************ Sermon on Matthew 1:20b ************

By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman

This sermon was preached on December 20, 1998

Matthew 1:18-25
verse 20b
"Conceived from the Holy Spirit"

Topic: Christ
Subtopic: Incarnation of
Index: 720
Date: 11/1988.10

In the early 19th century, a war-weary world was anxiously watching the march of Napoleon. All the while babies were being born. In 1809, midway between the battles of Trafalgar and Waterloo, William E. Gladstone (four times prime minister of Great Britain) was born in Liverpool; Alfred Lord Tennyson (one of the great English poets) was born in Summersby, England; Oliver Wendell Holmes (the great American writer and physician) was born in Boston; Felix Mendelssohn (the great German composer) was born in Hamburg, Germany; and Abraham Lincoln (one of our greatest presidents) was born in Hodgenville, Kentucky. People's minds were occupied with battles, not babies. Yet 175 years later, is there the slightest doubt about the greater contribution to history -- those battles or those babies?
So it was with the birth of Jesus. The Bethlehem crowds had no inkling who was asleep in their little town. Only a few shepherds came to see Him, and they left glorifying God.

Who is the baby in the manger? Whose birth is it that our children were singing about this evening? What shall we call Him?

Matthew tells us about the baby in the manger. So far we have learned that the baby in the manger is the son of David the Messiah Who sits at God's right hand. He is the son of Abraham in Whom all peoples on earth are blessed. He is Jesus, the Savior from sin. On Christmas Day we will learn that He is the Immanuel which means "God with us." And today we learn that He is the Son of God.

I A Marriage Called into Question
A Matthew explains to us that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together she was found to be with child. So Joseph decided to divorce her quietly.

To fully understand what is happening we need to understand Jewish marriage procedures. It consisted of two steps. First, a formal exchange of vows before witnesses. Second, the taking of the bride to the groom's family home.

A marriage was considered legal after the first step already; the woman was the man's wife even though she continued to live at her own family home, usually for about a year. That is why a formal certificate of divorce was required to break the vows. That is also why a woman was considered a widow if the man died before she was taken into his house. Furthermore, this is also why any sexual behavior by the woman after the exchange of vows was considered adultery. In fact, Jewish law demanded the harshest possible punishment for a woman who slept around before being taken to her husband's home. Speaking about this, the book of Deuteronomy says, "You must purge the evil from among you." This was done by stoning; however, by the time of Jesus the purging was sometimes done in a less severe way by means of divorce (Deut 22:20-21). You see, the Law required that when a woman was taken to her husband's home, she was to be taken as a virgin.

We are told that "Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph." This means Joseph and Mary had already gone through the first step of marriage and were considered husband and wife; that is why Joseph is identified as "her husband." We are also told that the events in front of us happened "before they came together." This means Joseph had yet to take Mary into his home.

B In this light consider the fact that Mary "was found to be with child." At this point Joseph knew only one thing about the child inside Mary. The only thing Joseph knew about the child was that he was NOT the father. Joseph was not going to broadcast this, but this could only mean that Mary had been sleeping around. Another man had slept with his wife. And, as far as Joseph was concerned, this meant he could not and would not take Mary into his home.

Joseph is identified as "a righteous man." This means Joseph could not take someone into his home who was not a virgin. This means Joseph could not take someone into his home who was an adulteress. It finally means that Joseph had no choice but to divorce Mary. But Joseph was also a merciful man. He did not want to humiliate Mary. He did not want to shame her in front of all the world. He did not want to publicly accuse her of a serious sin. So he decided to divorce Mary quietly.

C In spite of this, our Scripture reading ends with Joseph taking Mary home as his wife.

Why? What happened to change his mind?

What happened was a message from an angel. An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said,
(Mt 1:20) "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."
Joseph did not need to be afraid to take Mary home as his wife because Mary did NOT break the Law and she was NOT an adulteress. The child inside of her did NOT come because of a sexual relationship; rather, it came through the operation of the Holy Spirit.

II Jesus is Conceived by the Holy Spirit
A The first two Sundays of Advent our Scripture reading was the first 16 verses of Matthew 1. These are the verses that keep repeating the formula, "the father of ... the father of ... the father of ..."
(Mt 1:2) Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers ...
I don't know whether you noticed this or not but verse 16 breaks this formula:
(Mt 1:16) and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.
Notice, Joseph is not listed as "the father of" Jesus.

Why is there this departure from the formula? Why is no human father listed for Jesus? Two reasons. First of all, Joseph was not the father of Jesus. Second, Jesus was conceived through the operation of the Spirit.

