Throughout this week I am going to share some daily encouragement (gems I have found in my studies) on the incarnation of Jesus Christ. Hopefully, as we consider the biblical truths surrounding His birth, we can all slow down and celebrate the real meaning of Christmas. As you are encouraged… please share with others the hope of Christ this Christmas season! (The running commentary is from The Incarnation in the Gospels)
Matthew 1:18–25 (ESV): 18 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. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:
23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall call his name Immanuel”
(which means, God with us).
24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25 but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.
 But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations.
 The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
on them has light shone.
 You have multiplied the nation;
you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you
as with joy at the harvest,
as they are glad when they divide the spoil.
 For the yoke of his burden,
and the staff for his shoulder,
the rod of his oppressor,
you have broken as on the day of Midian.
 For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult
and every garment rolled in blood
will be burned as fuel for the fire.
 For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
 Of the increase of his government and of peace
there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this. (ESV)
Since the Lord often uses names to reveal his purposes, he gives baby Jesus more than one name; no single name could describe all that he is. The baby is called both Jesus and Immanuel. Jesus means God saves; the name is given “because he will save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21). Immanuel means God with us.
Conceived by the Holy Spirit
Mary and Joseph are betrothed, not married, when the account of Jesus’ birth begins. “Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit” (1:18). Mary and Joseph did not live in the same home. They were, Matthew says, sexually chaste; they had not yet “come together.” They were betrothed and pure, yet she was pregnant.
God wanted Joseph to proceed with the marriage, and sent an angel to tell him why. Here we must purge our popular images of angels. In the Bible, angels are not cute and do not specialize in romance. They are as likely to say something frightening as to say something comforting. Their appearance in our realm is a rare, weighty, and awesome event.
Angels are God’s mighty messengers. There is a cluster of angel appearances near the birth of Jesus because it is such a great event. Here God’s angel intervenes for the sake of Joseph (and for our sake) so he will know what this virgin conception means: “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’ ” (1:20). Every phrase counts.
The address “Joseph son of David” links the virgin conception to the Davidic genealogy. The Holy Spirit is the author of this life, yet Joseph has a role to play.
“Do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife” addresses his sad resolution to divorce the woman he loves. The angel assures Joseph that things are not as they seem. Because the child is conceived not by a man but by the Holy Spirit, Joseph can marry his beloved. She is as pure and godly as he had hoped. Into his new marriage, Joseph must take this child as his son. Jesus is conceived by the Spirit of God, but Joseph must adopt him into the line of David. From that line, the deliverer of Israel must come. Therefore Jesus is both the Son of God and the son of David. Because of the adoption, Jesus will grow up in a normal home, with both father and mother to love and nurture him.
“What is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.” The church traditionally speaks of the virgin birth, but the Gospels stress the miraculous conception, the virgin conception, of Christ. The miracle lay in the manner of Jesus’ conception. So far as we know, the process of birth itself was normal.
The Child’s Name and Mission
God tells Joseph the child is a boy and that his name must be Jesus: “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” (1:21). As we have seen, Jesus means “the Lord saves.” The Lord saves and delivers his people in many ways: he gives food to the hungry, he heals the sick, he comforts the brokenhearted. Many hoped the Messiah would save Israel from its Roman oppressors.
But the angel declares God’s agenda. Jesus will not save his people from physical enemies; he “will save his people from their sins.” Sin is the root of all other calamities. Yes, calamity comes from many sources—accidents, forgetfulness, and disease, for example. But the root, the cause, of disorder is sin, and the greatest disorder is to be at odds with God. Jesus will save his people from that.
The birth of Jesus shows that God is with us. In important ways, God is always with us. We can never flee from his presence. He is in the heavens and the depths, on land and at sea (Ps. 139:7–10). We can ignore God, we can deny God, we can curse God. But he never disappears. His reign extends over all creation, even, in a way, over hell itself. God is omnipresent. Nevertheless, Matthew says that with Jesus’ birth, God entered human history in a new way. He is with us with power and for blessing.
Three times in the gospel of Matthew we hear that Jesus is God with us: in the beginning, at its midpoint, and at the end. It is a crucial moment each time. In the beginning, we hear that Jesus is Immanuel, God with us, to save his people from their sins (1:21–23).
In the middle, we hear that Jesus is Immanuel, God with us, to purify his church. Jesus promises, “Where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them” (18:20). We often use this verse to find assurance that God hears when we gather for prayer, and rightly so. But in its original context, Jesus had a specific prayer in mind. In the agony of church discipline, when a Christian persists in sin and will not repent, when the leaders deal with such rebellion, Jesus is Immanuel, God with us, to preserve the purity of the church.
At the end of Matthew, Jesus is Immanuel, God with us, to expand the church. Just before he ascended into heaven, Jesus directed his disciples to go and make disciples of all the nations. It is a vast task, therefore Jesus declares, “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (28:19–20). Jesus is Immanuel, God with us, to empower the church to make disciples.
But in Christ, God is always with us. What a comfort when we are lonely, sick, guilt-ridden, or afraid. Jesus is Immanuel—God with us.
May the Spirit work in us to receive what God began to accomplish in the birth of Jesus. May we also submit our plans and our emotions to him, as Joseph did. May we give our hearts and minds to him as Mary and Joseph did. May we know that God is with us, to bless us, in every season of life. In every distress, let us turn to God for comfort. In joy and in blessing, let us not ascribe it to good fortune or hard work, but to Immanuel, who is present to bless. God is with us in the person of Jesus. May we have the faith, trust, love, and obedience to receive the blessings of Immanuel.
 Daniel M. Doriani, Philip Graham Ryken, and Richard D. Phillips, The Incarnation in the Gospels, ed. Daniel M. Doriani, Philip Graham Ryken, and Richard D. Phillips, Reformed Expository Commentary (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2008), 21–28.