She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins. (Matthew 1:21 ESV)
Though Matthew for us is separated by only a page turn from Malachi, the events of Matthew occurred 400 years after Malachi’s death. During that time, the empire of Alexander the Great both defeated the Persians and fell. Finally, the Romans seized control of the known world. The Israelites then no doubt felt the LORD had abandoned them, while living under the thumb of Rome and without the prophets to speak God’s Words.
But God had not abandoned them.
An angel appears to a young virgin named Mary, telling her that she will become pregnant by the power of the Holy Spirit. This is a difficult story for her fiancé, Joseph, to believe, so he decides to divorce her quietly to avoid shaming her. Before he could do this, an angel appears to him as well, explaining that Mary is telling the truth and that he must name the child Jesus. Joseph obeys the angel, remaining with Mary and Jesus.
We must consider two things from this text.
First, God was intentional in Jesus’ naming. Jesus means the LORD saves, and the angel explicitly states that “He will save his people from their sins.”
If that wasn’t enough, Matthew then cites Isaiah 7:14 as being fulfilled by these events (vv. 22-23). Mary was the virgin who conceived and gave birth, and Jesus is Immanuel. Jesus is the Messiah, God with us, who came to save humanity from the deadly effects of sin.
Though Jesus came when many had lost hope in His arrival, He was born “when the fullness of time had come (Gal. 4:4).” In what ways does the birth of Christ teach us to trust in God’s plan and timing?