Summary: What was God really doing in the birth of the Messiah as He entered into a hurting and broken world?
A Way In A Manger - Matthew 1:18-25 - December 23, 2012
Series: Advent 2012 - #4
Well last Sunday night we enjoyed the Sunday School Christmas Concert – an evening of celebration that we look forward to each and every year. But we’re not the only church to do something like that of course – churches across the country celebrate in similar ways. And while intentions are good, when you’re working with children, things don’t always go as planned. That being said I want to share with you the story of another Sunday School Christmas concert that took place some years ago.
This was a traditional retelling of the Christmas story, with all the main characters represented, and played by, the young children of the church.
“One boy really wanted to be Joseph, but when the parts were handed out, he was assigned to be the innkeeper instead. He couldn’t stand the guy who got to be Joseph but he kept quiet about everything. Inside [though] he was secretly plotting how to get back at his rival.
On the night of the performance, Mary and Joseph came walking across the stage and knocked on the door of the inn. [Just like they’d practiced,] The innkeeper opened the door and asked them gruffly what they wanted. Joseph answered, “We’d like to have a room for the night.” [Now, this is where things departed from the script that had been so carefully prepared and which they had practiced so diligently week after week. This was the innkeeper’s big moment, this was his chance for revenge - and instead of saying, “I’m sorry I have no room,” and shutting the door, the innkeeper suddenly threw the door wide open, and, with an even wider smile, called out with the most welcoming voice he could muster,] “Great, come on in and I’ll give you the best room in the house!”
For a few seconds poor little Joseph didn’t know what to do. [But] Thinking quickly on his feet, he looked inside the door past the innkeeper and then said, “No wife of mine is going to stay in a dump like this. Come on, Mary, let’s go to the barn.” (Brian Bill, A Savior Worth Waiting For, www.sermoncentral.com)
Joseph usually doesn’t get much of a role in your typical Christmas concert. His is a supporting character at best. The focus tends to be on the angels proclaiming the birth of Christ, on the shepherds in their fields tending their flocks, on Mary and the precious child lying in the manger. Even the wise men, who would not have been there the night of Christ’s birth, tend to have a more prominent part to play than does Joseph.
Perhaps we ought not to be surprised by that. Joseph is one of the few characters in the Christmas story without a voice. His is a testimony from silence. But like his namesake in the children’s Christmas pageant, the real Joseph needed to think quickly on his feet as well, because he discovered, as we so often do ourselves, that the carefully crafted script of our lives can take sudden and unexpected turns. And when it does, our hearts cry out, asking, “Where is God in the midst of this pain and suffering and turmoil? Where is God when my world is falling to pieces and my heart is overwhelmed with grief? Where is God when my life no longer follows the script that I had envisioned, when my dreams crash down, and my world is turned upside down – where is God? Can He see me through these dark days? Can He make a way?”
Those are the types of questions that are being asked in Newtown, Connecticut this week. Where was God when evil stalked the halls of Sandy Hook school? Where was God when little children, and their teachers, were shot and killed by a masked gunman?
It’s a question asked by many when life suddenly doesn’t make sense any more – when you lose your job, or your marriage falls apart, or a loved one dies at the hands of a drunk driver, or the doctor tells you that you aren’t going to get better – only worse. Where is God when it hurts and all the best laid plans of your life are shattered by the unexpected?
Perhaps it’s a question that Joseph was tempted to ask as well. From his point of view he would certainly have had cause – cause to ask – cause to wonder – cause to rail against the world in his disappointment – cause for bitterness. We don’t tend to consider this aspect of the Christmas story, but it’s a part of it none-the-less, and one which we would do well to consider as we try to understand, and make sense of, those unscripted moments of our own lives – moments that threaten to steal both our happiness, and our joy.