Matthew 1.21



1.   In four days the western world will celebrate the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ, on a day that is universally referred to as Christmas Day.  In the eastern world the birth of Jesus Christ is, for the most part, not celebrated, and where it is celebrated it is in some quarters celebrated on another day than December 25th.

2.   The great tragedy of the western world is that among those who celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ there are many who under cover of fancy words and euphemisms pretend to celebrate the birth of the Son of God, all the while denigrating Him.

3.   Listen to this tripe I received in the mail, containing a quote which was written by a covert infidel wearing a Batman costume and receiving a salary from people he was harming more than he was helping:  “This miracle of incarnation (God made flesh) is not just about Jesus, born in a manger.  The real miracle is that God continues to take flesh in you and me.  The miracle here is that not only are we recipients of God’s love, we are also bearers of that love.  The Love of God was made flesh first in Bethlehem, and ever since - today and tomorrow - God’s love is made fresh with my arms and yours, with our hands and hearts.”[1]

4.   Excuse me, but Christmas is too “just about Jesus.”  Christmas loses its meaning when it becomes about anything other than “just about Jesus.”  Besides, He was not born in a manger.  He was born and then placed in a manger.[2]  I also take issue to the statement, “The real miracle is that God continues to take flesh in you and me.”  By any real definition of what is miraculous the incarnation was most definitely a miracle. 

5.   Unless, of course, you deny that Jesus was the virgin born Son of the living God, deity incarnate.  Many who celebrate Christmas really do, when all is said and done, deny the miracle of the virgin birth.  They like the religious aspects of Christianity.  They find the ceremony and ritual advantageous.  But they do not accept as historically accurate the miracles upon which Christianity is founded.

6.   I would like for you to turn to Matthew 1.21, our text for today, as I make several comments about Christianity in general and Christmas specifically.  I believe in God.  I believe God is apart from His creation, though everywhere present in His creation.  I believe God is a personal being who created the universe and all that herein is in six literal, 24 hour, days, as the Bible teaches.

7.   Yes, I believe the Bible, as well.  I believe the Biblical record is true and reliable, that the Bible is God’s Word, infallible and innerrant.  In the Bible are recorded many things, things that actually happened as the Bible says they happened.  Important among those events the Bible records are the stupendous miracles that form the basis of our understanding of the Christian faith.

8.   Central among those miracles are the miracles associated with Jesus Christ.  Jesus is the Second Person of the triune Godhead who created all things:  “All things were created by him; and without him was not anything made that was made.”[3]  The next stupendous miracle associated with Jesus Christ is what is called His incarnation, the miracle whereby the Second Person of the trinity became a man.

9.   Of course, being the sinless Son of the living God, Jesus required no human father.  Indeed, because of His sinless nature, He could have no human father.  Because He is the Son of God, for Him to become a man it was necessary for the Father to prepare a body for Him, so that He might be the sufficient sacrifice for sins that was pleasing to God.[4]

10. This made absolutely necessary the virgin birth of Jesus Christ, which culmination in His birth in Bethlehem, is really what we celebrate when we celebrate Christmas.  And it is in connection to His virgin birth that our text shows the reason for the great joy, the great delight, the sigh of relief, and the exuberance:  Deliverance from great danger.

11. Now that you have located Matthew 1.21, let us stand to read the final portion of the angel’s explanation to Joseph of why he should not divorce this young virgin he is engaged to:  “And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.”

12. Allow me to comment on three portions of the final phrase of this verse, “he shall save his people from their sins.”


1A.   First, “HE”

1B.    Not “They,” but “He.”  Not “We,” but “He.”  The Christmas event is all about the Lord Jesus Christ.  Therefore, do not confound the persons of the trinity when thinking on this grand subject by supposing that either the Father or the blessed Holy Spirit are referred to by the angel here. 

