Come and Hear the Angel Speak to Joseph
Can you see him there in the dark and private place wondering at what to do with his betrothed? This young man committed to marry her and be her provider and all that entailed. The first thought was not to shame her publicly. Consequently, he did come to a decision. It was best to divorce her and put her away privately.
But God had other plans. Isn’t that the greatest of statements no matter the context? But God! The Father sends an angel to Joseph and reassures him.
“You will call His name Jesus because He will save His people from their sins…”
This was no mere dream. It wasn’t the result of indigestion brought on by bad lamb stew. This was a visitation from one of God’s messengers. The God-head was promising to fulfill the Messianic prophecy through his betrothed.
It was one thing to hear the prophecies read aloud in the Synagogue. It was altogether different to know you were taking a part in that prophecy. His assignment? Protect the honor of his young bride.
Born is the King of Israel
One of the most ancient hymns sung to the Incarnate God is O Come O Come Emmanuel. This hymn stretches back over 1100 years and was sung in anticipation of the coming of Christmas. Moreover, it was a didactic song that worked to teach the singer about the Messianic prophecy.
Yet, there is a whole slew of doctrinal realities tied up in this song. Not the least of which is the Sovereign Kingship of Christ. As we sing the words, “O Come O Come Emmanuel born is the King of Israel!” we are singing about the right of Christ to rule over the world. This song is not a Zionist song meant to glorify Israel as a geo-political power. Instead it harkens to the truth that Jesus is the Son of David and that He is the very blessing promised to Abram. This solemn but joyful hymn is telling us that God Incarnate, is the very fulfillment of the promise that all the nations of the earth would be blessed through the seed of Abraham. The very Root of Jesse.
Furthermore, there are still more doctrine taught in the hymn. I am often struck by the powerful truth of the extent of the atonement contained in this song. To be sure I do not mean to ruin this song for any of my 4-point friends or others. However, when you sing “O come, thou rod of Jesse free, thine own from satan’s tyranny, from the depths of hell thy people save, and give them victory over the grave.” You are singing about limited atonement. And for those who despise the doctrine of Hell you are acknowledging its reality here.
The Light of the Gospel Has Come into the World through Bethlehem
The God-head wasn’t done with the angels once they spoke to Joseph in his dream. Instead, the angels were sent out to sing the praises of the Incarnate Christ to the shepherds keeping watch over their herds that night. These lowly but necessary folks left and went to see the promised Messiah come into the world.
This was no trifle for them. They knew their rank and their station in the eyes of society. While the lauded king David had himself been a shepherd, there was no glory in the occupation anymore. Tax collectors may have been pariahs in Jewish society, but they were wealthy. Shepherds were outcasts and dirt poor. Yet who does God announce the birth of Christ to first?
This is how the light of the Gospel comes into the world. Consequently, it serves as a powerful reminder to us as well. The Gospel isn’t just for the rich and famous upstanding citizens in our communities. The Gospel isn’t just for those who we are willing to rub elbows with.
God has ordered things in such a way as to make the foolish and lowly of the world to be recipients of a gift far above their station. But why? Because they had nothing to offer to make themselves worthy of the Gospel message. There was no way for lowly shepherds to ingratiate themselves to the new born Incarnate God of creation. Still He had come for them. Had come to be their Savior.
Poor folk, travel to the poverty of Bethlehem. They are afforded a dirty stall with farm animals in a dank cave to be greeted by even poorer folks come to worship the Light of the World. As I have already said, this is a powerful reminder of the Gospel.
Let Christmas Put You in the Mind of Christ and Preach His Gospel
It is my constant refrain with my essays and articles to point my readers to preaching the Gospel of God. Christmas is perhaps the greatest time to be reminded of this outside of Easter. While we may need the constant reminder year-round, it is easy to lose sight of why Jesus has come into the world.
As the angel told Joseph, Jesus was come to save His people from their sins. There was no way around this message. It echoes through the ages and epochs of Holy Writ. Every jot and tittle are meant to point us outward towards others and upwards toward The Great Three in One. From Genesis 3 to Abraham and Isaac on Mt Moriah to the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt. Over and over God points us to the One come to save us by bearing our sins on the cross.
Therefore, do not let your gift giving and receiving this year take your mind off of the Greatest of all gifts. Moreover, as you go about the many varied ways to celebrate with co-workers, friends and family, please if you will; entertain me on this. Take the time to preach the Gospel message to those around you.
Soli Deo Gloria!