Sermons

Summary: What time is it in your life? Joseph may have been at a crossroads, when his original plan had gone astray, when his chances were running out; but God had a unique place for him.

To give a child a home, with security and love, is one of the highest callings anyone can follow. When you share of yourself with a child, you are living up to God’s intention that we be fruitful and replenish the earth. When you give security and love to a child, you are fulfilling humanity’s calling.

And when you give that security and love to a child who is technically not your own, you are imitating the self-giving love of God Himself. Adopting a child who is not your own flesh and blood, but who needs you, is truly participating in the Kingdom.

Adoption is in the news these days. You’ve read about the Cuban boy picked up in the water, whose relatives in Florida want to adopt him. You’ve heard of the child who has been cared for by a police officer after being born to a woman who had already killed one of her children. You know of the countless Korean and Romanian and Bosnian orphans sought by American couples. Adoption is in the news. I’m just glad I don’t have to be Judge Solomon, figuring out who belongs where!

Some of you have been through the adoption process. Every Christmas I think of a family living in Silver Spring; they were members of one of the churches I served as interim pastor. This couple had one daughter of their own, but then they went out and took on two of the most helpless, most needy children you could imagine. The boy was mildly retarded, unable to hear very well, clumsy, uncoordinated. But at least he was trainable. The girl they had adopted was completely deaf, almost blind, confined to a wheelchair, pitifully thin, hopelessly impaired, and already past her life expectancy. I think of this family at Christmas because, in that church, as in ours, the children would sing and read poems and do drama and laugh and shout around the Christmas tree. And these two severely challenged children would be taken up there, just like all the rest, not able to understand what was happening, but smiling because they at least caught the spirit of it all. I can see this father and this mother and their own teenage daughter, so incredibly full of joy. I wanted to cry; but they were full of joy. I wanted to run out of the room; but they stood with pride, along with all the parents of normal children, and acted as though they were the luckiest people in the world!

Adopting a child who is not your own flesh and blood, but who needs you, is truly participating in the Kingdom.

I think of a friend who adopted a college student. He and his wife were on the border of middle age. When they had married, she was a widow with two children; he had adopted them at that time. And now this college student came into his life, and, as he worked with her and tried to counsel, he found that her emotional instability stemmed from never having had a home. Her father and mother had separated, and she had lived all over the map. This young woman felt alone, abandoned, and unsettled. What she needed was an authentic family life. And so my friend and his wife added to their collection of adoptees one more, a twenty-one-year-old student, already legally an adult, but just somebody who needed the security of love and the nurture of a family.

Adopting a child who is not your own flesh and blood, but who needs you, is truly participating in the Kingdom.

But, on the other side of the ledger, I have known people who were themselves adopted. I have listened to them talk about how that felt. I especially remember the day one of my students at the University of Kentucky came rushing in. Breathlessly, she plopped down into a chair and shouted at me, “I just found out something. I just found out that my parents are not my parents. They just told me that I was adopted. After all these years, and I never knew it! Why did they keep it a secret? What happened when I was born? Who are my real parents? Why did they abandon me? Why … why …why?” Elizabeth was consumed with questions, and, as our conversation went on, she was caught up in anxiety. It’s hard to accept that somebody didn’t want you. We started a whole series of counseling sessions on that; Elizabeth was really letting her life get off track. This thing of adoption can be complicated.

So now put yourself in the shoes of Joseph, the carpenter of Nazareth. Imagine the decisions he had to make. They were adoption decisions. You know the story – how Joseph was engaged to a young woman, Mary. And how they had indeed kept themselves pure, as God’s law required. But one day Mary whispered to Joseph, “I have a little secret to tell you.” And the secret was really a doozie! I’m sure Mary was not the first woman to tell her significant other that a new life was on its way. And I am equally confident that there have been millions more since then. But how many men have had to deal with this kind of revelation? “Joseph, I have something to tell you. I’m going to have a baby. No, I have not been with another man. This child is special, very special. This child is the child of the Holy Spirit.” Wow! Put yourself in Joseph’s shoes! What would you have said? “Yeah, right. Get real, Mary!” “Mary, you’ve messed up. Just when everything was going so well, and we were on the way to marriage.” Can’t you just hear Joseph? “Mary, this is crazy. What will everybody say? Just as we were on our way. I have to say this: your timing is lousy.”

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