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Merry Christmas! Today, we are having Christmas service with you. The word Christmas comes from Christ and Mas, the meaning is to celebrate the birth of Christ or to worship Christ. Christ means the Savior in Greek and the Messiah in Hebrew. This messiah is born, it is the central prophecy of the Old Testament. During this year’s Advent, I have read the Old Testament prophecies of Isaiah. Let’s look at some of them together. Isaiah is a prophet who lived and was active about 700 years before Jesus was born. First, this Savior is born as a descendant of David (Isaiah 11: 1). The virgin will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel (Isaiah 7:14). He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.(Isaiah 9: 6). He will be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5: 2). He will bear the suffering as a servant (Isaiah 52:13, 14), bear the sins of mankind on the cross, redeem their sins (Isaiah 53: 5, 11, 12). These are the main prophecies, and as such, the figure of the Savior is vividly prophesied throughout the Old Testament. The writers of the gospel in New Testament keep a record in details the birth of Jesus and his work, as fulfillment of these prophesies in the Old Testament. As such, the Gospel of the New Testament record the life of Jesus in details. We would like read one of them, the event of Christmas, from the Gospel of Matthew this time. Now, please read Matthew 1: 18-2: 23.
Matthew first uses a genealogy to explain that Jesus was born as a descendant of Abraham, a descendant of David. The genealogy is written in Chapter 1: 1-16. If you look back on the lives of individuals such as Ruth (5) and King Solomon (6), you will notice God’s plan behind their lives. Matthew uses this genealogy to coordinate that the birth of the Savior was a special timing of God. Matthew 1:17 says,「Thus there were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Messiah.」(Matthew 1:17 NIV)
The first person’s name or event in each of the three categories is related to God’s covenant. The fulfillment of those covenants in Christ is hidden behind this passage. Their first covenant is with God and Abraham, if you are interested, please read Genesis 12: 1-3. God’s promise “and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” was fulfilled by Christ. Considering the timing of God, the world at that time was ruled by Rome, so the New Testament written in Greek, which was the official language, passed through the road created by Rome, and in this way the gospel spread to the whole world. It was God’s perfect timing that the world at that time transcended races and borders.
From Matthew 1:18 the emotional conflict of Joseph, who was a descendant of David is recorded. It is written that Mary, his future wife, was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. The confusion of Joseph is written here that he found out Mary is pregnant and he had in mind to divorce her quietly. However, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:20-21 NIV)
Mary got pregnant though the Holy Spirit, and Jesus was born, this was God’s plan. A miracle that humans can never understand happened in Christmas time. Jesus is the Hebrew word Yeshua, a transliteration of Joshua. The meaning of this name is that the Lord is salvation. Joseph, a descendant of David, accepted the birth of Yeshua with a help of the Holy Spirit. This means, as Mathew 1:23 says, “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”), this prophecy came true in Christmas time.
From Chapter 2, it is written that the wise men came to worship Jesus. A conversation between a pagan astrologer who wants to worship the Savior and King Herod is recorded. The Old Testament prophecies about the savior have been spread to eastward by Jews who experienced exile to Babylon, such as Daniel and Nehemiah. However, it seems they were simply interested in a Jewish king than in the Messiah. On the other hand, King Herod was appointed as the Jewish king in 37 BC-4 BC, and he started the reconstruction of the temple in Jerusalem. His roots were not Jews but Edomians, and unfortunately he feared Jesus, who was born as the Jewish king. The wise men were led through the guidance of the stars to Bethlehem, which was spoken in the Old Testament prophecy. Matthew 2:11 says, “On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.”
The gold represents the divinity of Christ, frankincense represents the holiness of Christ, and myrrh represents the death of Christ. From these events, it is clear that God sent the Savior not only for Jews but also for Gentiles. The life of these wise men who were trying to find a savior is the way of life that we aim for, instead of being controlled by fear and kill children under the age of two as King Herod did. The birth of Jesus is not only for the Jews, but also for us Gentiles.
Recently, we have been learning from the book of the Hebrews that Jesus is the high priest in the order of Melchizedek. Just as this Melchizedek points out to, Jesus is the king of peace and the king of righteousness. Jesus is also a wonderful counselor and the everlasting father. Let us remember and rejoice in his birth and celebrate Christmas together.