Noah. David. Daniel. Are these the people that come to mind when you think of faith-action heroes? Spending your life’s savings to build a boat that may never see water seems like a pointless waste. Staring up at an armed and angry nine-foot giant while packing nothing more than a few stones seems foolhardy. And willingly descending into a pit of hungry lions because you would rather suffer a tortuous death than stop praying for a month? Wow! Compared to these men the man I want to speak to you about this morning might not seem all that courageous. That man is Joseph, my husband. He too is a faith-action hero. May I share why I think so in my Advent Admissions?
I, Mary of Nazareth, met Joseph when…oh never mind. That part of our history is not important. It’s enough for you to know that Joseph was a simple carpenter from my hometown. But because he was hardworking and was a pious believer, my father readily accepted his proposal for my hand in marriage. Once we became engaged, Joseph started to prepare a place for us to live. Only when those accommodations were done would we live together as husband and wife – though in the eyes of the people we were already that.
That’s why when I became pregnant with Jesus, pregnant due to the miraculous working of God the Holy Spirit, Joseph was devastated. As far as he could figure, I must have enjoyed the company of another man when I had gone off to visit my cousin Elizabeth in Judea for three months. Did I try to convince Joseph otherwise? What was I supposed to say? “I’m a pregnant virgin, Joseph. An angel told me that I would give birth to God’s Son.” It still sounds so ridiculous! But that was the truth and someone else, namely God, would have to convince Joseph of it.
Joseph told me later that he felt so alone when he found out that I was pregnant. He wanted to seek the advice of others but he knew that if he made a big deal, it could have easily led to a public renouncing which would have ended in my death by stoning! I’m sure there were a number of people in Nazareth who thought I deserved that.
After much agonizing Joseph decided to divorce me quietly. Did Joseph have a God-pleasing right to file for a divorce? As far as he knew, he did. If I really had been unfaithful, then God allowed for divorce. But by planning on giving me a certificate of divorce quietly, Joseph showed what an upstanding man he was. Although he was disappointed in me, he wasn’t spiteful. But after Joseph had resolved to carry out his plan, an angel appeared to him in a dream and told Joseph not to be afraid to take me home as his wife because what was growing inside of me was in fact the Son of God.
Joseph’s experience reminds me how just because you have thought through a problem doesn’t mean that your conclusion will be in line with God’s will. Are there things you have convinced yourself as being God-pleasing but may not be? Perhaps it’s the treatment of your parents, or the way that you talk to your children or spouse. Maybe it’s how you take care of personal business on company time. Don’t just do what others do. Don’t just act in a way that seems acceptable. Find out from God’s Word what his will is for you in all matters! That means, for example, speaking kind words to others even if they don’t return the respect.
Of course there are situations when God isn’t clear about which direction you should take like which school you should attend or how much of your income you should spend on yourself and how much of it you should save and give away. Seek God’s guidance in prayer. Ask a fellow believer’s advice. And check your motivation. Then make a decision and ask God to bless it. If the decision is not in line with his will, trust that God will intervene. He did in Joseph’s case when he sent an angel to convince him not to divorce me.
So how would you have reacted to the angel’s message? Would you have asked God to send another angel just to make sure the message was for real? Joseph didn’t. He obeyed…immediately. He took me into his house and cared for me. Together we would face the ridicule and the questions that were sure to come regarding this pregnancy. Do you see why I consider Joseph a faith-action hero? Faith is not just agreeing with what God says; it’s doing what he says even when it doesn’t make sense or is “inconvenient.”
Joseph willingly sacrificed his reputation and accepted Jesus as his own child. Joseph’s faith would not be disappointed, for his step-son would one day sacrifice more than his reputation; he would sacrifice himself so that Joseph and every other sinner would be accepted as God’s child. And that is what you are through faith in Jesus. This is especially good news if you have tarnished your family’s reputation so that you’re not really welcome around their dinner table for Christmas. God doesn’t feel that way about you. He’s washed you and dressed you with Jesus’ perfection. You have a seat at his table. You have a room in his mansion and it’s not just a guest room; it’s your very own because through Jesus you are a member of God’s family.
But please don’t think that your faith in Jesus will make your life now any easier. Joseph’s faith sure didn’t. There were the snickering voices he had to put up with for taking me in. There was the inconvenience of having to travel to Bethlehem with a very pregnant wife. And then there was the danger of fleeing from a murderous King Herod and having to live in a foreign land for a time.
Joseph’s actions were especially commendable when you consider that he didn’t receive immediate confirmation that he was doing the right thing. An angel didn’t reappear to him after he took me in to slap him on the back and give him the thumbs up. When the only accommodation we could find in Bethlehem was that cattle stall, no angel appeared to tell Joseph that everything would be OK. Even when Jesus was born, no angel appeared before us to sing sweet lullabies! Don’t you think Joseph would have appreciated heavenly confirmation that my firstborn really was the Son of God and not the son of some guy in Judea? Oh sure, angels appeared to shepherds out in a field to tell them that my son was also God’s Son. But when the shepherds ended up being our only visitors, when no priests or court officials followed to worship Jesus that night or the next day, it would have been easy for Joseph to wonder whether or not he had been duped.
Do you sometimes feel the same way in this church? It’s a rather humble structure filled with people who don’t have much of a standing in this world. No celestial choirs sing here. No divine voice booms from heaven shaking the rafters. Have you been duped? Are you wasting your time here? Not at all! The same thing that kept Joseph going keeps you eagerly returning here to be filled with joy and peace. Do you know what that is? Ancient prophecies fulfilled. Through the prophet Isaiah God had said: “the virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14). If we had owned a refrigerator, Joseph would have pinned those words to it to remind himself of reality. I was not pregnant because I had been unfaithful. I was pregnant because God is faithful.
You have God’s Word too don’t you? In fact you have so much more of it to lean on than we did! You have Jesus’ words and his apostles’ writings which were inspired by the Holy Spirit – words which assure that your sins are forgiven, that you have a home in heaven, that everything you do now from making lunches for the kids to putting new paper in the copy machine at work has meaning and value when it’s done to God’s glory.
Yes, it was quite a miracle when I, a virgin, became pregnant with the Son of God. But the Holy Spirit was at work in Joseph too. He created faith so that Joseph would believe and act on the angel’s message. Sure Noah, David, and Daniel are obvious faith-action heroes but add my husband Joseph to that list and include your name too! The Holy Spirit still is at work in people like you that you too may be faith-action heroes and a blessing to others. Amen.
Joseph was described as a “righteous” man by Matthew. How did Joseph show his “righteousness” in the way that he was going to deal with a seemingly unfaithful fiancé?
Joseph was wrong about Mary. She hadn’t been unfaithful. What warning or reminder does that give us about the way we are to treat others, and as we determine what God’s will is in everyday choices we make?
How exactly did Joseph show himself to be a faith-action hero?
“I’ve never seen an angel like Joseph did so I can’t be a faith-action hero like he was.” Agree or disagree? Explain:
Agree or disagree? Explain: The miracle the Holy Spirit worked in Joseph’s heart (faith) was just as important the miracle he worked in Mary’s womb (the incarnation of God’s Son).