Topic: Christ
Subtopic: Incarnation of
Index: 720
Date: 11/1986.5
Title: The Miraculous Birth

Many of the world's religions claim a miraculous birth for someone in their religion.
The Greeks said Perseus was the son of Zeus, and that his mother was Danae, a virgin. The Greeks also said that Alexander the Great, the son of Philip of Macedon and Olympias, was begotten by a serpent. His mother fired young Alexander's imagination by telling him that he was a descendant of Achilles and that his father, Philip, was a descendant of Hercules.
The Romans said that Jupiter came down from heaven in a shower of gold. It was also believed by the Romans that Caesar Augustus, the first of the Roman emperors and the one sitting upon Rome's throne when Jesus was born, was conceived by a serpent as Augustus's mother lay asleep in the temple of Apollo.
According to a Hindu myth, Krishna was the son of a virgin Davaki.
These fables believed by ancients fail to compare, however, with the birth of Jesus Christ. He was not only born of the virgin Mary but He was also conceived by the Holy Spirit.

The conception by the Spirit is something unique, something unusual. In the Bible there are a number of miraculous births: the birth of Isaac to an aged Abraham and Sarah, the birth of John the Baptist to an ancient Zechariah and Elizabeth, the birth of Samuel to Hannah. But every time God intervened He did so to overcome a husband's infertility or a wife's barrenness. But this time God intervenes to overcome a woman's virginity.

III Jesus is the Son of God
A Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit. So what? What does this mean? This tells us something about Jesus. Something important. This tells us that Jesus is the Son of God.

Who is Jesus? Exactly Who is that baby in the manger? He is the Son of God. This is shown by His miraculous conception and birth. This is shown by His baptism where the voice from heaven said, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased" (Mt 3:16-17). This is shown by His death where the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, heard His cry and saw how He died, said, "Surely this man was the Son of God" (Mk 15:39). This is shown by His resurrection where Thomas saw the nail marks in Jesus' hands and the hole in His side and said, "My Lord and my God!" (Jn 20:28; cf Rom 1:4). And, this is shown by His ascension into heaven where Jesus said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me" (Mt 28:18; Acts 2:34-35).

B Jesus was conceived through the Spirit. Therefore Jesus is the Son of God. This is one of the most important confessions we can ever make about that baby in the manger. This is one of the most important things we can ever believe about Him Who was born in Bethlehem.

Do you remember the time Jesus asked His disciples, "Who do people say the Son of Man is?" They replied, "Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets." "But what about you?" He asked. "Who do you say I am?" Do you remember Peter's answer? He said, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." Even more noteworthy than Peter's confession is Jesus' praise of that confession: "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah ..." (Mat 16:13-17).

This tells us that Jesus loves it when we confess Him to be the Son of God. Such a confession fills His heart with gladness and joy. At the same time, we can say that His heart is filled with sorrow and sadness when we, like the Jehovah's Witnesses or Mormons, do not acknowledge Him to be God's eternal Son.

C Jesus was conceived through the Spirit. Therefore baby Jesus is the Son of God. Many people do not realize how significant, how important, this really is.
Topic: Riches
Subtopic: Spiritual
Index: 2812-2815
Date: 12/1989.16

The Associated Press tells of a small Baltimore congregation that found an answer to its financial troubles -- hanging in the church. And it had been there for more than 25 years! The discovery came at a critical time, because inflation and a declining membership had left the church's future in doubt. But someone noticed that in the chapel was a piece of art that depicted the angel telling Mary she would give birth to the Son of God. It turned out to be a valuable wood-block print by Albrecht Durer, dated 1493. Some members expressed disbelief. They said in effect, "If it were real, why would it be hanging here?"
The miracle of Christ's birth is often treated with the same kind of underestimation by God's people.

Jesus was conceived through the Spirit. Therefore Jesus is the Son of God. This means that baby Jesus with God the Father is Someone worthy of our adoration, worship and praise. I think of the wisemen who, when they saw the Child, bowed down and worshiped Him.

Jesus was conceived through the Spirit. Therefore Jesus is the Son of God. This means He is the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace spoken of by Isaiah and sang about by our children.

Jesus was conceived through the Spirit. Therefore Jesus is the Son of God. This means He is Lord and King. Last week I was looking for a Christmas song that celebrated the birth of Jesus as the Savior. That's when I discovered that almost all of the Christmas songs celebrate His birth as king:
Joy to the World! The Lord Is Come.

O come, all ye faithful ... O come, let us adore him, O come, let us adore him, O come, let us adore him, Christ the Lord!

Hark! The herald angels sing, "Glory to the newborn King!"

Angels from the realms of glory ... come and worship, come and worship, worship Christ, the newborn King!
Like the angels, we rejoice in the birth of the King.

Jesus was conceived through the Spirit. Therefore Jesus is the Son of God. Therefore we join the angels in saying and singing, "Glory to God in the highest."
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