Reading : Mt.1 :18-
I want you to think for a moment about how you feel when a parcel arrives for you in the post. I like it when the postman has a parcel for me (though I am less enthusiastic when he asks if I can take in a package for the neighbours!) I look forward to opening my Christmas presents too and I guess you do as well.
But how do you feel when upon opening the parcel you find damaged goods inside? Supposing it’s a mirror and it has a big crack in it, I imagine you won’t be best pleased and you may even get angry.
Now a cracked mirror may actually cause a degree of amusement for a while as it reflects a distorted image of whoever looks into it. It won’t be long before that novelty wears off however. When it does you’ll be looking to send it back for a replacement or you’ll simply end up throwing it away. After all a broken mirror isn’t much use to anybody and is more dangerous than it’s worth. There’s certainly no point in you saying that because the frame is in good nick the whole thing will somehow do.
And do you know you are a bit like a cracked mirror as far as God is concerned. He designed you to reflect the likeness of God but because of the cracks and flaws in your life the reflection you give is all distorted and twisted. Instead of people being amazed by God’s goodness and greatness as they look at you and your life they see something rather tawdry in its place and small wonder then that some folk will even go so far as to deny that God exists at all.
But he does and he has a plan!
Happily for us that plan doesn’t involve him giving up on us and throwing us into some cosmic dustbin. His plan is all about rescue and restoration and I want us to think about it for a few moments this morning. It is relevant all the year round and it is relevant at Christmastime because Christmas is about Jesus’ coming into the world and Jesus is the heart and centre of God’s plan!
A Special Person
Matthew doesn’t begin his gospel by jumping straight into the details of God’s plan but starts by describing the person who was going to accomplish it. We often skip these opening verses because they contain a long list of names that we don’t know very well.
Plenty of folk seem to be interested in tracing their own family history and working out just who was related to who in their past. Well, what Matthew is doing is showing us that Jesus too had a family history and an impressive one at that. In the first chapter of his gospel Matthew tells us that Jesus was a descendent of Abraham that great father of the faith, he was also a descendent of the royal line of great King David, and even that doesn’t say it all!
If you were to take the time to read the genealogy contained in Mt.ch.1 then you would be struck by the repetition along the pattern of: "x was the father of y". On a few occasions the pattern is modified as a mother is mentioned and then form becomes "x was the father of y by z". The genealogy that Matthew supplies covers the time from the founding of the Hebrew nation with Abraham to the time of Christ and during this entire period of some 2,000 years this basic pattern was repeated over and over again.
Finally it was timefor Jesus to be born and the mould was broken! If the same pattern was followed we would expect to find that "Joseph was the father of Jesus by Mary" but we find nothing of the sort. Matthew wants us to realise that everything about Jesus is different and special and so we read:
Mt.1:16 "Jacob (was) the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born."
Then, just in case we failed to notice that the pattern of Jesus’ birth was not like those of every one of his ancestors, Matthew begins his account of Jesus’ birth with these words:
Mt.1:18 "Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way."
It’s as if Matthew is telling us to sit up and take notice, Jesus is like no other!
Jesus was special and because he was so special his birth could not be like anyone else’s. In fact Jesus was such a special person – a union of the human and the divine – that he was conceived while his mother was a virgin and his conception was due to the direct intervention of the Holy Spirit of God!
Some folk reject such an account out of hand maintaining that it was an impossibility. Others maintain that the authors were simply naive and didn’t really understand the essentials of human life. But God was involved and God has no problem with human impossibilities. In the beginning he made the first two humans without needing to resort to human parents and now he chose to work by causing a virgin mother to bear a son, his son. For a God who delights to create things out of nothing to cause a virgin to conceive is really no big deal.
As to naivety what makes us think that folk in the first century really were gullible fools? They knew that a virgin birth was anything but the norm and one of the gospel writers was well placed to know because he was a doctor!
No, they weren’t naive and they weren’t making up stories either. They realised that Jesus had been sent on a mission and that his mission was so important that to accomplish it he must be someone who was truly extraordinary. He transformed their lives and he can transform yours too.
If everything concerning the circumstances and details of Jesus’ birth set him apart as an utterly unique person we soon discover why we are being told these things. It is because Jesus’ mission was to repair the broken mirror of our lives or, as the Bible explains it, "to save his people from their sins" (v.21).
I know that many people do not want to take the subject of sin very seriously in our day. They consider the very idea of sin to be old-
Of course some of the difficulty arises because people don’t understand what sin really is all about. But for others the fact is that they are happy to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin for a time not realizing the danger they are in.
