June 2019   
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Matthew 1:18-25


            The Christmas story is full of Good News that can be hard to believe at times.  If there’s one point I want you to take home from this year’s Christmas play, it is that the Gospel accounts surrounding the birth of Jesus are NOT a bunch of fairy tales.  And yes, it DOES make a difference whether they really and truly happened.  Unlike some of the stories we tell during the holiday season, the particulars of Jesus’ birth are not just for fun.  They were not written for fun.  They are in a completely different category.  They were written to a 1st century audience who was as skeptical of the claims about Jesus as anyone in today’s world.

            The Gospel accounts of Jesus’ birth are full of all sorts of hard-to-swallow details for anyone who would take them seriously.  They were hard to believe back then, and they are just as hard to accept today, unless you believe that God’s word can be trusted (which I do).  The reason that some of us do not find the details so hard to believe is often because we first heard the story way back when we were growing up (which is not the most reliable way to find truth).  None of us should believe anything we’ve been told simply only because we got it from our parents.

            The people of the 1st century were not stupid!  They were no more inclined to believe in angels and virgin births than today’s supposedly scientific age.  Why would the Gospel writers expose Jesus to ridicule by making such potentially embarrassing claims about him, unless the facts compelled them to do so?  Yes, they could have just pretended that Jesus was the natural child of Joseph and Mary, and few would have thought any different.  But the facts would not let them do so.  The fact is that Jesus was born without the aid of any human father.

            Joseph’s reaction of disbelief to the news about Mary shows us that the 1st century mind was no more gullible than we are about the facts of life.  Joseph knew this was not his child.  It took the intervention of a messenger from God to convince him that it was no other man’s child, either.  The Gospel writers don’t volunteer this information until Mary passes away, probably around 60 AD.  The Gospel writers weren’t trying to outdo the claims of competing religions.  They didn’t need to create more skepticism.  They had enough already skepticism with their claim that Jesus had risen from the dead.

            It’s not intended to be a children’s tale.  No, the Gospels are telling us the honest-to-God truth about Joseph, Mary, and their child, and their visits from extra-terrestrial messengers.  The whole account takes on a completely different impact if you say it is nothing but fiction.  What happens to a story about a cure for AIDS in the newspaper if you find that it’s nothing but fiction?  It goes in the trash.  You say, “But wouldn’t it still be uplifting?”  Not if it really didn’t happen; it leaves me with an empty feeling of, “If I could only wish.”

            The Christmas narrative is a sobering account of God’s invasion of Planet Earth in the flesh.  God comes to earth as one of us, born of a human mother, but not a human father.  This child is a new creation, like Adam in the Garden of Eden, God starting over again.  That’s why the NT calls Jesus the Second Adam.  He comes to undo all the damage Adam did, to open the way for us to the Tree of Life.  This is no fairy tale; this is fact, which makes it far better Good News than the most inspiring story that never really happened.  This Good News deserves a week-long celebration.  Aren’t you glad?

            Let us pray.  Lord, we have every reason in the world to celebrate.  Hallelujah!  We praise you that this story is not a fairy tale, because Lord, it brings us such precious Good News.  Help us all to truly believe and embrace this Good News that we have heard, so that we may know the joy of salvation and everlasting peace with you.  We ask for Jesus’ sake.  Amen.


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