Good morning! As you would notice, may bago po tayong sermon series. Although the Bible does not command us to celebrate Christmas, we stand in the long tradition of Christians in reflecting on the birth of Christ during December. We usually call it the “Advent season,” which covers the four Sundays anticipating the birth of Christ.
Apparently, culture has now dramatically changed. Nung bata pa ako, madalas pang marinig yung mga hymns at carols na may “Christ” talaga dun sa lyrics. Pero ngayon, mas madalas ko na yatang napapakinggan yung, “Last Christmas, I gave you my heart, but the very next day you gave it away…”
Nevertheless, bagama’t marami nang mga worldly ideas about Christmas nowadays, makikita pa rin natin si Jesus Christ in the way people recognize the season. Halimbawa, sa mall, bagama’t may mga Christmas lights na may mga reindeer at si Santa Claus, may makikita ka pa rin na mga props or miniatures of a manger with a father, mother & a baby—representing Joseph, Mary, and Jesus Christ.
So although hindi accurate at biblical yung understanding ng mga tao about Christmas—the season still recognizes Christ as the object/center of the season.
And that answers the “What” of the season. Ano bang meron sa Christmas? Well, many can easily say, “it’s the birth of Christ.” But the deeper question is, “Why?” Bakit pa kailangan i-celebrate yung kapanganakan ni Cristo? At bakit buong December pa? Or in the case of others, September pa lang nandun na yung sense of Christmas.
Consider our national heroes. Does the whole world or whole country celebrate their birthday for a whole month? No. But why Christ? So what is the reason we celebrate and must celebrate the birth of Christ this season?
This December, we will look at the narratives on the birth of Christ in the gospels, at titingnan natin yung iba’t-ibang themes and highlights that gives us a better understanding of Christ and the reason we celebrate Christmas.
Now, for this Lord’s Day morning, let’s look at Matthew 1:18-25. We already read it earlier, but let’s go through the parts of the narrative by going through the flow of Matthew’s narration. And here, we’ll see two major features: (1) the historical virgin birth of Jesus Christ and (2) the fulfillment of God’s promise since the Old Testament.
The Historical Virgin Birth of Jesus Christ
Matthew 1:18 begins with this, “Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way.”
“It took place,” “it came about this way.” And we notice early right here that the birth of Jesus Christ is a real and historical event. Hindi ‘to fiction. Di natin pwedeng ituring si Cristo na katulad lang ng isang character na mababasa mo sa Noli Me Tangere, sa Wattpad, or ano mang fiction book.
Kung mag-research ka pa in many historical books, even non-Christian historians will affirm that there is an actual person in Israel named in the Bible as “Jesus,” as the one mentioned in the Bible.
So the birth of Christ is an actual event that happened in an actual point of history.
Now how did it take place?
As Matthew narrated, Joseph and Mary are already “betrothed” to each other. At mahalaga rin po na maintindihan natin na yung “betrothal” sa Ancient Israel ay iba po sa “engagement” sa culture po natin today. Our culture and practices often reflect a lesser sense of commitment in a relationship between a man and woman. Whereas in the time of Christ, it’s different.
Yung “betrothal” po ay katumbas na rin ng “legal marriage” sa panahon nila. Meron nang agreement between the man and the woman, and both families. Yung lalaki, nagbibigay na ng tinatawag na “bride-price” or “dowry” sa family nung babae. And in the sight of the leaders and the entire society, they are already married to one another. Kaya nga sa verse 19, Joseph is identified as “her husband.”
Ganun kapag “betrothal.” They are already married, but they are still waiting for the “consummation” of their marriage during the wedding night. So hindi pa sila magkasama sa iisang bahay. Wala pa ding “sexual relationship.”
Now, here’s the big problem: Mary is found to be with a child. Hindi pa naman sila nagsasama sa isang bahay, pero buntis na Mary. At anong natural na iisipin ni Joseph? “She’s been unfaithful. She cheated on me. She has another man.” Even in our culture today, nakakatakot yung magkaka-girlfriend ka, tapos bago kayo ikasal, malalaman mo buntis pala siya. Tapos alam mong hindi ikaw ‘yung tatay nun. Masakit yun.
So that must be very hard for Joseph. And he has two options: (1) Bring her to the court, present her to the elders and judges, say to them, “This woman is immoral.” And that will put to her into great public shame. But since Joseph is a just man, and he loves Mary so much, he considers a second option: (2) give her a certificate of divorce and end their marriage quietly. (Although of course, kahit yun ang gawin niya, may mga nakaka-alam na na buntis si Mary, and eventually that will lead to a more public shame).
So Joseph considered these things and thought really hard about this option and the possible consequences. (Malamang hindi rin siya makatulog). But when he resolved to divorce Mary, “behold,” God intervenes. God puts him to sleep and an angel appeared to him, saying: “Joseph, still take Mary as your wife. She’s not been unfaithful. She didn’t cheat on you. The child in Mary’s womb is not by another man. It is from the Holy Spirit.”