The Bible makes it very clear to us that sin is a very serious and dangerous matter but happily a great Saviour has come to solve the problem for us! Yet many still misunderstand this and think of Jesus as something of a killjoy as though God was somehow determined to make us all miserable and afraid. During the week I came across an old chorus that sought to rebuff such thinking. This is it:
He did not come to judge the world
He did not come to blame,
He did not only come to seek
It was to save he came.
To grasp what this means we must understand how the Bible views sin. Without such an understanding we will never appreciate what a great task it was that Jesus came to accomplish.
We’ll begin with a working definition of what sin actually is and this is important because if we only think of sin as the infringement of cultural norms or the breaking of some moral code which was widely accepted in society in days gone by, then we will go quickly wrong.
"Sin is disobeying or not conforming to God’s law in any way."
God is our Maker and sin is always and primarily God-
I’ll only mention these briefly but even in doing this you should be able to appreciate that the task Jesus undertook was no small one.
Sin causes a change in our condition or status before God. Whereas in God’s original plan human beings were created upright and able to enjoy a proper relationship with God sin has changed all of that. This state of guilt is an objective reality and is not to be confused with "feeling guilty". We may or we may not have such feelings but as far as God is concerned we are all naturally in this state of guilt before him. Unless something happens to objectively alter that state we will remain forever condemned as sinners.
This aspect of sin refers most readily to the picture I used earlier to describe us as mirrors. Sin has shattered our lives affecting every area of them. Just like a broken mirror some parts of our lives may be worse affected than others but as the broken mirror does not accurately reflect its object nor do we reflect the wonders of God in whose image we were made. As sin affects us we don’t think accurately, we don’t evaluate things properly, we don’t love and esteem the best values, we don’t want to do or choose to do what we ought to do.
Suffering and Death
Rejecting God’s plan and preferring our own turns out to be a bad move. Sin does offer its benefits but more resides in the promise than in the realisation – the law of diminishing returns is in its element in this domain. Just as the drug addict needs more and more to try to recreate the longed for high so sin demands more and more but pays out less and less.
Sin does produce its own unwelcome fruits – and no-
A sense of living in darkness or ignorance. Being in error and not following the truth. Being deceived – by yourself, by your nearest and dearest, by the duplicity of sin itself. Fear. Unease. Disquietude. A sense of guilt – feelings (sometimes our consciences do speak to us accurately and it’s indeed right for us to feel guilty but sometimes our consciences deceive us and we misjudge our own affairs and feel bad for no good reason – self-
This is not the life God envisaged for mankind when he pronounced his assessment that what he had made was good, very good. All these sufferings are part of our experience in a fallen, sinful world. If you know any of these then you know something of how painful and dispiriting sin can be even if you didn’t know it was sin that was to blame.
And doesn’t our society know it without understanding either its cause or the solution! How many anti-
Dominion of Satan
One of the worst aspects of sin is that of bondage to a cruel master. Yes, we like to think we’re free and can do what we want but that really just highlights the problem – we don’t want the right things! We can’t pursue the right things because we don’t want them. We don’t want God in our lives even though he is the greatest good that could ever happen to us. Instead we convince ourselves that we’re free and God would only cramp our style! And the reality is that we are dominated not by a good and gracious Loving Heavenly Father but by a loathsome spirit who will destroy us.
Finally if we end our days still in sin we will have to give an account to God for the way in which we have wasted the life he gave us – and there will be no heaven for us.
The Solution to it all
But Jesus came on a mission!! And what a mission!! He came to save his people from their sins!! And he can do so because of who he is!!
He came to change our status with God, to make us right with him.
He came not merely to forgive us our sin but also to cleanse us from the pollution of sin in our lives. He works progressively to do this – he doesn’t do it all at once – but bit by bit he restores the image of God in us, repairing the broken mirror in us so that it reflects the glory of God a little bit more and a little bit more.
The Christian still suffers as he lives on in a fallen world but now he knows that even in these things God works for his eternal good.
And Jesus has broken Satan’s grip on us – "The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil." And the Christian can learn what it is to yield himself to doing God’s will – oh yes, he’ll still make many mistakes but he’s now facing in the right direction and going in the way that leads to life.
And because Jesus came the believer can be confident when standing at the bar of God’s judgment. He knows there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
Are you on that way? The Christmas story is wonderful because it tells of how God’s plan to save sinners went into active mode – the Saviour was born.
It’s a wonderful message. If you’ve understood it you will want to go to God to benefit from it yourself and all you need to do is to call upon him to be saved. If you’ve not yet understood, if you don’t think is the best piece of news you’ve heard then I urge you to go to God and ask him to show you.
But don’t turn your back on Jesus!