Summary: The angel’s visit to Joseph and Joseph’s response.
AM Sermon preached at Central Christian Church December 18, 2005
2nd in “Touched By An Angel” sermon series
“I’m Dreaming of a Right Christmas” –Joseph Matthew 1:18-25
The Christmas story is woven full of incredible twists and turns. God taking on human form. A virgin giving birth. The great I AM wrapped in swaddling clothes and put down for a nap in a cattle feeding trough. And a borrowed trough at that. Fact is Jesus did a lot of borrowing during His time on earth. As a baby we find Him resting in a borrowed manger. During His public ministry we find Him feeding thousands of people from a borrowed lunch. After His death Jesus was placed in a borrowed tomb. But the manger and lunch were only borrowed for a few moments and the tomb was only borrowed for three days after which Jesus had no more need for it. There was however something which Jesus borrowed for several years---and that was an earthly father figure. That borrowed father-figure, that adoptive parent who filled the role of Jesus’ step-Dad was a man named Joseph.
Joseph’s story begins to unfold in the first chapter of Matthew. I encourage you to open your Bible to today’s scripture passage, or focus your attention on the screen and follow along as I read Matthew 1:18-25………
18 This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.
20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins."
22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet:
23 "The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel"—which means, "God with us."
24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.
[FIRST SERMON POINT SLIDE]
Here’s the situation. Wedding plans were being made. And a home was being readied. Thoughts of the ceremony, the feast and starting a new life as a husband probably filled Joseph’s mind as the day neared. He was betrothed to Mary. Many people today associate betrothal with the practice of engagement. But a Jewish betrothal is much more binding than our typical American engagement practices. Among first century Jews engagement often came before betrothal. A couple became engaged after their parents determined that they would make a good match. Children might be promised and engaged years before they were mature enough to be married. Betrothal if it followed engagement would come at the end of the engagement period at that time when the parents agreed their children were now old enough to tie the knot. Betrothal usually lasted about 1 year---just long enough to plan for a huge wedding celebration. And it was somewhere in the heart of their betrothal period that it happened, Mary, the girl of high character Joseph had been pledged to broke the news---she was pregnant. And now everything was different. Joseph’s hopes had been crushed. He must have felt cheated and wronged and that his trust had been abused. His feelings of love and desire were at war with feelings of anger and regret. Joseph knew the baby wasn’t his. He knew he had never had any sexual relations with Mary. And she was spinning some kind of story to be sure. An angel visit? The Son of God? A virgin birth? Certainly Joseph’s mind had to be reeling.
No one would have blamed Joseph if immediately upon learning of Mary’s pregnancy he had drug her into a Jewish public court and shouted out “I want a divorce! Mary has been unfaithful to me!” The Jewish laws offered him that out. Jewish law would even have allowed Joseph to have Mary stoned to death. But look again at verse 19 with me… it reads… [SCRIPTURE SLIDE] 19 Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. That verse says so much about Joseph. [FIRST SERMON POINT SLIDE] Besides the obvious---the fact that Joseph was a man who believed in and tried to live for God which we get from the fact he was called a righteous man--- besides the obvious remark about Joseph having a good relationship with God, there’s this underlying consideration factor brought to the surface. Joseph didn’t want to expose Mary to public disgrace and so he was giving consideration to divorcing her quietly. Here appears to be a man who would rather build people up than tear them down.