Formations lesson for Dec. 19: Let Heaven and Earth Combine : Friday, Dec. 3, 2004
December 3 2004 by Wayne Proctor

Formations lesson for Dec. 19: Let Heaven and Earth Combine : Friday, Dec. 3, 2004
Friday, Dec. 3, 2004

Formations lesson for Dec. 19: Let Heaven and Earth Combine

By Wayne Proctor
Focal Passage: Matthew 1:18-25

In the week prior to Dec. 25, we will hear and perhaps tell the story of Jesus' birth many times. Luke and Matthew both wrote of this great event, writing from different perspectives and recounting different aspects of the Christmas miracle.

Let us today look at Christ's birth through the eyes of Mary and Joseph, two people who were obviously very much in love. Some traditions suggest that Joseph may have been considerably older than Mary, but we can not be sure.

According to the culture and the times, they and their families had made all the proper plans. One of the most important stages of marriage was the "betrothal." While we sometimes use the word "engagement" to describe this pre-wedding stage, it really doesn't suffice here. A betrothal was a pledge not easily revoked or dissolved. In fact, to release one from the pledge required an actual letter of divorcement. Further, if Joseph had died during this time, Mary would have been considered a widow. And, sexual intercourse was forbidden until after the wedding ceremony.

One of the most often asked questions, as it related to Mary and Joseph, is "when did they legalize their marriage?" The answer is unknown by month, but sometime between the discovery of Mary's pregnancy and the beginning of the trip to Bethlehem.

When they learned that Mary was pregnant, they were both terrified. Their wonderful plans had gone awry, and Joseph was prepared to go the divorce route.

Before he could act, however, an angel of God (presumably Gabriel) convinced him to see it through. This was the message: don't be afraid, God had impregnated Mary, the son to be born would be named Jesus, He would be the Messiah, and all this (and the events to come) was the fulfillment of prophecy (Isaiah 7:14, 8:8,10).

A Great Miracle

The two miracles that dominate the New Testament are the virgin birth of Jesus and His resurrection from the grave. Neither is normal to our experience of birth and death. Yet, they are foundational to our belief and teaching.

I personally choose to believe, even though I don't fully understand.

Matthew presupposes the virgin birth in this passage. Luke writes more from Mary's perspective as she grappled with the facts of her pregnancy (Luke 1). Perhaps it's best for us to consider how heaven and earth did indeed combine in this miracle.

For hundreds of years God had been planning and announcing this event. He selected the right people from the correct family tree. He surrounded them with both human and celestial friends who would announce and explain God's plan, and encourage them through the process. God fulfilled His first phase of the salvation plan by becoming Emmanuel, "God with us," in Jesus the baby, Jesus the Son of God.

The final phase would be found in Jesus' death and resurrection.

The Joy of Birth

Perhaps another helpful way to look at this is through the eyes and experience of first-time parents.

I saw this recently in a young couple in our church. They experienced conception and life. They watched and felt that life as it grew, and then the day for birth finally arrived. They experienced both cautious concern and unbelievable anticipation.

Then, their baby was born. They rejoiced and eventually were able to hold their first-born in their arms.

A miracle had happened right before their eyes. And because of that life, that miracle, that gift from God, their lives will never be the same.

Likewise, Mary and Joseph experienced the same in the birth of their child, their son and God's Son.

We, too, can experience that joy in our own salvation event and in the daily joy of living the Christian life. And, that is our great miracle.

12/3/2004 12:00:00 AM by Wayne Proctor | with 0 comments

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