Sermon for Christmas Day

Jesus: The Son of Mary

Matthew 1:16

Sermon Outline

4. God’s way of sending the Messiah wasn’t the world’s way.

3. Rather, God works through and exalts the lowly.

2. Just so, the Son of God humbled himself by becoming the Son of Mary.

1. And God exalts us, the lowly, by humbling his Son.

God Turns the Ways of the World Upside Down by Sending His Son to Be Born of a Virgin and to Exchange His Life for Ours.


And Jacob [was] the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ. (Mt 1:16)

There is nothing clean about the list of Jesus’ ancestors. People are left out, and the numbers of generations Matthew counts don’t quite add up. Did Matthew leave things out intentionally? Could he not count? Was he simply not as good a historian as Luke? All of those questions are raised when one reads the genealogy that’s recorded in Matthew 1. The names and the numbers simply don’t add up.


This is true! The birth of Jesus to Mary doesn’t make sense. Since he was expected to be born in King David’s royal city of Bethlehem, a pregnant girl in Nazareth couldn’t seem right. One would expect the one called Lord by King David to be born in a palace, not in a stable. He should have been wrapped in the finest of fabrics, such as silk or cotton rather than swaddling cloths. Perhaps the most shocking part of the angels’ birth announcement to the shepherds was the fact that they would find the Savior, Christ the Lord, lying in an animals’ food trough. None of it made sense at all, right down to a young, unmarried girl giving birth to the promised Messiah.

But Mary understood that God does not operate the way the world does. From the time that the angel Gabriel appeared to her, she learned how differently God would be at work. While she wondered how she, a virgin, could bear the Son of the Most High, her response was, “I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38). Her seemingly barren cousin Elizabeth also conceived in a way that seemed unimaginable. But nothing is impossible for God.


When Mary went to visit her cousin, her song was one of praise to the God who does the impossible. For he is the God who brings down the mighty and exalts the humble, who fills the hungry and sends the rich away empty, and for whose sake all generations will call this humble servant, Mary, blessed. Martin Luther wrote of the Magnificat: “When the holy virgin experienced what great things God was working in her despite her insignificance, lowliness, poverty, and inferiority, the Holy Spirit taught her this deep insight and wisdom, that God is the kind of Lord who does nothing but exalt those of low degree and put down the mighty from their thrones, in short, break what is whole and make whole what is broken” (AE 21:299).

Dear friends, on account of our sin, we, too, are the humble and hungry, the lowly. We are spiritually impoverished without any possible hope to reverse our fortunes. Since we cannot restore things on our own, we need someone to come and save us. That was God’s plan from the very beginning. God spoke words of promise as he banished Adam and Eve from the garden by promising that one of their own descendants would bruise for them the serpent’s head. The Old Testament is full of signs pointing us forward to the fulfillment of that promise. From Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Judah and Tamar, Rahab and Ruth, David and Bathsheba, Joseph and Mary, we see how God was at work, weaving his plan of salvation through each subsequent generation, right up until the Holy Spirit came upon Mary so that she would become pregnant with the long-promised Messiah. It may not make sense to the world, but God does not operate the way the world does.


While Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit, he still was born of the Virgin Mary, and therefore, according to his human nature, he ate and drank, wept and slept, felt emotions and physical pain—like all other human beings. Jesus had to be conceived by the Holy Spirit to be of the same substance with the Father, to be truly God, without sin, perfect and holy in every way. But he also had to be born of Mary. He had to be flesh and blood, truly human in fulfillment of the promise that “the virgin shall conceive and bear a son” (Is 7:14). He was born covered in blood, and he would die covered in blood. For the way that he would save his people from their sins was by shedding his blood on the cross for the forgiveness of their sins. He came to redeem us, to buy us back for God. Not with gold or silver but with his holy, precious blood. Jesus had to be fully God, but he also had to be fully human so that he could shed that blood on the cross for us.

It doesn’t make sense that the Son of God would get up from the table and, with a towel and basin, wash his disciples’ feet. It doesn’t make sense that the Holy One of Israel would associate with an adulterous Samaritan woman or heal the Roman centurion’s servant. It doesn’t make sense that this descendant of David and Abraham would associate with tax collectors and prostitutes. Most of all, it does not make sense that the Son of God would come to die. But that’s just the kind of Lord he is. For it is in his wounds that we find healing. It is in his taking on our shame that we are made righteous. It is in his being forsaken that we are restored. And it is in his death that we live. How truly backward it seems. But it should really come as no shock at all that God’s way seems so very foreign to sinners.

The resurrection did not make sense either. Everyone expected that Jesus’ body would be found in the tomb. The fact that the stone was rolled away and that his body was missing must have been the work of the gardener, or else some enemy like the Pharisees had taken him. But once again, God’s design doesn’t have to make sense to us. The numbers don’t have to add up. Matthew was not intending to list all the ancestors of Jesus or for the numbers to line up just right. His genealogy shows us that while the family of Jesus was fraught with mistakes and misdeeds, the promised descendant would be perfect in every way. In fact, though Jesus’ family was marred by sin, God’s plan of salvation was perfect; Christ exchanged his holiness for our sin and his death for our life. And death could not hold Jesus, so in the resurrection on the Last Day, we will see with our own eyes our Redeemer, who lives.


What it means for you is that God still doesn’t work the way that the world does. God still turns the world upside down and doesn’t operate the way the world expects. The almighty God became a tiny baby, knit together in Mary’s womb. The King of kings and Lord of lords was born to an unknown peasant girl with a questionable lineage. He still comes to us today through his Word, attached to the ordinary elements of water and bread and wine. His power is still made perfect in our weakness. What we deserve for our actions is death, but he has given us the free gift of eternal life. We, the lowly, are exalted by God humbling his Son.

Nothing about this story makes sense, as Luther wrote: “[God] turns the world with all its wisdom and power into foolishness and gives us another wisdom and power” (AE 21:314). A virgin found to be with child. A Savior wrapped in swaddling cloths. A King lying in a manger. Peace on earth in infant form. Good news for all the world announced to shepherds. But it all comes together as God’s plan and his fulfillment of his promises.

God Turns the Ways of the World Upside Down by Sending His Son to Be Born of a Virgin and to Exchange His Life for Ours.

The genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David and the Son of Abraham, demonstrates this with every name and every generation. God’s ways are certainly not our ways, but he has remained faithful to all of his promises that were given to all the saints of old. The list of names serves as a beautiful reminder that Jesus Christ came for all people. The genealogy of Jesus isn’t a fairy tale. It is a reality show full of sinners and scandals. But all are people for whom Jesus died—David and Abraham, Joseph and Mary—all.

In the name of Jesus. Amen.