URC Daily Devotion: Christmas Eve

St Matthew 1: 18-25

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. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly.  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.   She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’  All this took place to fulfil what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:

‘Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,

    and they shall name him Emmanuel’,

which means, ‘God is with us.’

When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife,  but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.

Reflection

At this time of year it is easy to take Christmas for granted. Advent calendars have been in the shops for months, Yuletide songs have been played in shops since October and even in our increasingly secular world, we have heard the story of baby Jesus for many years. Matthew gives us no room for complacency in his telling of the story. He wants us to know deep in our heart who this baby really is. Matthew starts his Gospel with Jesus’ pedigree, right back to Abraham and through the line of David. Already we get the sense that this baby is important and is in a kingly line but also contains some on the margins (Rahab).

In today’s reading we see the importance of the names that this baby fulfils. Firstly we have Jesus, the Messiah (Christ in Greek), this baby, born in a back room in Bethlehem is the anointed one of God, bringing a new move of God’s reign on earth. He is also Immanuel (God with us), a fulfilment of prophecy and more than just a wise teacher, guru or a mere representation of God. He is God who has come in person, to live our life and die our death. There is no one like him and there never will be. Then there is his earthly name, given by both his earthly and heavenly fathers, Jesus.  The name he would be called by his parents, relatives, friends and later enemies is the name that leaves us in no doubt about his mission on earth, it means Yahweh saves or God is coming to rescue. The angel reinforces this to Joseph by telling him that, “he will save his people from their sins.”

On this Christmas Eve, take some time to reflect on these names, and on the history changing events that took place in the small town of Bethlehem over 2000 years ago. Allow God’s Spirit to give you a renewed vision of who Jesus really is and use the following well -loved carol to help you to worship him.

Prayer

Silent night, holy night
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon Virgin Mother and Child
Holy Infant so tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace
Sleep in heavenly peace

Silent night, holy night!
Shepherds quake at the sight
Glories stream from heaven afar
Heavenly hosts sing Alleluia!
Christ, the Saviour is born
Christ, the Saviour is born

Silent night, holy night
Son of God, love’s pure light
Radiant beams from Thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth

Today’s Writer

The Rev’d Stuart Nixon is a pioneer minister at MediaCityUK in Salford, Greater Manchester.

Bible Version

New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: Anglicised Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved

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