2B.    Neither denigrate the virgin birth by comparing the incarnation to anything that has ever occurred or ever will occur with mere mortals.  God became flesh only in the person of His own dear Son, in a way that cannot happen with those creatures not virgin born.

3B.    In this phrase and in this verse “He” only refers to, and can only refer to that one person of the Godhead who is virgin born, the Lord Jesus Christ.



I have always been astonished at the tendency of church going people to lose sight of the meaning of this word they so frequently use, and the implications of this word.  You see, implicit in the word “save” is the idea and notion of danger.

1B.    When eight souls were saved from the Flood by the ark that Noah constructed, those eight souls were saved from death by drowning.[5]  Had they not escaped the Flood by being in the ark they would have perished.  So you see, that salvation was a salvation from great danger.

2B.    When the Jewish midwives disobeyed Pharaoh and delivered the baby boys alive, rather than killing them at birth, they were said to have saved them.[6]  And what was that a salvation from?  Death.  Another example of salvation from great danger, the danger of helpless newborns being murdered.

3B.    What about the time when God directed Moses to stretch forth his rod and the waters of the Red Sea were parted so the children of Israel could escape the armies of Pharaoh?[7]  Then, when Pharaoh’s army attempted to follow them through the parted waters God allowed the water to come crashing down on them, killing every one of them.  So, what were the children of Israel saved from?  Death at the hands of Egyptian soldiers.

4B.    The final example, of the many I could mention but for constraints of time, is Rahab the harlot.  Remember that she helped the spies and was told that if she placed a scarlet thread in her window she would be spared.[8]  When the time came to attack Jericho, God wrought a great victory, but through the battle “Joshua saved Rahab the harlot alive.”[9]

5B.    So you see, the word “save” in the Bible is not without significance.  It is a word that is pregnant with meaning.  Associated with the word are such things as danger, emergency, and immediacy.  The word refers to the deliverance, to the rescue, to the extrication of a helpless person from certain doom.  As a lifeguard rescues a helpless swimmer from drowning, as a fireman rescues a helpless child from a burning building, so does Jesus Christ rescue, deliver, save, helpless sinners.


3A.   Finally, “FROM THEIR SINS”

1B.    There is no mention of Hell in this explanation given by the angel.  There is no reference to perdition or the lake of fire, the bottom pit or outer darkness.  The sole danger that the Lord Jesus Christ rescues His people from is the danger posed by sin.

2B.    You see, sins are deadly, sins are soul damning, sins are destructive, sins are defiling, sins are debilitating, sins are discouraging, sins are defeating, sins are distorting, sins are delusional, sins are disgusting.

3B.    God’s punishment of sins does begin with Hell, and does proceed to the lake of fire, perdition, the bottomless pit, the outer darkness.  But those are the result of the great danger to your soul, not the great danger itself.  The great danger to your soul, from which you need saving, is sin.



1.   So, what the great celebration associated with Christmas is all about is not presents, but something infinitely more important.

2.   He, Jesus, shall save his people, shall rescue and deliver his people, from their sins.  Is a man who is drowning happy that he has been pulled from the water by the lifeguard?  As soon as he recovers enough to be happy he is.  And so it is with those who have some idea of their danger because of their sins.

3.   Therefore, to distract someone’s attention from the birth of Christ at Christmas, and to divert their gaze to something far less important, is to distort the meaning of Christmas, is to confuse the real issues involved.

4.   As you approach Christmas this year, keep in mind what the angel said to Joseph about this babe who was to be born:  “he shall save his people from their sins.”

5.   Have you been saved from your sins?  You need to be saved.  For you see, your sins have you in a place of great danger, from which only Jesus can save you.

[1] Cited in a Christmas letter I recently received from a well-intentioned but naive religionist.

[2] Luke 2.7

[3] John 1.2

[4] Hebrews 10.5

[5] First Peter 3.20

[6] Exodus 1.17

[7] Exodus 14.30

[8] Joshua 2.18-19

[9] Joshua 6.25

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