Summary: The story of Christmas is wrapped around people... real life people. This four-sermon-series looks closely at this special cast of characters in an attempt to find our stories in theirs. Alliterated and expository, with PowerPoint available.
Christmas: Cast of Characters (2)
Scott Bayles, pastor
Blooming Grove Christian Church: 12/9/2012
This time of year is always special. Families all have their different traditions: decorating the Christmas tree, hanging stockings, traveling to visit family and friends. You may enjoy driving around the neighborhood, looking at the twinkling lights decorating people’s homes. As you drive around the town, you inevitably come across various nativity scenes, displaying the birth of Jesus. Many churches throughout the community will often tell the story of Jesus’ birth through dramas and children’s plays, reenacting those fateful events.
The cast of characters associated with the story of Jesus’ birth is colorful and memorable. We recognize them by their unique speaking parts. With dramatic words, the Angels take center stage to announce the birth of the Savior. They appear to Joseph to announce that the name of the child would be Jesus. The angel Gabriel makes the unforgettable announcement to Mary. An angelic choir interrupts the shepherds, singing, praises to God and goodwill toward men. Mary offers a beautiful hymn. The wise men ask to see the newborn King. The shepherds become early evangelists—spreading the news of Jesus birth.
Oddly enough, only Joseph has no speaking part. He is the lone silent member of the cast and often forgotten. Angels bring heavenly greetings. Mary sings a praiseful solo. Wise men worship. Shepherds preach. Joseph is silent. No notable lines are attributed to him. No sound bites. No quotes. Only silence. However, Joseph is irreplaceable in the story of Jesus’ birth.
In fact, A Sunday School was putting on a Christmas pageant which included the story of Mary and Joseph coming to the inn. One boy wanted so very much to be Joseph, but when the parts were handed out, a boy he didn’t like was given that part, and he was assigned to be the inn-keeper instead. He was pretty upset about this but he didn’t say anything to the director.
During all the rehearsals he thought what he might do the night of performance to get even with this rival who got to be Joseph. Finally, the night of the performance, Mary and Joseph came walking across the stage. They knocked on the door of the inn, and the inn-keeper opened the door and asked them gruffly what they wanted.
Joseph answered, “We’d like to have a room for the night.” Suddenly the inn-keeper threw the door open wide and said, “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. Thinking quickly on his feet, he looked inside the door past the inn-keeper then said, “No wife of mine is going to stay in dump like this. Come on, Mary, let’s go to the barn.” And once again the play was back on track!
That may not be exactly how it happened, but Joseph’s actual story is told in Matthew 1:18-25 and if we examine it closely we may find a little of our story in his. Joseph’s first scene in the nativity story focuses on his dilemma.
• JOSEPH’S DILEMMA
Joseph had a pretty big dilemma. Matthew summarizes the situation like this: “This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 1:18 NLT).
Let me back up a little bit though, so that we can understand Joseph’s predicament. Matthew tells us that Joseph was a carpenter. In those days the job of a carpenter was to plan and build homes, manufacture household furniture and construct farming tools. If Joseph resembled the pious, hard-working class of his Jewish colleagues, he wouldn’t consider marriage until he was at least 25 years old.
Marriages in those days were usually negotiated and agreed upon by the parents. A legal contract was likely worked out between Mary and Joseph’s parents and once the contract was signed, the couple was officially betrothed to one another. Although many of these arranged marriages were planned from childhood, the betrothal period lasted for one year, during which time the groom would often build a house for his new bride. As a carpenter, Joseph probably had a beautiful home planned for Mary.
During their betrothal, I’m sure the temptation to sleep together was strong and in today’s culture it’s accepted—even expected—for couples to have sex before marriage. But in Hebrew culture it was very dishonorable to have sex before marriage. The Bible teaches that sex is precious, and God created it to be fully experienced only in the most precious relationship—marriage. So even though they were engaged, in love and committed to each other, Joseph kept his hands to himself.