Bob's Sermon for Sunday, December 31, 2017

 

Please note: Robert’s Sermon series are copyrighted. They may not be reproduced in whole, or in part, without express written permission. A single copy may, however, be downloaded expressly for personal use.

                                  

 

 

 

“When the angel said, ‘I’ve got news for you, Joseph’”

 

Matthew 1:18-25 

 

     (Mat 1:18 NIV) This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. (19) Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

     (20) But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. (21) She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins."

     (22) All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: (23) "The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel" --which means, "God with us."

     (24) When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. (25) But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.

 

     We usually associate Christmas with joyful, merry things like:

We cherish theses images.

 

     But there’s another part of the Christmas story. One not often told. Joseph experienced it. We all do at times. It can be painful, gut wrenching, and sharp. I’m talking about the need to do the right thing even though from our perspective, circumstances don’t seem to warrant it. You’re possibly dealing with someone this very day who is acting in a manner that you feel isn’t deserving—someone you’re having a hard time loving. Or you are struggling to do the right thing. Maybe a son, daughter, a long-time friend, a neighbor, a coworker, an in-law or spouse is causing you fits.

 

     That person isn’t acting loveably. You’re ready to give up, call it quits. Dealing with situations like that is part of the Christmas story, but hardly anyone mentions it.

·         Instead we feature nativity scenes depicting loving, doting saintly parents tending the Christ-child.

·         A star of peace beams overhead.

·         Admiring shepherds and wise men worship the child and congratulate the parents.

Those are the Christmas scenes we see. But if you could run the tape back six months, the scene might not be so heavenly. You’d probably witness some tension in the so-called holy family. Maybe some bickering. The kind of talk you hear in ordinary households

 

     Manger scenes and nativity pictures implant images that aren’t completely realistic. Mary was likely of junior high age—probably 13 or 14. Joseph was probably a little older. They were betrothed. For Jewish couples, that meant engaged, but with a stronger commitment than modern engagements intimate.

 

THE MARRIAGE EXAM

When the minister of Bay Shore Community Church introduced his midweek study on marriage, he asked the younger Sunday school kids to answer a series of questions about the great institution.

 

Q What is the proper age to marry? A: "Eighty-four. Because at that age you don't have to work anymore, and you can spend all your time loving each other."

 

Q When is it okay to kiss someone?

A: "Never kiss in front of other people. It's a big embarrassing thing if anyone sees you. But if nobody sees you, I might be willing to try it with a hand­some boy, but just for a few hours."

 

Q Is it better to be single or married? A: "It's better for girls to be single, but not for boys. Boys need somebody to clean up after them."

 

Q. How does love happen between two people? A: "I think you're supposed to be shot with an arrow or something, but the rest isn't supposed to be so painful."

 

Q: What is falling in love like?

A: "Like an avalanche where you have to run for your life."

 

Q: Why do lovers hold hands?

A: "They want to make sure their rings don't fall off, because they paid good money for them."

 

Q: How does a person learn to kiss?

A: "You learn right on the spot, when the 'gooshy' feelings get the best of you.”

 

Q: How do you make love endure?

A: "Don't forget your wife's name-that will mess up the love." "Be a good kisser. It might make your wife forget that you never take the trash out."

-          THE WORLD'S GREATEST COLLECTION Of CHURCH JOKES, p. 237

 

     In Bible times, marriages were often arranged by the parents. The couple made a commitment when the bride-to-be was about twelve and then they’d get married a year later. In the interim they didn’t see each other much. It wasn’t like some modern engaged couples. They might live together five years before they become engaged, and then schedule the wedding another year or two down the road. The bride-to-be was expected to be a virgin.

 

     If you think that husbands-to-be weren’t held to the same standard, remember that people caught in the act of adultery were put to death—both the man and the woman. But the year’s engagement or betrothal provided ample time to demonstrate that any children born of the bride would belong to the husband. The limited contact during the year of betrothal gave time to make sure. If the husband-to-be had no contact with his fiancée for a year, and she became pregnant, he knew that the kid couldn’t be his.

 

     Back to Joseph and Mary. Their year of betrothal hadn’t ended. But there was a problem. It wasn’t in Houston. It was in Nazareth. Mary was pregnant. Recall that the angel Gabriel forewarned Mary that she would become pregnant by the Holy Spirit. She was shocked, remember? “How can this be, because I haven’t slept with a man?’ Mary was a virtuous young woman. She knew it. The Lord knew it. You and I believe it. But here was Joseph’s perspective. As soon as the angel told Mary what was going to happen to her she left to visit her cousin Elizabeth who lived in Judea 60 or 70 miles away. She stayed three months. Then she returned to Nazareth.

 

     Here’s how our text described it: This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit.

