It’s an announcement which typically brings joy to the hearts of those who hear it. The announcement made by that young couple recently married, when they share the good news, “We’re expecting a baby!” Isn’t that right? I mean, it’s got to be right up there with “I just got engaged!” After that announcement, the second most exciting announcement—the one that is sure to warm the heart of every parent and grandparent is the news, “Guess what? We’re expecting a baby.” And of course, with that announcement comes all kinds of anticipation and preparation for the arrival of that little new born child.
If you think about it, we’re in that season of anticipation right now. In the season of Advent we are all eagerly anticipating the arrival of a very special child, the child born in Bethlehem. Today we have a chance to go back in time and kind of relive what it must have been like to hear and come to grips with one amazing, earth-shattering announcement, namely,
“Mary is Expecting a Baby”
We’ll see that that announcement represents:
A painful dilemma
A miraculous revelation
First, the fact that Mary is expecting a child, represents a painful dilemma. Why do I say that? Well, put yourself in Joseph’s sandals. You are engaged to be married to this beautiful Jewish girl named Mary. You are already pledged to each other, but you’ve not yet consummated the marriage. In Bible times, marriage was kind of a two-step process. First was the betrothal, when a man and woman were first recognized as legally bound as husband and wife. And then up to one year later came the marriage ceremony, when the actual marriage relations begin. Well, it’s in this in-between time that Joseph discovers something that must have just broken his heart. The gospel writer Matthew describes it this way: This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit.
Now it is important to understand two things about that statement. First, when it says that Mary “was found to be with child,” it doesn’t mean that Mary discovered she was pregnant. It means that Joseph discovered she was pregnant, too. What a shock that must have been! But notice secondly, when the Bible says that Mary was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit, that doesn’t mean that Joseph knew that—at least not at this point in time. This is kind of a parenthetical statement which the gospel writer Matthew adds for the benefit of his readers. Matthew is looking ahead to when the angel is going to explain all this to Joseph. But at this point in time, when Joseph first discovered that his wife is pregnant, how can Joseph assume anything except that his wife has been unfaithful? I mean, Joseph knows the birds and the bees. He knows that women don’t just spontaneously conceive. He knows that he hasn’t slept with Mary. That means that someone else must have.
Imagine how Joseph must have felt. Maybe some of you have experienced that kind of pain. To think that the person you thought you knew, the person you thought you could trust, the person you thought you loved, has given herself to someone else. How can Joseph not be totally distraught, confused, angry? The bottom line is, he’s hurting.
That announcement, that Mary was expecting a baby—for Joseph, that announcement created nothing but pain. Actually it created more than pain. It also created a dilemma for Joseph. What was he going to do with his unfaithful bride? On the one hand, Scripture says that Joseph was a righteous man. In other words, because he wanted to do the right thing, he didn’t want to leave the impression that he condoned his wife’s sin of adultery. That means that he had the option of bringing her sin to the attention of the local authorities and let the law take its course. According to the Law of Moses revealed in Deuteronomy 22, the penalty for adultery by either a man or woman, was death by stoning. On the other hand, Joseph was still concerned about Mary; about her life and the life of her unborn child. He didn’t want to publicly humiliate her. He wasn’t out to get revenge. So what did he do? Matthew tells us, 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. In other words, rather than make a stink, Joseph decided to make the best of a bad situation. He would simply acknowledge that she had broken their marriage bond by her sin of adultery, and Joseph would go on with his life.
You know, I don’t think it’s that hard to put ourselves in the sandals of Joseph. Sometimes things don’t turn out quite the way we would have hoped. Sometimes we have to make the best of a bad situation. We try hard to do the right thing based on the information we have. But sometimes we don’t know the truth until God reveals it to us. Isn’t that what happened to Joseph? You see, that announcement, “Mary is expecting a baby”, for Joseph was not only: I. A painful dilemma. It was also: II. A miraculous revelation.
