Christmas Eve Service - Matthew 1:18-25. Immanuel, God is with us.

Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying,

Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:

23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel”

(which means, God with us). 24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25 but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus. (Matthew 1:18-25)

On Sunday we preached from this same text. As I prepared to speak on this text I had one great concern. I wanted to make sure that I preached this text in such a way that Jesus would be our main focus. In so many ways, Matthew has made that objective easy for us to accomplish.

  • He begins this gospel with an affirmation that Jesus is the Christ in verse 1.

  • He concludes the genealogy of Jesus by stating again that He is the Christ (v.16).

  • He wraps up the entire first section of this chapter, verses 1-17, by reaching the climax with the birth of Christ and Jesus is placed above all others in his genealogical line.

  • He begins the second section of this chapter with describing how the Christ has been born.

  • He tells us that Jesus will have the name Jesus because He will save His people from their sins.

  • He speaks of the divine conception of this child through the power of the Holy Spirit.

  • He speaks of how all of these things fulfill the words of the prophets in Scripture.

  • And Matthew highlights Isaiah 7:14 which tells us that these things mean that Jesus is Immanuel – God is with us.

However, in other ways Matthew has complicated this goal of keep Jesus as the priority and focus because he connects the coming of Jesus Christ with all of the other issues that would be associated with God manifesting His Son among men through a virgin who was betrothed to a man.

As you can imagine, this could get really messy very quickly. And yet, among all of the confusion and chaos we see two faithful and righteous people living out their faith in very commendable ways. They respond so well to all of this that they capture our attention in a good way and not in a bad way. Their responses don’t complicate matters. Their reactions reflect a godly heart and not a worldly disposition. Therefore, when Matthew speaks of them they do deserve to be given our attention because their faith is commendable and their responses glorified God.


It would seem that there are two valid ways to consider this text. First, Matthew wants us to know that Jesus is the Christ. He is Immanuel, which means ‘God with us’. Jesus is no ordinary child, He was conceived in His mother, Mary, by the power of the Holy Spirit. His birth was a miraculous event that was promised beforehand by the prophets. He was sent to rescue His people from their sins and be a faithful and merciful mediator between us and the Father.


Secondly, this is a text that also speaks about the practical circumstances surrounding these events. Specifically, we see how Joseph and Mary dealt with what was happening. Matthew begins our text with these words, “Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.


Let’s begin by taking a look at the circumstances surrounding the birth of Jesus Christ and then consider the fact that Jesus is Immanuel, God with us.


Matthew tells us in verse eighteen that Mary was betrothed to be married to a man named Joseph. In the Jewish culture there were three stages to a betrothal. First, the parents would commit under contract that their children would one day be given to each other in marriage. Secondly, at some point the couple would be considered legally married even though the marriage had not been consummated. They would spend this time getting to know each other and preparing for their wedding day. The third stage was when the husband would take the woman to be his wife and they would consummate the marriage.


It was in this second stage of their relationship that Mary was found to be with child. Matthew makes it clear that this pregnancy was not the result of promiscuity between Joseph and Mary (18). And Luke’s gospel makes it clear that Mary had not had any sexual relations with anyone at this time (1:27-28, 34). She is pregnant through the supernatural working of the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:35;Luke 1:20).


The angel of the Lord had talked to Mary about what would all happen and she had consented for this to happen (Luke 1:25-38). However, Joseph had not yet become aware of this until after this had come to pass. He probably became aware of all of this after Mary returned home from Zechariah and Elizabeth’s home three months into the pregnancy (Luke 1:56).


When Joseph discovers that Mary is pregnant he knows that he is not the father. He probably finds it impossible to believe the story that Mary tells him. So we see in verse 19, “And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.


Joseph is a just man, he is a righteous man, so he responds in a thoughtful, measured and cautious manner. He does not respond in an angry, bitter and uncontrolled manner. In all of this Joseph seeks to protect her and refuses to shame her. He does not go out and spread nasty rumors; instead he quietly contemplates what he is to do.

In all of this you see how Joseph is led by his integrity even though he fears that he had been betrayed. We see that Joseph’s disposition towards righteousness and uprightness directs his steps even under these difficult circumstances. As I res