Summary: This is a first person rendition of how Joseph (the step-father of our Lord) may have viewed the events of Christ’s birth and life.
(This sermon is done first person. I’m including my actions in the hopes this will help anyone wanting to duplicate some or all of this sermon. The presentation begins with me at the back of the auditorium holding an old looking carpenter’s tool. I gradually make my way to the front of the pews while relating the following:)
Abraham begat Isaac.
Isaac begat Jacob.
Jacob became the man we know as Israel, and he in his turn became the father of Judah and his many brothers.
This was the beginning of long line of ancestors that are mine.
My name is Joseph, a carpenter from the town of Nazareth.
In my culture, every Jewish boy and girl was required to memorize their ancestry. Beginning with Adam and Eve, going on thru Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. On thru David and Solomon and the many great kings of Judah.
(at this point I’m facing the audience).
They did this because God had made a promise to my people.
Through the Prophet Isaiah God had declared that "Unto us a child would be given, unto us a son would be born. His name would be called ’Wonderful Counselor’, ’Mighty God’, Everlasting Father’, ’Prince of Peace.’ The government would be upon shoulders, and of the increase of his government and of his peace there would be no end."
Every Jewish family dreamed that God would honor them by allowing them to be the parents of this great messiah. They hoped that they would be permitted to raise the next King of Israel - a king promised to bring deliverance from the chains of bondage.
But… I am just carpenter.
A good carpenter, but still, just a carpenter.
I’m neither a prophet nor a priest, nor a man of regal blood such as a prince or king.
And Mary – sweet girl that she was – was of as humble a background as I and my family. We were under no illusions that we could actually become the parents of the great Messiah.
(I put down the carpenter’s tool at this point)
Our marriage was arranged… as were all marriages of that day. For more than a year before we physically became husband and wife our families became as one. We were intertwined. We would spend our days together. Eat together. Her parents would get to know me… and my parents would get to know her.
It was a good arrangement.
It became the strength of good families.
It was foundation of good marriages.
And Mary came from good stock.
She was a gentle girl - easy on the eyes.
The men of Nazareth envied me...
Then one day it was discovered (pause) that she was pregnant.
And I was not the father.
Her family was understandably upset.
Mine was devastated… shocked… angry
“Divorce her, quickly and publicly” they said.
(climb a step up to the stage and turn)
But I like Mary
(climb the rest of the steps to the stage and turn again)
I’ve always liked Mary.
But, of course, they were right.
My parents would never accept her.
And the people of Nazareth would never forget.
If I took Mary as my wife, we would have to pack up my tools and move far enough away so that the taint of her shame would not follow us.
They were right.
It would best if I forgot her.
But how could I forget her…
Her eyes could melt my soul.
Her smile lit up a room.
Her voice… her voice was like (I placed myself so that my face would be lit up by the stage lighting) that of an angel.
(pause) Well, no.
Once you’ve heard the voice of angel there’s nothing quite like it.
The voice of a woman – at its best – is soft, and gentle, and comforting.
But the voice of an angel… is terrifying!
There I was, asleep on my bed, when suddenly the room was filled with light. And there at the foot of my bed… stood an angel.
“FEAR NOT!” he said
“Do not be afraid to take Mary to be your wife. For what is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And Mary shall give birth to a son and you shall give him the name Jesus. For He shall save His people from their sins.”
As the angel spoke, I felt a stirring within my heart, and I recalled an obscure passage from Isaiah that even the rabbis struggled with.
Speaking of the coming Messiah Isaiah wrote: “and he shall be pierced for our transgressions, he shall be crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brings us peace is upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.”
(as I spoke I gradually made my way down the steps on the other side of the stage and eventually returned to the area in front of the pews)