He Will Save His People From Their Sins
Key Verse 1:21
“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.”
This story is not about Mary, and it’s not about Joseph. It’s about God and about God’s Son. It’s about the love of God for us— a love so great that it compelled Him to send his Son to save us from out sins. He sent Jesus to fix our hearts and our lives; to mend the crookedness of our hearts; to repair our tendency to do evil and to enjoy it; to put right a relationship that had been broken for a very long time without a shred of hope on our part to do it; to fix our failure to do what is good and right; to fix our weakness to sin and our tendency to be tempted by it; to mend the very brokenness of the person we ought to be but cannot be; to mend and repair what is unholy on our inside— that which makes us hate ourselves for who we are and for what we do; He came to resolve the hatred, the jealousy and anger that have a way of taking over our lives; to fix our fears and our doubts and the constant state of insecurity we often find ourselves in; to mend all that we know is wrong in our lives, the wrongness of being someone we do not want to be. The story of Christmas is really about the love of God for those who cannot even love themselves. But God loved us and sent Jesus to save us from our sins— to repair the damage sin incurred in our hearts and lives.
What is wrong with me? Why am I the way that I am? Why do I feel oppressed all the time? Why do I do the things I should not do? What is wrong with me? What is wrong with me— is sin! I know that something is wrong with me, on the inside, that makes me cringe at some of the thoughts and feelings that come into my heart and mind. It’s what every human being goes through on the inside when the conscience is still active. In my heart I want to do what is good— I want to love— I want to be noble— I want to make the world better. But there is something in me that keeps me down— that keeps me chained to the very things I hate in others that I see in myself. “What is wrong with me”— is the question of every human being, whether we verbalize it or bury it deep down or ignore it or even pretend it does not exist. What is wrong in me is sin! I am born in it. And I am born to it. And on a conscious or subconscious level, every human being knows that “I grow up totally helpless to avoid it, to fight it, to change it— that I am doomed to give in to it! And indeed “I am doomed”— if God did not love us— and if Christ Jesus wasn’t born to the world. But God loves us. And Jesus was born to us. He was born to mend and to repair everything that is wrong with — born to save us from our sins. He was born to mend and repair what is wrong in me— to mend my heart and my life— to deliver me from sin!
The Christmas story begins with the story of Joseph and Mary and we need to take a look at how worked in and through them. Read verse 18a. “This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph…” Joseph was a carpenter from Nazareth engaged to be married to a village girl called Mary. Surely the couple of extremely happy and excited as they waited for the day they would tie the knot. But, one day, something unusual happened to both of them.
Read verse 18b. “…but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit…” This was the greatest event in history— a birth so unique and unprecedented. The prophesy stated that a male child would be born of a virgin girl. But when would this happen, and to whom was anyone’s guess? Then suddenly one day it happened— a virgin girl was chosen from among all the people of God to bear the promised Savior child. Why of all girls was Mary chosen? What qualities did this virgin girl have that drew God to choose her? That is the question. I can tell you quite honestly that Mary was the kind of girl with many virtues that adorned her as a woman worthy to be called and used by God. But that was not the reason God chose her. God chose Mary by his grace. This means that God chose her not for anything she had done or was doing or would do, but that it was purely by his sovereign and divine choice. Mary was a wonderful young and godly woman. But it was not why God chose her. All of us who get chosen by God come from characters ranging in virtues from “the very Good” to “the very bad” and from “the very nice” to “the very mean” kind of people. Yet God chooses us, and that— he does— by his grace alone. This is important to keep in mind because God’s calling to us (even to the virgin girl Mary) does not rest on who we are and what we do, but on Who God is and what He has done. He loves us, so he calls and chooses us according to his own purpose for his own glory. We ought to remember that always and rest in humility before him all our lives. We ought to remember that, and judge not whom God may or may not choose or call, for he does so according to his grace and mercy, and not according to what moral or spiritual standards we may judge others by.
Having said this, it is important to think about Mary’s situation at the time God called her for a very special mission. She was a young country girl. The story goes that an angel visited her and relayed to her what God wanted of her. And it wasn’t as simple as it sounds— God gives a mission and the recipient jumps for joy and says “Sure, I’ll do it”. What God was asking of Mary was not easy at all. Mary had to make some sacrifices on her part— very costly sacrifices. In those days becoming pregnant when not yet married was a taboo. Mary would have to give up her dream of marriage. She would be inviting the disappointment and misunderstanding and condemnation of those who mattered so much in her life— let alone the community. It was disgraceful for her and her family. It was as if God was asking her to accept disgrace and suffering and hardship. What would her father and mother think! What would Joseph think! No one wishes for that! It was not easy for her. But Mary did not shrink back from the calling and the mission God had for her. How could she sacrifice so much? Mary understood that this is not about her, but about God’s plan to save the world. When people think of themselves and what they are losing when God asks something of them, they have a hard time to sacrifice anything. But when they realize that this is not about me, but about God’s plan to bless others, then the sacrifice becomes a joy. I am certain that Mary was full of joy.
