Matthew's Perspective on the Christmas Story
Behind these events, the highest and lowest points in the history of Israel, stands the sovereignty of God, who works out all things in accordance with his purpose and timing
To understand this one must recognize that in Jewish marriage there were three steps. The first step was the engagement, a contract arranged by family members who determined whether the couple would be well suited for each other and for a future marriage. Second, there was the betrothal, the public ratification of the engagement, with a period of one year for the couple to become known as belonging to each other, but not having the rights of living together as husband and wife. The only way a betrothal could be terminated was by a divorce. In Jewish law there is a phrase which states that a young woman whose fiancé dies during the period of betrothal is called “a virgin who is a widow.” Mary and Joseph were in the second stage in the account of this text. The third stage is the marriage proper, which took place at the end of the year of betrothal.
The Incarnation is God’s greatest affirmation of humanness. In the Incarnation God demonstrated that He could become human without becoming sinful. Humanness and sinfulness are not synonymous. Sinfulness is the perversion of the truly human, the perversion of the Imago Dei (the image of God) in which we were created. Salvation is, among other things, the restoration of the truly human in our lives, the correction of perversion so that we may be persons who express again the image of God.
Following is an outline on the Incarnation from this passage: Jesus was (1) conceived by the Holy Spirit, 1:18–20; (2) confirmed by the Holy Angel, 1:20–21; and (3) contextualized by the Holy Scriptures, 1:22–23.
This is at best an undertone of the passage, since Matthew gives no hint that this was in his mind. What is in Matthew’s mind is that Gentiles, those considered alien to God’s purposes, exhibit an openness to God’s purposes (even through the instrumentality of their own craft) and an eager receptivity toward the newborn king.
Matthew tells us that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, the City of David, emphasizing the royal lineage. His emphasis is clearly focused on the kingly lineage of the Christ even in the lowly circumstances of His birth. Again, the quotation from the Old Testament prophet is the bridge from the old covenant to the new and a further testimony to salvation history, the fulfillment of God’s plan predicted through the ages by His prophets.