Summary: God wants you to have: 1. Joseph’s character (vs. 18-19). 2. Joseph’s confidence (vs. 20-23). 3. Joseph’s care for other people (vs. 24-25).
Back to the Best of Christmas
Part 2: Live Like Joseph
Sermon by Rick Crandall
Grayson Baptist Church - Dec. 11, 2011
*What is Christmas about? -- Most people will tell you it’s about presents and Santa, lights and trees or days off from work and school. Some will even say that Christmas is about family and church.
*But it seems that fewer and fewer will actually state the true meaning of Christmas: The birth of Jesus Christ.
-Several years ago, a Barna poll found that only 37% of adults thought the birth of Jesus is the most important part of Christmas. (1)
*This year, let’s go back to the best things about Christmas.
-Joseph shows us some of these things, things that God also wants to see in you and me.
1. First: God wants us to have Joseph’s character.
*Joseph was a stand-up guy. That kind of thing shows up in times of trouble, and this was a time of trouble for the young couple. Vs. 18&19 tell us that:
18. The birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit.
19. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly.
*Vs. 19 tells us that Joseph was Mary’s husband, but not in the way we think today. At this point, Mary was only “betrothed to Joseph.” But that meant a whole lot more than being engaged today.
*Hebrew marriages had two stages. In the first stage of betrothal, the couple was considered to be legally married, even though they did not live together as man and wife. This period of being separate, but legally married could last as long as a year. And it was far more binding than modern engagement. Only divorce could break it apart. And if they had been unfaithful to each other, it would have been counted as adultery punishable by death.
*Joseph and Mary had been joyfully making plans for a wedding. But then Mary gave him the shocking news that she was pregnant. Talk about trouble!
-With those shocking words from Mary, Joseph’s world began to fall apart.
-And the first time we see him, he was planning a divorce. (2)
*Troubles at Christmas:
-The hospitals don’t empty out at Christmas.
-The funeral homes don’t close down.
-Marriage problems don’t magically go away.
-Rebellious children don’t always come to their senses.
-People still get hurt.
-Dreams still get shattered.
*Pastor Mike Fogerson called his sermon on this subject, “Surviving the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” Then he told about the sad year his wife had a miscarriage on December 13th.
*And Mike said, “Our plans were to become parents, buy Easy Bake ovens, Raggedy Ann & Andy stuff and a lot of pink. We spent the Christmas of ‘98 crying and buying a casket. The only pink things were the flowers on the grave blanket.” (3)
*How will we ever make it through the troubles that come our way?
-One of the best ways is to have stand-up character.
*We need to be like Joseph. Vs. 19 tells us that he was a “just man.” Of course, he wasn’t perfect, but he was “a just man.”
-One big proof was the fact that Joseph knew this baby wasn’t his. Joseph had kept God’s standards of moral purity.
*He was a stand-up guy. But now he was facing the worst crisis of his life.
-How would he react to this nightmare?
*Bruce Ritter explains: “Joseph believed Mary loved him, -- until the news that his precious bride is pregnant. Heart-broken and betrayed, how should he respond? -- Should he publicly shame her and serve her with a certificate of divorce? -- Should he surrender her to a public stoning?
*Her explanation of the pregnancy was unbelievable, even blasphemous. And it did nothing to ease Joseph’s emotional pain. If Mary would not have been stoned on the charge of adultery, she could have been stoned for blasphemy.
*However, Joseph chose the path of mercy. In vs. 19, he did not want to make a public example out of Mary, so he had decided to divorce her privately.
*It was a response born from stand-up character. And this was before the dream, before the angel spoke to Joseph.
*Before any divine explanation, Joseph chose mercy. There was no malice, no explosion of anger. Certain words could have been appropriate here:
-“How could you do this to me? Who’s the father? Tell me his name!”
*But, no angry words are recorded, -- only tenderness. Joseph might be the talk of Nazareth. Friends might hurt him with snide comments, but he would not hurt Mary, no matter what he thought she had done to him. (4)