Mary was great. But great as she was, she cannot fix the world nor sin. She is great. But she is not greater than Jesus. He is the one promised to come, who came and who sacrificed a lot more than what Mary sacrificed in order to mend our hearts— to fix me— to forgive me for all the sins of my life, and to deliver me from the power of sin that ravaged me and kept me sinning without hope of ever being the person God wants me to be. That’s how great Jesus is. His sacrifice outweighs all sacrifices. Born in a manger. Died on a cross. And Risen. Faith in him brings healing and life to our hearts.
What of Joseph? Read verse 19. “Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.” Joseph is amazing. He is a man of integrity, but that is not why God called him. Still, he was chosen by grace alone to fulfill his purpose in the Christmas story. Joseph had no idea how this happened. At this time of confusion and tremendous emotional pain, he did not let his emotions rule him. He did not stop loving Mary. He did not think about revenge. Instead Joseph was thinking about how he could help and protect Mary. He must have loved God from his heart. He must have known the grace of God in his own life. When Joseph entrusted his situation to God, God sent him a dream to comfort him and to guide him in this difficult situation. Basically God commissioned him to shelter Mary and her son.
Joseph was indeed a great man. But he was not great enough to fix us. He was a human being like you and me, who also needed mending. Joseph was great. But he was not as great as Jesus. Jesus did a whole lot more than shelter a woman and her son. Jesus sheltered all of us. My sin made me offensive not only to other people, but offensive to God. With all the filth of our sins, our thoughts, our feelings, the things we do. As a sinner I am offensive to others because I think of myself a not others. And I am offensive to God because every sin I committed took me one step further from the Holy God. But Jesus the Son of God sheltered me, covered my shame, and my guilt. He took me in when I should have been thrown out and left to wallow in this sick world. Jesus showed me compassion and mercy and loved me more than anyone can when I was lost in my sins.
Look at how God helped Joseph understand what was happening to Mary and the world. Look at verse 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.” Now read verse 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.” This was the wonderful news the angel gave Joseph regarding the Son of God to be born. His name would be Jesus. “Jesus” means “the Lord saves”. He saves his people from their sins. When God sent his Son, the Savior, his main concern was not the economy, nor the environment, nor the politics and injustice in the world. God’s main concern was sin— to save us from our sins. And Jesus saves us from sin. Now that takes a life time of learning what it means. But Jesus fixed us— mended our hearts and lives. The life people live, whether in richness or in poverty, in goodness or in evil never fulfills its purpose. Sin robbed us of that. Sin robbed us of many things, image of God, meaning of life, relationship with God, eternal life.
Jesus restored the image of God in us. God put in us divine qualities— just as a child inherits his father’s and mother’s characteristics so does man also inherit his Father God’s image. And the image of God is beautiful. It has within it kindness, love, sacrifice, nobility, responsibility, compassion, etc. But sin robbed us of that. But Jesus came to restore that godly image in our hearts and lives. His death and resurrection, and faith in what Jesus did, surely restores the image of God. Look at any man or woman of faith. They are not what they were before. They seem to be a new person.
Jesus restored meaning to our lives. Sin really makes life meaningless. This world is filled with people who struggle with emptiness of heart and meaninglessness of life every day. So Jesus came to save us from sins. Through his death and resurrection, he conquered sin. And with faith in Jesus, he fills our empty hearts with meaning and our lives with purpose and transforms us into his children and coworkers in the work of salvation.
Jesus gave us a personal love relationship with God. It’s hard to be alone and lonely in the world, without family or friends. Sometimes with family and friends people feel all alone, as if they are orphans. The greatest loneliness comes from being broken off from God, so that the soul has no one to lean on, to love and to be loved by. And that is the result of sin. But Jesus died and rose again to heal the damage of sin, to bring us close to God again, to restore our relationship with God. The love of God is great for us. He did so much through Jesus.
Now let’s read verses 22 and 23. “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’ — which means, ‘God with us.’” Matthew wrote about Immanuel— God with us for a reason. He understood what it means. Matthew was a selfish man who lived a treacherous life— all for the love of money. No one wanted him. He was a man without a heart. One day Jesus passed by and said to him, “Matthew, follow me.” Jesus did not condemn him for what he had done in his life, for the sins he had committed against God and man; Jesus understood that Matthew could not help himself; Jesus understood that Matthew never wanted to sin the way he did; that he was a prisoner of sin as all other people were. And Jesus simply loved him and invited him to live a new life in Jesus and with Jesus. Immanuel Jesus was with him as he struggled to grow into the man of God he was meant to be. Jesus, Immanuel— God with him, was the best thing that ever happened to him. That is what Christmas is about, what it means. It means that God saves us from our sins, and invites us to embrace Emmanuel Jesus as God with us. Let’s pray like this: “Lord, you are Immanuel— God with us— God with me. Thank you for loving us Lord, for saving us from our sins, for being Immanuel to every one of us.”