(Hopefully, pastor Lance can discuss next week the other implication that because Christ is conceived by the Holy Spirit rather than by Joseph, he’s no ordinary child. He is sinless. But for now, we’ll consider just the actual event itself).
Going back to the event, Joseph was still asleep when he heard these things. Pero malamang, nung nagising na siya, he has big questions in mind. Buntis si Mary, may sanggol na nabubuo dun sa kanyang sinapupunan, pero hindi yun galing sa ibang lalaki—what? So you mean Mary is still a virgin yet has a child? Virgin birth? How is that even possible?
At dahil dito, maraming mga tao kahit Christians ang nagta-try na mag-speculate kung paano nangyari yun. Our catechism, Q. 35, simply says that Christ assumed “flesh and blood from Mary.” Belgic Confession Art. 18 said, he also “assumed a real human soul.” So ginamit ba ng Diyos yung egg cell ni Mary then made a way na ma-fertilize ‘to and become a human fetus (with human body and soul)? Obviously, walang scientific details na binigay ang Salita ng Diyos. We do not know exactly how it happened.
In any case, what happened in the conception of Jesus inside Mary’s womb is clearly a miracle. At pag sinabi po nating “miracle,” it is not something “contrary to nature.” Kapag ang puno ng saging at namunga ng niyog, o kaya ang isang aso ay nanganak ng pusa—that is contrary to nature. It is “unnatural.”
But, again, a miracle is not something “contrary to nature,” but it goes “beyond nature.” It is extraordinary, it is supernatural.
So in the case of the virgin birth, it’s still a normal human baby, “she will bear a son.” God is not contradicting his laws of nature, but goes beyond the laws of nature. It is supernatural. The entire process is not by ordinary means through a husband and wife having sexual relations to form the child. It is extraordinary.
At dito po natin makikita yung buong reyalidad ng ating kaligtasan. In order for us to be saved, God has to intervene and act supernaturally. It cannot be by natural means. Dahil nahulog na tayo sa kasalanan simula pa kay Adan, yung ating nature as fallen creatures is neither qualified nor capable of saving us. Salvation cannot come from us. It should come from God, by the power of God, through the means of God.
And just as the birth of Christ is supernatural, it also takes a supernatural work of God for us to receive these things to be true. Sino ba naman ang maniniwala na pwedeng magbuntis at manganak ang isang virgin? It is contrary to human logic.
The fact is: Kahit basahin natin paulit-ulit yung narrative of Christ birth, at kahit halukayin pa natin ang buong history for evidence—none of us will believe in the virgin birth of Christ unless the Holy Spirit works in us supernaturally as well. Without faith, none of this makes sense. In fact, without faith, none of all that we read and hope for in the Bible will make sense.
Just to clarify: I don’t mean that our Christian faith is mere faith without reason. That you just have to believe the stories and teachings of the Bible without considering whether it is logical or not. The Christian truths are rational, but the reality is, yung foundational principles nung ating rational beliefs ay tinatanggap natin sa pamamagitan lang pananampalataya.
- Who can give full and actual evidence that God created everything out of nothing?
- Who can give full and actual evidence that Christ resurrected and there is resurrection? (You know I exist because you see me, but you don’t see Christ)
- Who can give full and actual evidence that heaven exists?
You see, brothers and sisters, all of these make sense to us and we embrace them as true only through faith—which the Holy Spirit works in us. ‘Yun po ang ultimate testimony natin. Hindi lang natin nababasa ang mga ‘to sa Salita ng Diyos; and Diyos mismo ang nagpapatunay at nagpapatibay ng mga katotohanan na ‘to sa puso natin.
Kaya kung titingnan po natin, the entire plan and work of redemption is only by the supernatural work of God. Not only in Christ’s incarnation, but also in the illumination and the transformation of our hearts and lives by the Spirit.
You want to witness God’s miracle? You want proof of God’s supernatural work? Brothers and sisters, look at yourselves. Sinu-sino po tayo dito? Mga makasalanan—may mga dating magnanakaw, drug-addict, mayabang, malaswa, makamundo—pero nandito tayo! How come? How is it possible?
Friends, everything in our salvation is by the supernatural work of God. Not by human efforts, but by the mighty hand of God. And that’s what God demonstrates here in the conception of Jesus in the womb of the virgin Mary. “The one conceived in her is not from man, but from the Holy Spirit.”
And the angel adds, “You shall call his name Jesus…” The name “Jesus” is the Greek counterpart of the Hebrew name “Joshua.” It means “God is my salvation” or “God saves.” Hence, the angel said, name him “Jesus, because he will save his people.”
