Sunday Evening Evangelistic Message #89
TEXT: Matthew 1:18-25
During the Christmas season, there is so much going on that it is easy for many people to lose sight of the real reason for the holiday. There is the so-called “war on Christmas”, the pressure of trying to pick the right present to give to a hard-to-please family member, the preparation to receive family members coming over for the holiday, or last-minute traveling to get to a certain destination. It has gotten so bad, that last year, when Christmas fell on a Sunday, some churches raised the question of whether or not they should even have services.
The glamour and false glory of commercialism abounds during this time of the year, and so many people get caught up in the distractions rather than in the reason for the season. It is disappointing to see so many folks miss the meaning behind this holiday.
In its very essence, Christmas is a holiday that brings with it a message of salvation and deliverance for all people. We must remember that the first people who received this message were not middle class citizens who had extra spending money and time to shop for presents to give to each other. Rather, they were poor shepherds spending the night outdoors watching over their sheep. They were an old husband and wife — John and Elizabeth — who didn’t have any children. They were a young woman named Mary and a young man named Joseph; Mary risked being ostracized, ridiculed, and publicly humiliated and Joseph’s life was turned upside down when he found out that the girl he was about to marry was already pregnant.
The Jewish people of first century Palestine lived under the rule of an occupational Roman government. Mary likely grew up somewhere near the city of Nazareth. From the writings of the Jewish historian Josephus, we learn that Nazareth was no more than a small peasant village of 200 to 300 people. Ninety-five percent of the people living in Palestine at that time were somewhere between the middle class and the bottom, and they were overtaxed, not only by the Romans, but by Jewish tax collectors who were infamous for their extortionary practices. Dr. George Shillington, a former biblical and theological professor who has written several books on the New Testament, states that it is unlikely that Mary could even read or write.
Joseph was not very well-off either. We know that his family was from Bethlehem and that he was a carpenter. According to Easton’s Bible Dictionary, a carpenter “only held a very humble position, and secured a very moderate income.” John Broadus writes in his commentary that Joseph was mostly engaged in the making of plows and yokes for farmers because the society in which he lived was heavily dependent on farming for sustenance and income.
So, Jesus Christ came at a time when the people of Palestine were looking for deliverance and salvation. They wanted deliverance from an oppressive government. They wanted deliverance from a religious system which treated them as outcasts and people to be looked down upon. They wanted deliverance from poverty and a life of difficulty. They were looking for a hero. They were looking for a Saviour. They were looking for a Deliverer.
Today, I want to share with you the true message of Christmas — for it is a message of deliverance and salvation, not only for the people of the first century Roman world, but for each and every one of us today. This message is embodied in the words of the angel to Joseph which we just read. This is the true message of Christmas.
+ Plus, listen to The Georgia Mass Choir as they sing “Joy To The World” and Rebecca St. James singing “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing”
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