Sunday, 23 December 2018
Dr Albu van Eeden
Matthew 1: 18,19
Affected by the Birth of Christ
We will take a look at three different people and how they were affected by the birth of Christ.
Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Matthew 1:18
In this first verse Mary is chosen by God because of her virtue. Mary withstood the shame and embarrassment because she trusted God. When the angel told her what would happen, it was a perfect recipe for a perfect storm. This expression, ‘a perfect storm’ refers to a disastrous set of circumstances – an unfavourable situation with many added negatives which make it extreme. Man does not create it. This was what God set up for Mary. She was in the perfect position to be at the centre of the storm. Never before had a child been born of a virgin. It was the first and last time since the creation of the world that this happened.
This incident became a master tool in the hands of gossipers. People gossiped about Mary who had fallen pregnant out of wedlock. Mary however, was perfectly in the centre of God’s plan of salvation. God had planned it before the creation of the world. Mary who was a God fearing woman, was chosen by God.
Mankind was sinful and the promise of the Messiah was given by the prophets. This would be the generation that would witness this miracle. When God had completed his preparation – through the gossipers -Satan drew them away and blinded them to the greatest event of all time. Gossipers take 2 and 2 and make 22 misunderstanding and misinterpreting the circumstances, creating their own untruths.
Obedient followers of God will be humiliated by unbelievers. If you follow God with all your heart do not think you will only be blessed and that God will take away all your problems. Mary, in her purity, living in God’s will was strong and stood through the circumstances.
Mary succeeded in the first test of living a pure life and being obedient to God. God blessed her with the privilege of carrying the Messiah. Her next test was to withstand the comments of the gossipers without bitterness and hatred towards them entering her heart. She did not lose the joy of the Lord which was necessary for this occasion because she lived in the presence of God. She went to a family member, Elizabeth, and visited for 3 months and there she praised God and His works. It is easy to allow circumstances and people to quench the Holy Spirit within you.
Paul Gerhard, a German hymn writer penned this hymn:
All my heart this night rejoices,
as I hear far and near, sweetest angel voices;
“Christ is born!” their choirs are singing,
till the air ev’rywhere now with joy is ringing.
All my heart this night rejoices
You know what people think and dream about at night and the struggles people have with demonic forces and lusts. Have you experienced your bedroom filled with the praises and joy of God; you do not sleep because your heart is filled with joy?
“Christ is born,” their choirs are singing
till the air ev’rywhere now with joy is ringing.
This was the joy the shepherds experienced when Christ was born. Christ can enter the night when the devil is the most active and He can conquer. This is what this hymn writer experienced more than a thousand years later. God did not call you to be a slave of lust or of sin. You are called to be slave of Christ who is filled with the joy of Christ.
Hark! a voice from yonder manger,
soft and sweet, doth entreat: “Flee from woe and danger;
turn and come: from all that grieves you,
you are freed: all you need I will surely give you.”
Come, then, let us hasten yonder;
Here let all, great and small, kneel in awe and wonder;
Love him who with love is yearning;
Hail the star that from far bright with hope is burning!
Blessed Saviour, let me find thee;
Draw Thou me close to Thee;
Pardon and restore me;
Come in Thy converting power,
And I’ll rest, fully blest, from this very hour.
All who pine in weary sadness,
Weep no more; for the door
Now is found of gladness;
Cling to Him, for He will guide you
Where no cross, pain or loss
Can again betide you.
Thee, dear Lord, with heed I’ll cherish,
Live for thee, and with thee
Dying, shall not perish, but shall dwell with thee forever,
Far on high, in the joy that can alter never.
And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. Matthew 1:19
Joseph was a good, just and stable man. He was challenged by the circumstances he found himself in. He decided to break his engagement with Mary because he did not want to expose her publicly and magnify her apparent error. Some people spend all their lives speaking about the faults of others. We should bear each other in love. Love covers a multitude of sins. Joseph was prepared to do all this because he was a righteous man.
It was a serious matter for a person to be involved in sexual activity during the engagement period. In the rabbinic scriptures there were four punishments for adultery, the lightest of which was execution by strangling. The worst form of punishment was reserved for the sin of sexual relationships between parents and children and between a couple during their engagement period.
Joseph did not go ahead with his original plan of divorce because he heard God’s voice. God told him to take Mary as his wife and by so doing he identified himself with her shame and embarrassment. Joseph heard God’s voice and did not fear people.
Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men. Matthew 2:16
Herod would have been over 90 years when Jesus would have been old enough to take his kingship from him. Herod should not have feared this. He was ridiculously proud and this made him foolish. Herod could have received forgiveness. God did not push him aside; He wanted Herod to be part of the miracle He was working.
Paul Gerhardt wrote Blessed Saviour let me find Thee! When last have you prayed words like these. Blessed Saviour let me find Thee! Have you fallen into sin? Are you far from the Lord?
