And you shall call His name Jesus
Matthew 1:20-21 A Christmas Eve message to readers of Heaven On Wheels
Rembrandt - The Dream of St Joseph, ca. 1650-1655, in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest
“But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”
Matthew 1:20-21 NASB1995
Today is Christmas Eve, the day before most Christians around the world celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Some Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas on January 7, which corresponds to December 25 in the old Julian calendar. Of course, we don’t really know the exact date on which Christ was born, but that’s really not important. What is important is that we believe that God came into the world in the form of man to atone for the sins of humanity.
The story of the birth of Jesus Christ is told in only two of the synoptic Gospels; Matthew and Luke. The most detailed account comes in the Gospel of Matthew. Today’s verses come after a detailed genealogy of Joseph, the man betrothed to Mary, and Joseph finding out that Mary was with child.
Even with his rather royal lineage of being one of the descendants of King David, Joseph was a carpenter and at this point, he was considering sending Mary away secretly to avoid scandal. With that on his mind, Joseph slept, only to be visited by an angel of the Lord in a dream.
Joseph might have attributed the dream to his concern about Mary’s unexpected pregnancy, but the angel’s reference to him as “son of David” probably got his attention. This was no ordinary dream; Joseph’s legal lineage to the throne of David was probably not public knowledge and the reference would alert Joseph to the importance of the message.
Mary had not told Joseph that she was pregnant by the Holy Spirit, most likely because how could anyone but God or one of His angels explain this miracle? Being given the message by an angelic being would be extremely persuasive to Joseph.
The name Jesus was quite common at the time; it meant “The Salvation of Jehovah (Yahweh)”. The messenger of God told Joseph what his son was going to accomplish in His life — He would be a savior, saving His people from their sins. Enduring Word has a concise explanation of what Jesus would do for humanity:
This description of the work of Jesus reminds us that Jesus meets us in our sin, but His purpose is to save us from our sins. He saves us first from the penalty of sin, then from the power of sin, and finally from the presence of sin.
Most people of the time expected the Messiah to be a “liberator” who would free the Jewish people from the Romans. The angel specifically says that “He will save His people from their sins,” explaining to Joseph that the mission of Jesus would be much more important than just a national leader and freedom fighter. Instead, the words His people indicate that belonging to Jesus brings salvation to anyone with faith in Him.
With this thought in mind, Barb and I wish you and your families a blessed Christmas. Remember to keep Jesus foremost in your heart and mind on the day we celebrate His birth!
Heaven On Wheels Daily Prayer:
Today’s prayer comes from Knowing Jesus:
Thank You, Father, for the gift of Your Son and the unfolding of Your eternal plan of salvation. Your perfect plan started as a tiny seed in the woman, travelling through time until He was born as a little baby in Bethlehem, and given the wonderful name of Jesus by His earthy guardian. He truly is my salvation. Thank You for His life, His example and His redeeming work on Calvary’s cross. May the name of Jesus be lifted high today. In His name I pray, AMEN.