Theme: The Fulfillment of God’s Promises to Joseph and Mary
From these Christmas lessons, we look at how God’s promises were fulfilled at the first Christmas, and what everyone must do in response to them.
Scripture: Luke 2:6, 7
Well, then, what was the first Christmas if not a time of laughter and family fun and decorations? Do you know what it was? It was the fulfillment of a promise. It was the fulfillment of God’s promise to send his Son, a Savior, to the world.
The promise to Joseph. It was the fulfillment of God’s promise to Joseph, first of all. Poor Joseph. He had discovered that the woman to whom he was engaged was expecting a child, and because he was not the father of the child he decided that the only proper thing was for him to break off the engagement quietly. He would have done it if God had not sent an angel to him in a dream, saying, “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. 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” (Matt. 1:20, 21).
Matthew, who tells the Christmas story from Joseph’s point of view, points out that this was to fulfill what had been prophesied beforehand by Isaiah: “‘The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’—which means, ‘God with us’” (v. 23).
This promise was of a child to be conceived by the Holy Spirit, thus having God as his Father. He was to be a unique combination of man and God, what theologians later came to call the “God-Man” and expressed in technical language. He was to deliver his people from their sins. The two names given to the child summarize this teaching: Immanuel, which means “God with us,” and Jesus, which means “Jehovah saves.”
What was Christmas? Christmas was the fulfillment of this promise, for the one born of Mary was indeed Immanuel and Jesus. He was God come to save us from our sins.
The promise to Mary. Joseph was not the only one who received a promise from God fulfilled in Jesus’ birth. Mary received a promise too. God sent the angel Gabriel to her. Gabriel said, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.”
When Mary asked, “How will this be since I am a virgin?” Gabriel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:30-35).
What a great promise this was! A virgin’s conception by the power of the Holy Spirit, the birth of the Son of God, and the assurance that this divine child would reign on David’s throne forever. The promise of the conception was fulfilled almost immediately. The birth was fulfilled on the first Christmas. As far as his reign is concerned, it is true that Jesus has not yet assumed the throne of his great ancestor David. But my understanding of prophecy is that this will happen eventually at his second coming, just as literally as the promises of his conception and birth were fulfilled at his first advent
How did God fulfill his promises to Joseph?
Describe how God’s promises were fulfilled in the life of Mary.
Reflection: Read the Old Testament passages that have bearing on the angel’s appearance to both Joseph and Mary. What do you learn from them?