 

     How did Joseph find out? Did Mary’s best friend or neighbor tell him? Could he tell from looking at her? We don’t know how Joseph got the message. But men, put yourself in Joseph’s sandals. Your fiancée whom you are to marry in a few months leaves to visit her cousin. She stays three months. She returns pregnant and tells you the Holy Spirit made her pregnant.

 

     Would you buy that story? Would your friends believe it even if you did? Joseph was in a tough spot. He was good guy. He was in love with Mary. He wanted to do right, so he tried to keep Mary from public disgrace and maybe death. He hoped to arrange a private, quiet divorce. That’s how serious engagements were? They required a legal divorce.

 

     (19) Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. Think of what must have gone through his mind.

·         He was humiliated and embarrassed.

·         His fiancée disappointed him.

·         He lost her love.

·         His friends will probably ridicule him as a cuckold.

·         Someone will say, “I told you so!”

 

     Recall our different Christmas theme today? I’m talking about the need to do the right thing even though humanly speaking circumstances don’t seem to warrant it. We lose patience and confidence in our loved ones. They’ve let us down. It’s time to give up on them. That’s what Joseph had been thinking about. We get to the point don’t’ we? That’s what Joseph had been considering.

 

     Without angelic intervention, Joseph would never have believed Mary: an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. We say, “Well if an angel appeared to me in a dream, I’d know what to do. I could do the right thing.”

 

     Consider what the book of Hebrews says:

 

     (Hebrews 1:4, 5 NIV) So he (Jesus) became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs. For to which of the angels did God ever say, "You are my Son; today I have become your Father"? Joseph got his instructions from a mere angel. We get ours from the Son of God in the Scriptures. I don’t understand the fascination people have with angels. What Jesus tells us is infinitely more important than what any angel might say. We should be listening to what God’s Son tells us in the Bible. And what he tells us is to keep forgiving and continue loving. Love never gives up.

 

     We do the right thing even though circumstances don’t seem to warrant it. We benefit from the Christmas story today because Joseph didn’t give up on his loved one. I think of how my life has been changed because people didn’t give up on me.

 

     Let me relate a few instances of how the principle operates that we’ve been speaking of today—the need to love people who don’t seem to deserve it. Henry Martyn was one of the greatest world missionaries and translators of Scripture of the last few centuries. But without someone else practicing our principle today Henry Martyn may never have become a missionary. Martyn’s story, and that of many great missionaries, began at Cambridge University a generation earlier. A preacher by the name of Charles Simeon was called to preach at a church there known as Holy Trinity.

 

     Charles Simeon had a problem. The congregation at Holy Trinity didn’t want him there. If you’ve ever been to the Old North Church in Boston, you’ll know that pews were enclosed in the days when that church building was constructed. You bought your pew, could put a lock on the door of the enclosure, and no one else could sit in it. The Old North Church still has names on many of the pews. They’re the names of prominent Boston families who owned those pews and sat in them.

 

     When Charles Simeon first began preaching at Holy Trinity Church at Cambridge University the congregation locked all the pews. People who came to hear Charles Simeon preach had to stand in the aisles. Church people even had the church bell enscribed in the following way: “Glory to God and damnation to enthusiasm.”

 

     Charles Simeon preached and practiced what Jesus taught. He kept loving even when those people seemed not to deserve it.

·         He preached the Scriptures.

·         He exalted Christ.

·         He had a great passion for missions and the Great Commission of Jesus.

·         He held Friday tea session where he taught the Bible.

·         He discussed the Scriptures with students and began a strong evangelical movement.

He influenced hundreds of young men including Henry Martyn, the great missionary I referred to earlier. (See the Christian Persuader by Leighton Ford, p -54 and martynmission.cam.ac.uk/CLife.htm

·         Joseph learned that.

·         Charles Simeon learned it.

We do the right thing even though circumstances don’t seem to warrant it.

 

     I read the true story of a man whose wife was unfaithful to him. A little girl was born. He didn’t know if the little girl was his or his wife’s lover. He faced a terrible decision. How would he treat that little girl? Here’s what he decided. That little girl needed a father. He knew the lover would never love her and care for her. Only he could do that, so he accepted and loved the little girl as if there were no doubt that she was his own. He also continued to treat his wife lovingly and respectfully.

 

     We love those who seem not to deserve it. That’s exactly what God did for us in Christ.

 

     ”At the right time, Christ died for the ungodly.”

 

     (21) She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins."

 

Those people who were saved from their sins by that child that Joseph took and reared as his own include you and me. That’s an important part of the Christmas story that we need always to practice.

 

 

Bob Blair

PO Box176

Cleghorn, IA 51014

 

 


 

Back To Home