It Wouldn’t Be Christmas Without…Part. 2
Matthew 1:18-25New Living Translation (NLT) 18 This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. 19 Joseph, to whom she was engaged, was a righteous man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement[a] quietly. 20 As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus,[b] for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet: 23 “Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’” 24 When Joseph woke up, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded and took Mary as his wife. 25 But he did not have sexual relations with her until her son was born. And Joseph named him Jesus.
Merry Christmas!!! Jesus is right about to be born!
Now we are going to be continuing our journey in this message of series, “It wouldn’t be Christmas without..” We are going to study a character. In his real life, he had a real dilemma. He’s got a whole bunch of problems. He’s got to solve the problems and a clock is ticking. It wouldn’t be Christmas without Joseph. And Joseph has got a real problem on his hands when it comes to his life situation. His story is told to us in Matthew’s gospel. Let’s take a look at it and see how this story unfolds because Joseph has got to navigate it without any helps. (slide 1) “18 This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. 19 Joseph, to whom she was engaged, was a righteous man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly.”
What a story. OK, let’s begin to understand what’s going on. In the first century, when you got married, there were three stages of marriage. First was the arrangement stage. Parents arranged the marriage. Second was the engagement stage which was called betrothal. That is where they exchange their vow publicly and consider each other as husband and wife. But they didn’t consummate the relationship. And then there was the third stage of marriage where they were actually married. So Joseph and Mary were in the second stage of this marriage situation. That is where the problem with this news comes. How would Mary start the conversation? I don’t know. “Joseph, I have something to tell you. I’ve got pregnant, but don’t worry. It is by the Holy Spirit!” What would’ve been going on in Joseph’s mind? Can you imagine? Can you try to think about that for a moment? I am sure he was confused. I am sure he was shocked. And I am also sure he was angry. Right? He ends up facing a choice. He’s got a perplexing dilemma on his hands. It seems like his choice is one of two things. One is he can decide to divorce Mary publicly. He can break their engagement publicly. It would involved with the court and at the court if people thought Mary was guilty of the break of marriage, It could bring Mary would either be publicly shamed or publicly stoned to death. Second option was for him to divorce Mary privately, quietly. This one involved him writing a letter to divorce, delivering it with two witnesses, and then handing it to Mary. They didn’t have to know what was causing the break-up. So Joseph was trying to figure out what he’s going to do. He had to choose between these two serious options, two serious choices. Christmas requires us a lot of choices. Am I going to serve turkey or ham? Are we going to travel for Christmas or what are we going to do? We have all kinds of decisions that we are going to make. Who am I going to buy a present for? How much money should I spend? This kind of dilemmas. Joseph’s dilemma was a kind of serious. His choice was whether to divorce Mary publicly or divorce Mary privately? Some of us might be on the similar spot. Here is what I mean. How are we navigating the dysfunctional relationships in your family this Christmas? That’s a kind of serious situation, isn’t it? Have you ever faced a choice about who you are going to reach out to or not going to reach out to? Maybe your family or your friends. Have you ever faced decisions about how you are going to live this Christmas anchored in faith, not fear? These are big decisions. We have faced many situations that we need to make such a complex, challenging decision along the way, right? Joseph knows the pain, too. He was facing that critical moment in his life with Mary and her unborn baby. What is he going to do? And Frankly, neither of the options for him to choose seems very good. There is one of my favorite movies. It is called Argo and it is a true story about what takes place in 1979 when American embassy was overrun in Iran. Six of Americans make it out, escape, and they hide out in Canadian ambassador’s home. And the United States government has to figure out how to get them out. So they start working up some plans. They think about sending some bicycles in, so that they can actually paddle their way out of the terrain. They also think about providing fake IDs so that they can be disguised as English teachers and make their way out that way. Tony Mendez is a CIA operative. He comes up with a plan to create a movie studio in Hollywood. And then he goes in and rescue them posing as a Hollywood film producer. And this idea was not a very popular in the true story in 1979. Let’s watch this together. (slide 2) Don’t you love that line? “This is the best bad idea we have, sir.” I feel that way when it comes to when I make decisions in my life. Have you? Choosing between the bad idea or another bad idea. Which one is good, which one is best. If you felt like me, then we can all relate to Joseph. And Joseph is going to show us this morning how we can follow God when the options seem limited and the choices seem hard. When things are not cut and dry, when things are complex, when things are messy kind of like my life and yours perhaps. Here is the question we are going to look at today. (slide3) “How do I follow God when facing difficult choices?” Look with me number one. Let’s read it out loud. (slide 4) 1. Remain teachable, flexible, and come under God’s authority. Tim Collins is the author of the book, “Good to Great”, and he says in his book, (slide 5) “Good is the enemy of great. And that is one of the key reasons why we have so little that becomes great. We don’t have great schools, principally because we have good schools. We don’t have great government, Principally because we have good government. Few people attain great lives, in large part because it is just so easy to settle for a good life.” Now to Joseph’s credit, he made a good decision, I think, to divorce Mary quietly. It is really commendable, if we think about it. He sets aside his anger or his needs. He only thinks about Mary. And yet even though his commendable decision was not what God has in mind. See Joseph’s good decision is still not GOd’s great plan for him. Look with me the next part of story. Matthew chapter 1 verses 20-22, (slide 5) “20 As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet: 23 “Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means “God is with us”
Whoa! What a dream! Right? Can you imagine Joseph being hearing this? He is considering what to do. Public divorce or private divorce. He goes to sleep and God says, “I know even your good idea, Joseph, it is not in my plan. My plan is so wild, so out of the box, almost unbelievable. God says, “Don’t just divorce Mary, either one of the ways. Take her home. Make her your wife. Raise that child for he is going to be the Savior of the world!” Wow! What a dream, What an amazing thing! You see Joseph had resolve the problem to do the loving thing, but God has called him to do the supernatural thing. Not to settle for good, but to look for and dream of God’s GREAT plan for his life. And the cool thing is Joseph is flexible, teachable and he is under God’s authority! When he’s considering his decisions, he is quiet enough to hear God’s speak.
