Summary: This topical sermon invites listeners to journey back to Bethlehem and explore what that first Christmas must have been like for Mary and Joseph. For added impact, I recommend beginning with the video: A Social Network Christmas.
Christmas through the Eyes of Mary & Joseph
Scott Bayles, pastor
Blooming Grove Christian Church: 12/18/2011
VIDEO: A Social Network Christmas (Joseph & Mary on Facebook)
Last week Ashley, the kids and I went with Dusty, Kara, and Mylee Ribble on a journey to Bethlehem. Of course, we didn’t travel to the actual city of Bethlehem in Palestine; rather, we drove down to Harvester Christian Church in Saint Charles where we were absorbed in a production they call Journey to Bethlehem. More than just a play, Journey to Bethlehem is an immersive experience where the audience is drawn into the story of Jesus’ birth—encountering shepherds and sheep, angels, Roman soldiers, tax collectors, Magi and their camels, as you make your way to Bethlehem to witness the birth of Jesus.
I’ll tell you more about it as I go, but more than anything this Journey served as a vivid reminder that the story of Christmas is wrapped around people—real life men and women we think we know, but who have never taken on much of a life of their own. In order to fully appreciate the miracle of Christ’s birth I’d like to pull back the curtain of your imaginations and invite you to journey with me back to the first century, to see Christmas through the eyes of a young, happy couple betrothed to one another and on the verge of the greatest moment in history.
In the first chapter of the book of Luke, the Bible says, “God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary” (Luke 1:26-27 NIV).
Although this is all the background information we’re given about this young couple, we can learn quite a bit from it. The fact that Mary lived in Nazareth means that she came from humble beginnings. Nazareth wasn’t known for much. It was a small, insignificant town on the outskirts of a Roman garrison. It boasted a few bars and a red light district that offered a little weekend entertainment to soldiers with a few days leave and some bonus pay. Needless to say, Nazareth wasn’t the brightest star in the ancient Near East.
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. Mary, on the other hand, was probably no more than 15 when the angel Gabriel appeared to her. Marriages, like Mary and Joseph’s, were usually negotiated and agreed upon by the parents. Since neither of them came from wealthy families, money wasn’t an issue. But both Mary and Joseph came from the proud lineage of King David—some twenty-eight generations down the line—which made Mary and Joseph literally a match made in heaven. From the moment Mary first caught Joseph’s eye, their destinies would be entwined forever.
Mary is probably sitting at home alone, busy about her wedding plans—going over the guest list and the budget—when the angel appears to her. Naturally, she’s frightened and troubled, but the angel tells her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end” (Luke 1:30-33 NIV).
He then explains to her that, even though she’s still a virgin, nothing is impossible for God. The Holy Spirit will come over her and the power of God would be contained within her womb. I’m sure a million thoughts ran through Mary’s head in that moment. How can this be? Why me? What will my parents thinks? What will Joseph think? But all her concerns are pushed aside, as she surrenders to God’s will for her life: “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled” (Luke 1:38 NIV). Then, as suddenly and miraculously as he appeared, the angel leaves her.
The Bible doesn’t reveal her conversation with Joseph, but it’s safe to assume, it didn’t go very well. The Bible does say, “Joseph, her fiancé, was a good man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly” (Matthew 1:19 NLT). Oddly enough, among the colorful cast of characters associated with Jesus’ birth, Joseph is the lone silent member of the cast. 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. Yet, his actions speak volumes.