Summary: Joseph was asked to believe the impossible. This Christmas, we are asked to do the same.
Matthew 1:18-25 Believing the Impossible (communion this Sunday)
Is it good or bad to be skeptical? Sometimes, it’s good, isn’t it? When you receive an email from someone you don’t know, and that someone says to you that they want to help you, but they need some information. If you could just hand over your social security number, your credit card number, and your bank account number – that’s all this stranger wants from you. Remember, this person you never met before just wants to help you. At that moment, is it good or bad to be skeptical? There’s no way I’d give that person the time of day. That person doesn’t want to help you. That person wants to steal your money.
But what about those moments when you hear something that seems to good to be true, something that seems unbelievable, but then, you find out that it’s true anyway. Many months ago you threw your name into a drawing for a $10,000 shopping spree. Suddenly, you get a phone call that tells you that you have won – you don’t even remember signing up. Maybe you’re skeptical – is this another scam? But then, you proceed with caution, and you find out that it’s true. You really did win. It seemed too good to be true, but it was.
Every year, around Christmas-time, you hear the story of Jesus’ birth, and there are certain things about that birth that seem pretty hard to believe – should you be skeptical? The Bible tells us that the birth of Christ was something that was planned even before the world was created – do you believe that? God’s Word tells us that the little infant that was lying in a manger was actually God, who had come in the flesh – that’s a pretty outrageous claim, that God would come down in human flesh – do you believe that? And then there’s the part about how Mary was a virgin when she gave birth to Jesus. According to the Bible, Mary had never been with a man, and yet she became pregnant, and she gave birth to a son – that seems like a pretty impossible thing. Is it true? Is that something you believe, or is this something that you should approach with a little bit of skepticism?
If you’re not ready to believe the impossible, then you’re not ready for Christmas. The Christmas story and the meaning behind it are both filled with amazing claims, impossible promises – things that seem to good to be true. Are you ready to ponder these things? Are you ready to believe the impossible?
This morning, we’re going to look at the birth of Christ from Joseph’s point of view. We’re going to look at how Joseph, not at first, but eventually believed the impossible. We’re going to see how God blessed Joseph as he did that. We’re going to see how these blessings can also come to us Christians today, as we lay hold of the amazing claims and impossible promises of God.
Here’s the story. Joseph was a carpenter who lived in Nazareth – an extremely small town – maybe no bigger than a few acres, a few hundred people. He was engaged to a young lady named Mary. Now in that culture, engagement meant a little more than it does in our culture today. Back then, once you were engaged, you were legally bound to your fiancée. You still would have to go through the ceremony before you start living together – but once you were engaged, that was it. Legally, you were hitched.
But something happened to poor Joseph. His fiancée, Mary, started to act strange. She seemed very nervous and excited, and one day, took off to visit one of her relatives, and she stayed away for 6 months. The Bible tells us that Mary had gone to visit her relative Elizabeth, an older woman who was going to have a child – John the Baptist. 6 months she stayed there, and then she returned. And when she returned, Joseph noticed something else that was strange about Mary. She looked like she might be pregnant.
Mary told him the whole story, about how the angel had visited her, how God the Holy Spirit had caused her to conceive, how the child was going to be a boy, how he was supposed to be named “Jesus,” and how he was going to be the Messiah. The baby was due in three months. How do you picture Joseph’s reaction?
Well, the Bible tells us that Joseph didn’t believe Mary’s story. She leaves for six months, comes back pregnant, and now she’s going to have the Messiah. He didn’t buy it. Now remember, the Bible describes Joseph as a righteous man – he was a godly man, a good man. If he was going to get married, it wasn’t going to be to someone like Mary. But he didn’t want to make a public example out of her. Back then, he could have dragged her into court – remember, they were legally united – and he could have put her on trial and had her stoned to death as an adulteress. But he didn’t want to do that to her. And so Joseph was planning to fill out some paperwork, and divorce her quietly.