us. A number of responses were given ranging from what Mary must have been thinking to the amazement of the shepherds. For me this year ,I have found tremendous profundity in one verse, Matthew 1:21, “She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
What I find so wonderful about this verse is how the angel makes makes very clear to Joseph the identity and purpose of this babe. He is given a name, Jesus, because that identity describes his purpose. The name “Jesus” could also be translated “Joshua” which means “Yahweh saves.” This was a common name among Jewish boys, but this boy was anything but common. This boy was given this name because of his purpose, his mission, “you will call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
It’s easy to be all mushy gushy at Christmas with the baby Jesus. Christmas is a cultural holiday that 9 out of 10 Americans celebrate. Americans like a baby in a manager, but they cringe at a Christ on a cross. The idea that Jesus was born to die seems preposterous, yet it is biblical Christianity. He came to earth for a purpose and that was to save his people from their sins. If you find the cross of Christ offensive then you might as well throw the baby out with the soiled hay.
The salvation given by Jesus gives us great hope. Hope for a world yet to come. Many people hurt at this time because the talk of babies makes them grieve as the reminder of children and grandchildren who died way to early in life. If you remember the biblical story, Jesus’ birth was accompanied by the death of many young children as well. This can be a time of great sorrow, but Jesus’ mission to save his people from their sins is what gives his people great hope in a world and a kingdom yet to come.
In this season, remember that as Jesus entered this world as a beautiful little babe crying tears that every baby cries, he came to this earth to scream cries so his people would not have to. He came into this world a beautiful baby with soft and smooth skin and beautiful little hands and feet, only to have that skin torn to shreds and those hands and feet nailed to a cross. This was for his people. While you may feel great sorrow this Christmas take great hope that you do not have to bear the weight of your sin.
The identity and purpose of Jesus is front and center in Matthew 1:21. I pray that his mission to save his people will give you great hope this Christmas.
By His Grace, Merry Christmas.
The song, Come Thou Long Expected Jesus communicates this message beautifully.