Over the next four weeks, Phoenix Seminary faculty will post reflections on the stories of Jesus' birth from the four Gospels. Dr. Brian Arnold, President of Phoenix Seminary, begins the series with a reflection from the Gospel of Matthew.
One of my favorite parts of Matthew’s birth narrative is that Joseph is given two names for Mary’s baby. First he is told to name the boy Jesus, which means God saves, “for he will save his people from their sins” (Matt 1:21). His very name signals his mission. Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. He was born to die, and by his wounds, we are healed. Even Christmas is ultimately about Easter.
The second name comes in fulfillment of Isaiah 7:14—“they shall call his name Immanuel (which means, God with us)” (Matt 1:23). God with us—what an incredible promise! God stepped out of heaven and took on flesh so that he might become one of us.
And it’s not accidental that Matthew closes his Gospel with these final words from the lips of Jesus just as he was ascending to heaven—“and, lo, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt 28:20).
Jesus truly is God with us—not only when he came on that Christmas day more than two thousand years ago, not only when he returns to dwell with us forever—but he is God with us right now. Today.
Matthew reminds us of these two great realities about Christmas—Jesus has saved us from our sins, and he is with us always.
Given all that has happened this year, this is a reason to celebrate this Christmas!
Brian Arnold (Ph.D.) serves as the fourth President of Phoenix Seminary. Dr. Arnold earned his Ph.D. from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in 2013 and has since authored two books, Justification in the Second Century (de Gruyter; Baylor University Press) and Cyprian of Carthage: His Life and Impact (Christian Focus), and a number of journal articles. He has been married to Lauren since 2007 and has two children, Jameson and Natalie.