The Messiah is Jesus
Matthew 1: 18-24 & Genesis 3: 14-15 (NIVUK)
18 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: his mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.
20 But after he had considered this, 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. 21 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.’
22 All this took place to fulfil what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 ‘The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’ (which means ‘God with us’).
24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.
14 So the Lord God said to the snake, ‘Because you have done this,
‘Cursed are you above all livestock
and all wild animals!
You will crawl on your belly
and you will eat dust
all the days of your life.
15 And I will put enmity
between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head,
and you will strike his heel.’
Welcome to Advent. I confess, this is my favourite season of the Christian Year. The sense of anticipation, waiting for the Christ light to illuminate the darkness, the opportunity to consider afresh God’s illimitable humility and generosity in becoming human, gives worship during Advent a depth and richness which is, to me, palpable. Often the message of the gospel is portrayed as: salvation comes through the death and resurrection of Jesus, however there would be neither death nor resurrection without the incarnation. When God was born in Bethlehem he clothed himself in human flesh and began the process which would bridge the chasm created by the first men and women who turned from God to go their own way.
But God didn’t come unannounced. Throughout the ages he sent messages by the prophets to prepare us to receive him. Reading back through salvation history we can trace the golden thread of God’s engagement with us through the prophets, signalling his intention to redeem us, to rescue us from the consequences of our self-will and stubbornness. That engagement culminates in the Christ event: incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection, ascension, which, together, open the way back to God. In Advent we celebrate afresh the unsearchable love of God, his eternal patience in never giving up on us, and we wait with anticipation for the birth of the Christ child anew in our hearts.
God: Father, Son, Holy Spirit,
thank you for never giving up on us.
Thank you, Father, for your patience with us
which survives centuries of our intransigence.
Thank you, Jesus, for your generosity
which led you to leave the glories of heaven
to live within the limitations of humanity
for the purpose of our redemption.
Thank you, Spirit, for your faithfulness
which leads and guides us back into that relationship
where we belong.
Praise you God, Holy Trinity,
for the lengths you went to, and still go to,
for our sakes.
Help us to live lives worthy of your sacrifice. Amen.