You see, this birth of Christ took place not only as a historical event or a miraculous event. It is a significant event.
Mohammad is also a historical figure. Confucius is also a historical figure. But only Christ is the historical figure who came not to simply gain followers, but to save his people—including you and me.
Save from what? Save from our sins. At ‘pag sinabi po nating “sins,” it includes the consequences of our sin. Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death…” So Jesus came to save us from nothing less than the wrath of God.
That’s how significant Christ’s birth was. It’s not just a historical event or a miraculous one. It is an important event for our salvation.
Now, before we reflect further on that point, there’s a second major feature here concerning the virgin birth of Christ. And that is the fulfillment of God’s saving promises.
The Fulfillment of God’s Saving Promises
In verse 22, Matthew comments, “All this (this miraculous conception) took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet.” And he quotes from Isaiah 7:14, “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel.”
“All this took place to fulfill…” Favorite statement po ito ni Matthew throughout his gospel.
- Chapter 2:5 — “for so it is written by the prophet”
- Chapter 2:15 — Again, “this was to fulfill what the Lord has spoken by the prophet…”
- Chapter 2:23; 3:3; 4:14 and so on.
Why is Matthew using these words?
Yung primary audience po kasi ni Matthew ay mga Jews. At aware po sila dun sa pangako ng Diyos sa Old Testament na may darating na Messiah, the Anointed One, the Christ—na siyang magbibigay sa kanila ng kaligtasan. Nung gumagawa si Cristo ng mga himala, hopeful yung mga tao na siya na yung Messiah. Pero matapos na mamatay si Cristo sa krus, nabuhay muli, at bumalik na sa langit—it didn’t match their expectations.
Ang tanong ng maraming mga Hudyo, “Akala ko ba siya na yung Messiah? Nasaan na yung pangakong kaharian ng Diyos? Bakit under pa rin tayo sa Rome?”
So, the purpose of Matthew is to prove to them that the promised Messiah has already come. And that is Jesus. Kaya from time to time, habang nina-narrate ni Matthew yung mga events sa buhay ni Cristo, he says, “This is according to what God said and promised in the Old Testament.” Si Cristo na nga yung tinutukoy ng Diyos sa Lumang Tipan.
And here in the virgin conception and birth of Christ, Matthew quotes from Isaiah 7:14. We read verses 10-14 earlier, and we can look at it again. The context there is that King Ahaz of Judah is facing a threat from Israel and Syria. After po kasi ni King David at King Solomon, nahati sa dalawang kingdom yung Israel. Yung southern kingdom, mainly Judah, at yung northern kingdom naman, ay the rest of Israel.
Kaya nagkaroon ng conflicts between the two kingdoms, and during the time of King Ahaz, Israel asks Syria for help in conquering and destroying Judah. So God sends Isaiah to comfort and assure King Ahaz saying, “Be quiet, do not fear them… They will not stand. It will not come to pass.”
And after proclaiming his promise, God says to Ahaz, “Ask me for a sign. Request a sign for these promises.” Now, para saan ba yung “signs?” Well, isa yun sa mga biyaya ng Diyos para sa mga kahinaan natin.
Bilang mga tao, hirap tayong maniwala talaga kapag nakakarinig tayo ng pangako. “Well, I’m not sure kung maniniwala talaga ako.” Kailangan may something tangible or visible sign bilang katibayan nung promise na yun.
Halimbawa, sa wedding. May mga marriage vows tayo, we make covenant promises. Anong sign and symbol meron tayo—wedding rings. The same God does to us. He made a promise to Noah. “I will never again blot out mankind through flood.” Anong sign binigay Niya? The rainbow… God promised to Abraham: “I will make you into a great nation and through you the nations shall blessed.” Abraham responds like, “Well, seryoso ba ‘yan Lord, o joke lang?” What sign did God give? Circumcision.
So God is telling Ahaz, “Ask for a sign. Ask for a confirmation and I will give you assurance of my salvation.” Ano sabi ni Ahaz, “No thanks, Lord. I won’t ask for a sign.” And he’s like saying to Isaiah, “Pastor Isaiah, busy ako sa mga political matters na ‘to. Alis ka na muna. I don’t need God’s sign. I’ll take it from here.”
It was an act of unbelief, and God says through Isaiah, “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, tha you weary my God also?” Andyan na nga yung pangako ng Diyos eh, and you wouldn’t accept it. “Therefore, the Lord himself will give you a sign.” God is so gracious. You don’t want assurance of my promise. Nonetheless, I’ll give you the sign of my promise. “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”
God is saying, “The time will come that a son shall be born of a virgin, the true King, the true Son of David, and he shall be the Savior of Israel. Through this child, God’s saving presence shall be upon Israel.”
And going back to Matthew, the gospel writer is saying, “This particular promise has been fulfilled in the virgin birth of Christ.” God kept his promise.