You know in the Bible, God speaks 70 times in the dreams. Five times in the first chapters of Matthew’s Gospel alone. I think it is because when we are finally going to sleep, we are finally quiet enough to hear God’s small voice. Maybe that is only moments of a day.
Some of us need to hear that voice right now. When we are facing a decision and don’t know what to do. I want to invite us not to only settle for a good idea, but to seek God’s great dream for our life even our decision-making.
We got to hear God’s voice. We got to take the cotton out of our ears and put them in our mouths. We got to be quiet and listen. We probably have a question. “How do I know it is God speaking?” Let me share with you some insights that actually we can find in Joseph’s story. (slide 6) God speaks in keeping with God’s Word. God is not going to say something that is outside of God’s word. God is not going to say things contradictory to God’s word. The second thing to know is God speaks in keeping with God’s plan. This is why the angel said, “Joseph, Son of David.” That’s like it was his full name. Because the angel was trying to call David back to understanding his heritage. God had always said to his ancestors that God would send a Savior to David’s household, so he says Joseph SOn of David. When you are wondering “Is this God’s voice or my voice” Is this just rough night sleep or pizza that I had last night. Is that what is talking to me? What am I going to do here? God is going to speak to us in these two ways. Keeping with God’s word and keeping with GOd’s plan. And the question is “are we listening?” Are we listening? Don’t settle for good when God wants to give you something great in your life. Look with me number 2. “How do we follow God when we are facing difficult choices?” (slide 7) Let’s read it together. 2. Respond with obedience to God. When God gives us a dream, we got to respond with obedience. Every year we see our children’s Christmas pageant program, or somewhere else’s Christmas story, right? And in the Christmas story, probably Joseph is the most boring character. I mean, think about this. The Angels come, people come to praise the newborn baby and Magi dressed in their gorgeous robes, they come and bring their gifts to Jesus. Angels singing and they dressed all in white robes. Joseph, what does he do? He just stands there. Look with me how Matthew tells a story about Joseph. (slide 8) “24 When Joseph woke up, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded and took Mary as his wife. 25 But he did not have sexual relations with her until her son was born. And Joseph named him Jesus.” See Joseph just stands there. He doesn’t really do anything. He just stands there. But all of us know that standing firm doing nothing is one of the hardest things to do for us! Am I getting amen to that? It is the most boring thing, the hardest thing to do for us! Joseph is standing firm on the dream that GOd has given him. He is obedient. He has no lines to say, he has no sings to sing. He just stands there. He takes Mary home to be his wife. He has no union with her. I think when doubts arise in him, he just stays in his small carpentry room and he works that out with God alone. He stands firm in there. He shows us what ordinary obediences are like. Ordinary obedience is Joseph’s story, isn’t it? What is ordinary obedience? I think ordinary obedience is showing up to church on Sunday mornings instead of going to other places so that we can get our kids to be in the great place, the God’s place. Our child can know that GOd is there forever for them. This kind of decision that we make. It is the decision to be generous instead of greedy in this time of season. It is the decision to live purity even thou this society screams at us different messages. It is the decision to live humbly even though our society is obsessed with popularity and arrogance. This is ordinary obedience. I really believe God honors that ordinary obedience. Just stand there for God. Stands firm in God’s dream and faith! I think Joseph was a great guy and wonderful, amazing Father to Jesus. The way Jesus honored his father was amazing. When Jesus taught his disciples how to pray, he taught them with this. “Pray like this. Our Father…” Isn’t that cool? Jesus was the first person who called God Father. And I really believe Joseph, Jesus earthly father was the one who had given the image of God to Jesus. Joseph was just standing in his faith, but God did a spectacular thing through him for the whole world, raising the Savior for us! Be obedient and stand firm for GOd’s great plan for you! I believe God doesn’t want to give us just a good life. God wants to give us a great life. Listen to God and stand there for God’s plan. Thanks be to God! Amen.