It’s the last Sunday before Christmas. The Carols service was a success. Christmas donations have been packed and distributed. Perhaps there’s been a nativity play. Invitations for the Christmas day service have been extended.
As the Season to be Merry rolls into its fourth week, nobody wants to be talking about Aleppo, man. Nobody wants to talk about humanitarian crises or political power plays or urban warfare at this time of year. What does it have to do with Advent, anyway?
Matthew 1:18-25 (NIV)
Joseph Accepts Jesus as His Son
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”).
24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.
As the world – mostly blind to Aleppo and its various atrocities, if we’re honest – waits with baited breath to see if the ceasefire holds and whether the civilians who have been indiscriminately under siege from both rebel and regime forces make it out; as we plan church services and hum carols under our breath; as we get progressively more clippy about Jesus being the reason for this season – do we remember, friends, what Jesus’ name means?
Do we remember that Jesus is the Greek for Yeshua, which means, “Lord saves”?
Do we remember that he is the promised Immanuel – “God with us”?
Joseph would have understood something about Jesus when the Lord taught him his name. Joseph would have understood that promises made were about to be kept. And in naming him “Jesus”, he was signing up for it. He was signing up for a future uncertain but for hope.
Hope that the Lord saves.
Hope that God is with us.
Nobody wants to talk about Aleppo or the many atrocities like it. But if we believe that Jesus – Yeshua and Immanuel – was born both man and God, born into a fallen world for which he died, and from which he rose up – then we don’t really have much choice but to talk about Aleppo, and all the more so at Christmas time.
Surely if there is a time for hope, it is now?
Surely if there is a time to believe that the Lord is with us and that he saves us, it is now?
In naming him ‘Jesus”, Joseph knew what he was singing up for. In calling him our Saviour, do we realise what we’re signing up for?
Blessings for your sermons,