At kung titignan po natin nang mas maigi, hindi lang po yung pangako ng Diyos kay King Ahaz ang tinupad Niya sa kapanganakan ni Cristo.
Let’s read Luke 1:54-55 (Mary’s song). Also Luke 1:68-70 (Zechariah’s song).
We don’t have the time to look at all the promises in the Old Testament concerning the Messiah. But the fact is: The birth of Christ is the fulfillment of God’s promises not only in the time of the prophets, not only in the time of kings, not only in the time of Moses and Abraham, but even since the time of Adam and Eve. In Genesis 3:15, matapos na mahulog ang tao sa kasalanan, God already promised that there is one person that shall come to crush the head of the serpent (Satan), destroy the work of the devil, and bring redemption for his people.
At mga magulang ko’t kapatid, that first promise has been fulfilled in the birth of Christ in Bethlehem. Though it took thousands of years and countless generations… though God’s people experienced famine, slavery, death, and exile… though God has been silent for 400 years before Christ was born… though there are times when God’s promises seem gone… GOD’S WORD NEVER FAILED.
“All this took place to fulfill what the Lord has spoken.” Gaya ng sinabi ni Joshua nung makapasok na yung Israel sa promised Land (in Joshua 23:12): “Not one word has failed of all the good things that the LORD your God promised concerning you.”
And friends, this is where we see the perfect wisdom, goodness and faithfulness of God! He is so unlike us. Kung ico-consider po natin sarili natin, we are all covenant breakers. How many times did you break your promise?
- Husbands, we all stood before God and men during our wedding day, promising to our bride, “I will love you gently and unconditionally… Sa’yo lang ako titingin… Ikaw lang ang mamahalin ko.” But how many times do we break that promise every day or every week of our lives?
- Wives, you also made that promise to your grooms, “I will respect you, I will listen and submit to you. Susuportahan at sasamahan kita kahit saan.” But how often do you break that promise?
- Parents, how often did you make a promise to your child on his/her birthday, but you broke that promise?
- Children, how often did you promise to your parents, “Magsisipag na po ako. Hindi na po ako magpapasaway” yet you still break that promise?
Mapasa-asawa man natin yan, sa anak, magulang, kapitbahay, kaibigan, kapwa mananamanpalataya—each one and all of us are nothing but liars and breakers of our promises.
At hindi lang sa ibang tao—but especially to God. Every single day, we fail God. We break his commandments, we are more committed to other things than him.
We are unfaithful covenant-breakers.
But not with God. He fulfilled what he has spoken. He kept his promise.
At mga kaibigan, ang pangako ng Diyos dito ay hindi maliit na bagay. He promised a son shall be born and be called our “Immanuel, meaning God with us.” “God is with us.”
Gaano po kahalaga yung pangalan na ‘yun?
Dahil po sa kasalanan natin, we are all outcasts before God. Nung nagkasala si Adan at Eba sa Garden of Eden, God drove them out of Paradise, out of his abiding presence. Sin separates us from God.
And so Christ comes to abide with his people, to live like us, and to live perfectly, suffer, die, and rise from the dead for us—so that we will be saved, reconciled with God, and be in fellowship with him for eternity. (Just to clarify, it doesn’t mean God the Father is nothing but full of wrath and anger, while the Son is gracious trying to appease him. No. John 3:16 says that “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son…” It is by the Father’s love that Christ was born for us.) So Christ came as Immanuel, according to God’s promise in the Old Testament.
And friends, Christ also came with God’s promise to us now. He promised us throughout the New Testament that those who repent and believe in Christ receive forgiveness of sins and eternal life. And by his Spirit, Christ will be “with us even to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).
Do you believe that promise? Do you receive that promise? Do you live by that promise? If you’re not yet a Christian, may this season proclaim to you God’s good news of salvation in Christ. Come to him in prayer, repent, and believe his promise of salvation—which is true because God himself is trustworthy. And for us who believe, may this give us comfort and assurance that just as God fulfilled his Word in the birth of Christ, he will surely and faithfully keep us until the end.
Beloved, why do you celebrate this season? Maging masaya at magdiwang po tayo, hindi dahil sa Christmas bonus. Hindi dahil sa mga family reunions. Hindi dahil sa mga regalo na binibigay natin sa isa’t-isa. Kundi dahil sa pangako at biyaya ng Diyos na tapat Niyang tinupad at binigay satin kay Cristo.
This is the very reason why we celebrate and must celebrate Christmas. Let us pray.
Reuel Dawal is the Minister of the Word and Sacraments at ZCRC. He was an intern prior to being ordained and installed as the church's new pastor. He is currently finishing his Biblical and Theological Studies at the Miami International Seminary (MINTS) online. He and his wife Yeng are married since 2017 and lives in Imus, Cavite.