During this special Year of the Word: The God Who Speaks, we are going to have a regular series of reflections published on our website which will prompt us to reflect on important passages of St Matthew’s Gospel, and learn more about them. We are very grateful to Dr Natalie Watson, a contemporary theologian and writer, for offering these reflections for our community.
Matthew is one of the two New Testament writers who opens his Gospel with the birth of Jesus. While Luke’s Gospel tells us about Mary, the mother of Jesus, and her encounter with an angel, the writer of Matthew’s Gospel begins with a man called Joseph who has a dream – not an ordinary dream, but a dream that will change everything, not just for Joseph and Mary his fiancée, but for all people.
‘Do not be afraid.’ This is how God speaks to his people in the Old Testament, and this is God’s message to Joseph. This child that Mary is carrying is no ordinary child: ‘She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’
The message of Matthew’s Gospel is that Jesus is the saviour for whom God’s people have been waiting, the one about whom the prophets of Israel spoke long ago. And now this prophecy is going to be fulfilled. The name given to the child is Jesus. In English the name Jesus means ‘God comes to the rescue’ or ‘God saves’. Matthew quotes from the Old Testament prophet Isaiah: ‘Look, the virgin (or young woman) shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel’ Emmanuel means ‘God is with us’.
In Jesus, God comes to us; he comes to save us, and he is with us as he was with the people of Israel. Because he is with us, we do not have to be afraid.
God of all people, because you are with us, we do not have to be afraid. Come to our rescue and help us to trust in Jesus our Saviour.