Redeemer Lutheran Church Blog

Advent IV, December 24, 2017 - St. Matthew 1:18-25

Back to blog

Posted: Thursday, December 28th, 2017 by Pastor Westgate

Christmas is almost here. It comes tonight. You’re ready, and if you aren’t, you’ve got only a few hours left. The presents are wrapped. The tree is up. You’ve got what you need for dinner. The gas tank might even be filled up. You know where you’re going, when you’re going, and even how long you’ll be there and what you’ll do. You can’t wait to open gifts, play games, and eat to your heart’s delight.

Christmas is almost here, but not yet. We think he was born at midnight, so we celebrate tonight and tomorrow, and then for 12 days, up to Epiphany. Tonight we’ll hear passages of prophecy and fulfillment, of Messiah coming and Messiah come. Tomorrow we’ll again hear that blessed story and receive Him. The greatest Christmas gift we can receive is His Body and Blood on the day He was born.

Our celebration shall not end there. Next Sunday we’ll see Him enter His Temple. The next day, New Year’s Day, we’ll see Him circumcised and hear Him called Jesus for the first time. We’ll rejoice that He put Himself under God’s Law to keep it for us sinners who can’t keep it. We’ll celebrate that His Name is Jesus, our Savior. Then on Saturday, January 6, Epiphany, we’ll rejoice once more when we see the Magi worship Him. They were Gentiles like us. The Christ is King not just of the Jews, but of the world.

Today we do our final preparing for all this. Normally we hear on the Fourth Sunday in Advent the story of the Pharisees interrogating John. They claimed to be wondering whether he was Christ, Elijah, or the Prophet. Really they just wanted him to stop stealing their thunder by baptizing and preaching. But that is what he was sent to do. He was sent to prepare the people for the coming of Jesus, the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world. Jesus is both The Christ and The Prophet Moses foretold. John came in the spirit and power of Elijah, but that was not what they asked. They wanted Elijah to come back down from heaven. But that was never God’s plan. A doppelganger of Elijah was what he promised, just as Gabriel told Zechariah.

John’s purpose was to point to Christ. He was to point us away from mere mortals such as him to Christ our God. So today the Church’s Liturgy turns to Christ. On December 24 it tells us the story of our Lord’s time in Mary’s womb from Joseph’s perspective. In these verses St. Matthew records 2 very important Names for our Lord: Jesus and Immanuel.

Our Lord’s Name is Jesus. This Gospel is where we learn what His Name means. Gabriel didn’t tell Mary. Perhaps in her simple faith she recognized what it means, but Joseph, being very confused, needed confirmation of what was going on. Our names in English don’t tend to mean much to us. Our parents just gave them to us for any reason. I was named for baseball players. But in antiquity names had meaning. God changed Abram’s name to Abraham to proclaim His promise. Isaac’s name was because his mother laughed when God announced his birth and when he was born. Jacob received his name because he made everyone think he’d be born first but then Esau was, and he lived up to his name all his life.

Our Lord’s Name has meaning too. Jesus is how it was taken into Greek. In Hebrew it’s Joshua. It means: “Yahveh Saves.” Yahveh is the Name God told Moses at the burning bush. They spoke it in the 3rd person: “HE IS,” but He said it in the 1st person, “I AM.” At some point they got too scared to say it, so they started just saying their word for “Lord” whenever the Divine Name showed up in the text. That’s why we see the word LORD in all capitals in our Bibles. That’s how we now translate God’s Name, Yahveh, “HE IS.”

The “Jo” in the name Joshua represents The LORD. He is the subject of the Name. Shua is the verb. It means “He saves.” So Jesus means “The LORD Saves.” When Moses renamed Hoshea Joshua, he was telling Israel The LORD would save them from all their enemies as they were wandering through the desert and would give them a new land, Canaan, to be their home, just like He had promised Abraham over 400 years before.

Now that name is given to Jesus. But when Jesus gets it, it’s transformed. We say it, and we’re confessing, “He is Savior.” When we use it in prayer we’re saying, “You are Savior.” For Him it means, “I AM SAVIOR.” This is because He is no mere mortal. He is God Himself Who became a human like us in Mary’s womb.

The other Name St. Matthew records is Immanuel. This is the Name Isaiah spoke in his 7th chapter. A Virgin conceived. It had to be a virgin. He could not have an earthly father if He were to be without sin and if God was to be His Father. In a miracle God became a human. He came because He loves us and wants to be with us.

That’s what His Name Immanuel means: “With us God.” “Immanu” is Hebrew for “with us,” “El” is Hebrew for God. The Prophet is saying the Child Mary conceived is God Who is with us. He’s not just with us for a little time, during His life on earth. He desires to be with us all the time, all through this life, and not just through this life, but through all eternity. God wants to be with us. Jesus wants to be with us, not apart from us.

But He had to save us so He could be with us forever. Man by nature is not saved. Man by nature is condemned, doomed to an eternal existence without God. That’s an eternity without His gracious presence anywhere. His presence is here in many ways. His grace keeps everything going, keeps the world from falling apart, makes sure you have food and drink, house and home, and everything you have. Without His grace, we’d lose everything in a second. The devil wants to take all God’s good gifts from us. God needs to preserve His gifts to us.

So Jesus came to save us from the devil, to forever rescue us from that wicked spirit. He came to shelter and shield us and to never leave us. He came to save us. But this salvation does not look normal. We’d want it exactly the way Superman does it – fly into a burning building and pull us out and never be scathed. Instead it looks like it accomplished nothing. It looks like a gory man hanging dead on a horrible instrument of execution.

Yet on that Cross He saved you. He gave up His life so you could live forever. He suffered for sin so you will never be punished for it. He rose from the dead to personally make sure you who believe in Him will be saved. He has sent you His Spirit to bring you His Salvation. He comes to you in the Word you hear preached and in the Sacraments you receive. He comes no other way. He comes to save. He comes to love you, to be with you, to have a conversation with you, to give you eternity.

Tonight, tomorrow, you will joyfully receive God’s Only-begotten Son as your Redeemer. He is the God-Man Who has purchased you to be His own, purchased you out of sin, death, and Satan, purchased you so you will serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness. Why will you receive Him? So you will also behold Him without fear when He comes again as Judge.

He is coming to judge. He is coming to reveal to the world its error of rejecting Him, to give it what it asks for by rejecting Him. He is coming to save you. He is coming to free you from sin and death. He is coming so you will live with Him, before Him, beside Him, through all eternity. Mary’s Baby Boy is coming. The Crucified God is coming. Yes, “O come, O come, Immanuel, and ransom captive Israel.” “O come, let us adore Him, Christ the Lord!”

Categories: Pastor Westgate's Sermons

Add a comment

Back to top