ADVENT 4/A (2019), Ps. 24; Isa. 7:10-17; Rom. 1:1-7; Mt. 1:18-25 Genesis

Now Jesus Christ’s genesis was of this sort… spoken by the Lord… “Look, the virgin will be pregnant, and she will give birth to a son, and they will call his name Immanuel” (vv. 18a, 22, 23).

Jesus’ virgin birth speaks to the miracle of inceptive new creation; a new man whose genesis is “in the beginning” (Jn. 1:1) by the HS in the flesh of Mary.

The Christmas Babe enters his office of new man come to be bridegroom with a new woman minted out of his crucified side, the church which is “mother of all living” (Gen. 3:20) and progenitors of a new and faithful population to God.

Jesus’ birth culminates the faith and righteousness of Abraham to Joseph, son of David, husband to Mary. In Christ is Abraham’s human righteous reckoning by faith united with God’s own Righteousness as incarnate word come into the world’s besetting darkness.

In our Sermon last Sunday, we noted Simeon’s temple prophesy, that the Child had come for salvation and judgment in revealing hearts by the sword of his word (Lk. 2:34,35). Today’s psalmody (24:8, 9) explains: he is the “king of glory, strong and mighty… in battle”.

The Babe comes out of heaven to enter the citadels of man’s rebellion, that their ancient doors be lifted for the king’s business of converting hearts or judgment on those who reject or doubt his word and presence (cf. Ps. 2).

Scripture describes Joseph as a “righteous man” in the circumstance of Mary’s pregnancy. He desired to obey the law of Moses in a compassionate way. The problem is, there is no compassion in the law’s demand requiring excommunication with “extreme prejudice” for a married woman’s infidelity.

The OT church did not tolerate faithless sexuality intended for God’s gift of life within the marriage between believers. Joseph was confronted with a dilemma; he decided to resolve by a compromise with the law. He would secretly divorce Mary, probably returning her dowry and forgoing the bride price; how nice.

As well-meaning as Joseph’s “compassion” may have been, he nonetheless was ignorant of the injustice about to descend on Mary, his and her family, and the extended community. Furthermore, it was doubtful his plan would accomplish its intended purpose of covering shame on all concerned. In the end his plan was neither obedient, nor compassionate, nor just against Mary’s innocence!

The evidence against Mary was grounded in “irrefutable” biological evidence of her pregnancy; but more importantly her presumptive guilt was contradicted by God’s word of seven hundred years earlier spoken to another son of David.

King Ahaz refused to obey God who directed him to ask for a sign of grace during Judah’s war-time dilemma against northern Israel. God, nevertheless delivered a sign “high as heaven” (Isa. 7:11b) in judgment; but, for future generations that sign would arrive for salvation from ignorance and injustice of sin, “Behold, the virgin will conceive and bear a son, and they will call his name Immanuel” (7:14; Mt. 1:23).   

In a fallen world, absent revelation, human reason stumbles in darkness; we are not equipped for heaven’s Truth from the one for whom all things are possible (Mt. 19:26). Joseph would have to be enlightened of God’s “virgin” sign by angelic revelation, “do not be afraid to take into your home Mary, your wife, for the child that has been begotten in her is from the Holy Spirit” (Mt. 1:20b).

Ahaz disbelieved God’s revelation and sought resolution to Judah’s dilemma of his own devising for which he was judged evil. But Joseph by the same word put aside his plan of reconciling God’s law through human “compassion”.

Rather, Joseph believed the angelic proclamation of the virgin Babe sign. It remains two nights from now, for “those with whom [God] is pleased” (Lk. 2:14b) to await the Light and join heaven’s explosive song of joy, “Gloria in Excelsis Deo” to Immanuel.  

Sinful man might discern something of God’s holiness from afar, but must despair of knowledge or participation in it, which is a consuming fire. This was the conundrum feared by Ahaz and Joseph confronted by a gospel word, that previously required Moses to veil his face on preaching to a people unable bear the sight of God’s emanated holiness in Truth and Spirit.

The Nativity begins God’s great revelatory unfolding for the church’s participation in Immanuel’s holiness, by lineage, prophecy, naming, and titles. The unveiling of God with us begins by establishing the Child’s name, “son of David”, “Jesus”, and “Immanuel”.

On the day of his Nativity Jesus, received from heaven one more excellent title after another in joining him with his church as Immanuel, “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isa. 9:6c). In these excellent names the church participates in the Light of heaven.

Apart from the Transfiguration, the Child’s light would subside in condescension of his humanity. However, at the proper time Jesus would begin to reveal God’s light in the land where Israel’s judgment into darkness was rendered, the lands of Zebulun and Naphtali (Isa. 9:1, 2; Mt. 4:12-16).  

From Galilee’s darkness we will travel with Jesus in the coming year to the place of his exultation and final naming, the Father’s “Crucified Lamb”, “slain before the foundation of the world” (Rev. 13:8).

On that day we stand before this Lamb either having trivialized the Child or made a place for him as “king of glory” within our rebellious ancient doors. Amen.

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