Draw me close to thee, pardon and restore me.
Make me new, make me what I am supposed to be.
Come in thy converting power and I’ll rest fully blessed from this hour.
You can pray: Lord, I cannot control my sin. I cannot stop stealing, murdering or holding grudges and I need Your power to save me. This was the reason for the choir of angels singing on that night because He came for sinners.
Watchman Nee (1903-1972) was one Chinese preacher in China and Wong Ming-Dao (1900-1991) was another. After the Communist Revolution in China, Nee refused to deny Christ so he was persecuted and imprisoned for his faith and spent the last 20 years of his life in prison where he died. While in jail he preached, so his tongue was cut out. He converted people by looking at them, so his eyes were gouged out. This is how seriously the Chinese Christians followed God.
In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. Hebrews 12:4
Wong Ming-Dao was also imprisoned for his faith but under the pressure of interrogation and brainwashing he denied the Lord and was released and continued as a pastor. He did this for some time but God then spoke to him and said, “I am not with you anymore.” He had done what he had thought was best but it was wrong. He was convicted of his sin and returned to the authorities, saying that he had lied and had been a Christian during those years and that he had worked in the churches. He was then jailed again for 25 years and his wife, for 20 years. They were both tortured. Eventually they were released by the authorities in the late 1970s.
In his devotional entitled ‘Day by Day’ on Month 6 Day 6 he addresses the issue of confession of sins. “‘Confess your sins to each other.’ For many believers this is an extremely difficult exercise since it means that we are brought very low. It necessitates subduing one’s pride, denying one’s self and bending low before other people. Those who love vainglory are unwilling to confess their sins to other people; those who are proud and arrogant are unwilling to confess their sins to other people; those who regard themselves as in the right are unwilling to confess their sins to other people. In their eyes such confession is a matter of shame, of lowering ranks and of losing face.
Yet out of all the people in the world, who is there without fault?
It is shameful, rather, to refrain from confessing our faults.
For Month 6 Day 27 he addresses the issue of “The first to confess?” “Who ought first to acknowledge his sins? Logically speaking, those who first sinned ought to be first to acknowledge their sin. Yet in practice this isn’t always the way. The correct track to follow is this: Whoever is first reproved by the Spirit ought to be the first in acknowledging his sin. Whenever it is a case of sharing some benefit, you should allow other people to go ahead of you. But when it is a case of acknowledging sin, then you should take the lead. Whoever first acknowledges his sin is the one who first obtains the blessing. Whoever first acknowledges his sin is the one who is great. Whoever first acknowledges his sin is the one who is victorious.
Suppose I become involved in a quarrel with another believer. I am well aware that it was he who began the quarrel and yet I myself am not without sin. As soon as I am enlightened by God, I ought to confess my sin to him. This action on my part may influence the other believer to confess his own sin. Even if he is not moved and refuses to acknowledge his sin, yet in the sight of God I have done all that I can to receive God’s blessing. Once we understand that acknowledging one’s sin is the path to blessing, then we shall be contenders to be first in acknowledging our sin.”
Richard Wurmbrand, a Romanian who was tortured for Christ, said that when Jesus died on the cross he went lower than the lowest sinner in the world. If we humans want to meet with God we must not strive to go up, we must strive to go down, to humble ourselves. The sinner who is lost is too high for God to meet him. Go down, friend, you are too high for God. Salvation is what God offered when he sent his Son to the world. This is the glory that the angels sang about. If this has happened and we have humbled ourselves, we will sing like this hymn writer.
Let us take our eyes off people, live for God and keep our eyes on Him.
Appendix Mr Detlef Stegen
Has God been able to reach your heart today? Do not be like Herod who thought the wise men had outwitted and tricked him when it was actually God who had outwitted him. He saw men and sent out his army to cause a massacre. Whether you are a child or an adult, do not be a Herod.
We have heard that even the righteous Joseph and Mary contemplated doing things that were not in God’s plan but thanks be to God who in His mercy saw that they wanted to fulfill God’s plan in their lives. The angel was sent to warn them and tell them that what had happened to Mary was God’s work. Are we determined to be like Mary? She hid herself and sought refuge with Elizabeth, a godly woman. They did not respond to gossip but they sang praises to God. What is coming out of your mouth? Words that hurt and destroy? It would be wonderful if this Christmas could be a Christmas where we stop shedding blood. (1 John 3 v. 15 states that whoever hates his brother is a murderer.)
God has a plan for your life. He had a plan for Herod but Herod’s heart was untouched and with him, all the learned theologians. They wanted to do away with him.
Have you heard that God, who has been working through His Spirit, has done what is contrary to our theological thinking? May God grant that His Spirit can reach each heart. Why else are you here? We thank God for the preacher but greater is His Spirit who convicts us and causes us to bow.