St. Matthew’s Sermon 12-22-2019

St. Matthew’s Sermon 12-22-2019
Beginnings and Endings
Isaiah 7:10-16, Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19, Romans 1:1-7, Matthew 1:18-25

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God. Amen
Finally, our Lectionary Gospel reading, for the first time in this advent season, takes us to the beginning of the Christ event! Well, sort of.
I find it interesting the way the birth of Jesus is universally thought of as the beginning, when if we look at all the Gospels it’s actually hard to tell exactly where the story begins.
Mark, believed by most scholars to be the first written Gospel of the four we use, doesn’t include a nativity story. In his account it all begins in the Jordan River when Jesus is baptized by John.
As we just heard today, Matthew, the second Gospel chronologically, moves the beginning to somewhere between the conception of Jesus and his birth. “When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit”. (1:18b) Then an Angel speaks to Joseph about the matter.
Luke inches a bit earlier still, right at the time of conception as the Angel tells Mary “And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus”. (1:31)
And according to John, it doesn’t begin at the Baptism, nor the birth, nor the conception; John starts the story of the Christ all the way back at the beginning of time; “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”. (1:1)
Of course, all 4 Gospel writers, even Mark, use quotes from the Old Testament throughout their accounts to show that Jesus is the fulfillment of earlier prophecies so, in that sense, they’re all alluding to the fact that the Christ story did indeed begin well before his birth.
For some, it’s important to nail down where the story begins; it even brought a 6th Century, monk named Dionysius (dahy-uh-nish-ee-uh s) to spend considerable time calculating, at least, the year of Christ’s birth and marking that as year 1 in the calendar we use today.
As it turns out Dionysius was off by at least a couple of years and no one since has been able to nail down an exact year much less a month and day.
The question left in my mind by all this isn’t whether or not we can know the exact year of Jesus’ birth or exactly when Jesus becomes “The Christ”; it’s whether or not it matters to know.
We know that God always existed, even before the beginning. We know that throughout the existence of mankind God has been watching over his wonderful creation and sending messages to humankind; always reminding them of his presence in their lives, his desire for them to live in harmony with him, and giving encouragement and offering his help in establishing justice for all people.
With that being recorded in ancient scripture we will always see parallels and connections threading through those writings, into the Gospels, and the rest of the New Testament. So who can say which connections should be made and which should not? Who can say that because a messiah is mentioned in the book of Isaiah it’s not speaking of a messiah for that time, rather, only pointing to Christ in a later time?
And how about this; If we do accept as fact that everything prior to Christ pointed only to Christ, where does that leave us now; did everything end at the birth, or in the ministry, or upon the death, or the after the resurrection of Christ? Is everything now in past tense?

In two days we will gather again, as we do every year, to celebrate the giving God’s greatest gift to mankind, the birth of God’s Son Jesus Christ. As we do this we will be remembering an historic event in the present time; and we will sing hymns with words in the present tense!
Angels We Have Heard on High; Joy to the World the Lord Is Come; Go Tell it on the Mountain, That Jesus Christ Is Born; O Little Town of Bethlehem How Still We See Thee Lie
Knowing our history is necessary, even if we cannot put exact dates to important events. But it is more essential for us to realize that, even though the message began in history, it did not end there; it did not end in the Crucifixion or the Resurrection; it did not end with the writings of the Apostles; and it does not end here!
Even now, as we prepare to celebrate the arrival of the Christ Child, even now as we look forward, with great anticipation, to receive the Christ anew; Christ is with us right here, right now!
We may not know when it all began, but we do know that it will never end! We must keep that thought in our minds and hold it dearly in our hearts always, so that the Hope, Peace, Love and Joy of life lived in the presence of the Divine will be with us, not only in the anticipation Advent Season, and not only through the wonder of Christmas Day, but next week, next month, next year and for all eternity!
Emmanuel, God is with us; always!

Isaiah 7:10-16
7:10 Again the LORD spoke to Ahaz, saying,
7:11 Ask a sign of the LORD your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven.
7:12 But Ahaz said, I will not ask, and I will not put the LORD to the test.
7:13 Then Isaiah said: “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary mortals, that you weary my God also?
7:14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.
7:15 He shall eat curds and honey by the time he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good.
7:16 For before the child knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land before whose two kings you are in dread will be deserted.

Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19
80:1 Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock! You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth
80:2 before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh. Stir up your might, and come to save us!
80:3 Restore us, O God; let your face shine, that we may be saved.
80:4 O LORD God of hosts, how long will you be angry with your people’s prayers?
80:5 You have fed them with the bread of tears, and given them tears to drink in full measure.
80:6 You make us the scorn of our neighbors; our enemies laugh among themselves.
80:7 Restore us, O God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved.
80:17 But let your hand be upon the one at your right hand, the one whom you made strong for yourself.
80:18 Then we will never turn back from you; give us life, and we will call on your name.
80:19 Restore us, O LORD God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved.

Romans 1:1-7
1:1 Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God,
1:2 which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures,
1:3 the gospel concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh
1:4 and was declared to be Son of God with power according to the spirit of holiness by resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord,
1:5 through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for the sake of his name,
1:6 including yourselves who are called to belong to Jesus Christ,
1:7 To all God’s beloved in Rome, who are called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Matthew 1:18-25
1:18 Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.
1:19 Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly.
1:20 But just when he had resolved to do 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 as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.
1:21 She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
1:22 All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:
1:23 “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.”
1:24 When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife,
1:25 but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.