Isn’t that right? Joseph is thinking one thing and God comes along and says, “Joseph it’s not what you think. Joseph, let me tell you what really happened. Let me tell you the rest of the story.” And so what does God do? He sent an angel to Joseph in a dream. And the angel says what? 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. Again, I want you to notice 2 things about that statement. First, notice how the angel addresses Joseph. “Son of David.”
Now, if you were to read through the genealogy of Joseph recorded in the opening verses Matthew’s gospel, you would see that the name of Joseph’s father wasn’t David. It was actually Jacob. So why does the angel call Joseph son of David? Could it be that the angel wanted to remind Joseph that he was descendant of King David—just as the promised Messiah would be a descendant of King David? And since the Jews tracked the legal ancestry of a child through the line of the father, it was critical that not just Mary, but also Joseph, was from the line of David.
But the angel goes on to explain to Joseph how it is that his fiancé is pregnant. The angel says, “What is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.” In other words, Mary’s pregnancy was not caused by a sinful act of adultery. No, it was caused by a miraculous act of God. God the Holy Spirit had caused Mary to conceive. God the Holy Spirit had sanctified Mary’s womb so that her child could be born without sin.
And yet even more important than how this child was conceived, was who this child would be and what he would do. What does the angel say to Joseph? “Mary will give birth to a son and you are to give him the name Jesus because he will save his people from their sins.” Actually the name Yesus in the Greek or the Hebrew equivalent, Joshua, all mean the same thing. It means “the Lord saves” or “Jehovah is salvation.” By his very name, God was announcing that Jesus had come to save his people. (By “his people” Matthew means not just the Jews, but rather the entire human race.) Jesus would save all people from their sins. Isn’t that something, that even before Jesus is born, God was already clearly defining what Jesus was coming to do. He wasn’t coming to save his nation from the oppressive Roman government. He wasn’t coming to make our lives as Christians easier or to make the world a better place. No, Jesus was coming to rescue mankind from the eternal consequences of our sins. Jesus was coming to turn sinners into saints by covering us with his precious blood and righteousness. That’s what Jesus came to do.
You realize, that’s what the prophet had foretold 700 years earlier. Here in our text, Matthew makes the connection between Mary’s pregnancy and Isaiah’s prophecy when he writes, 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.”
Really, those words highlight two miracles. 1. That a virgin who never had relations with a man would conceive a child. 2. That that child will be true God. He would be God in the Flesh. He would be God “with us.” That my friends, is beyond what our brains can comprehend. How the God of the universe is inside of Mary. How God could take on flesh and blood, to live our life and die our death so that we could one day live with him forever in heaven.
You know, when you think about everything that Mary’s pregnancy represented—how that child was conceived, what that child would be, and what that child would do—it all dramatically changes the impact of the announcement that “Mary is expecting a baby,” doesn’t it? It certainly did for Joseph. I mean, when Joseph first heard that Mary was pregnant, it caused him great sorrow and pain. But once the angel revealed the truth, then everything changed. Suddenly, what once was a source of pain and frustration on Joseph’s part: “Mary is expecting a child?!?”—suddenly, after God’s revelation, became a source of great joy and celebration in Joseph’s heart: “Mary is expecting THE child!!!” The child who had been promised of old, the child who has come to save us from our sins. In the end, knowing the truth about that child changed everything for Joseph.
My friends, isn’t the same thing true for you and me? When God reveals to us who that baby really is, it changes everything. It gives us a reason to celebrate, a reason to rejoice. Does it mean that we’ll never experience any pain in life? No, as long as we live as we live in this world, we’ll experience pain and loss. We’ll be hurt by the sins we commit and by the sins of others. And yet, because God has revealed to us the identity of that child in Mary’s womb, God allows us to see the big picture. To see, for example, the trials in our lives are opportunities to lean on God, to trust in his plan for our lives; to see that death is a way for God to take believers to heaven, to see that we live our lives in joyful expectation for his return.
Once upon a time, Mary (and Joseph) were expecting a baby. Now, by God’s grace, through the faith he’s worked in our hearts, you and I are expecting that same baby, to return, in all his glory, with all his holy angels., to take us to be with him heaven, where Jesus will not only be God with us, but we will be with God, forever and ever. Amen.