Summary: A sermon given on New Years Day, encouraging and challenging the church to know our Bible better this year, to work together, to listen to God in the tough decisions, and to learn from the character of Joseph - a righteous man.
Have you ever looked back at a chain of events and been amazed?
14 years ago I was involved with Camberley Youth for Christ. In faith we booked a band called ‘Triumph’ to come and spend a few days in a local school. We needed £650 to run the event; we had about £50 available. The band came, had three amazing days in the school and they performed two superb concerts. The name of Jesus was on the lips of almost every child at the school! At no point did we appeal for money, but we did sell some tickets. Anyway, because I worked for Lloyds bank at the time, I was the treasurer, and I have to say that I was quite nervous about not having enough money to pay the band; but can you imagine my joy, delight, and praise for God when I was able to pay the band in full and realise that we still had the grand sum of 25 pence in our bank account! God was working his purposes out!
Many of you will have stories which looking back sound almost too amazing! The story of Benn and Hellen Mugisha (missionaries to a slum called Kware in Nairobi, Kenya) is a bit like that. If you haven’t heard the story, ask Benn when he is amongst us later this year, or ask people here who know the story. God was (and is!) working his purposes out!
As at today, we as a church are still a few thousand pounds short of being able to balance our books for 2005. Jim, our treasurer is perhaps a little nervous! However, both he and I know that God is working his purposes out! Paid ministry costs money, and without wanting to sound like an old scratched record, without wanting to sound like a scratched CD, without wanting to sound like a TV programme which keeps repeating itself, if you’ve not done so already, can I encourage you to bring your Christmas gift to Jesus. In the O/T the tithe came into the store house (Malachi 3:10). God poured out his blessing.
Next week Paul, our local Bishop will be preaching from Matthew chapter two, the visit of the Magi (the Kings, the Wise men). They brought gifts to Jesus. We’ve shared gifts in our families. Have we given our Christmas gift of money to Jesus?
[At this point I produced a balloon, already inflated.]
What I need you to do is to keep this balloon in the air. It needs to reach the back of the church building. It doesn’t matter how many people touch it, but the balloon cannot touch the floor. Since we mustn’t be here all day, I want the balloon to reach it’s destination in 60 seconds. So, here we go!
[A running commentary helps! Point out the names of people who touch it saying things like, “That was great timing!” and “Wasn’t it good that (name) stuck his hand out at just the right moment!” Try to get the balloon to arrive after exactly 60 seconds.]
The birth of Jesus is a wonderful reminder to us that God was (and is!) working his purposes out! Perhaps last year was particularly difficult for you. Perhaps you have much to thank God for! Perhaps you lost a close relative during 2005 and you’re finding life tough. Perhaps you know exactly what God wants you to be doing in 2006. Perhaps you have no idea where you will be living and working in six months time. Perhaps you need to make a difficult decision.
Joseph had a tough decision to make. He loved Mary. They were almost married. In fact they had already done all of the ‘legal stuff’.
Joseph had a tough decision to make because Mary was pregnant. He knew he was not the Father and the girl he loved told him that she was pregnant through the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:18). The Bible told Joseph that he could divorce Mary (Dt. 22:21-22)
Joseph was righteous. He knew what was right, and he wanted to do what was right. He also knew about grace. Joseph loved Mary deeply. He did not want her to be made fun of or to be ignored by her friends, her family, or by the local villagers.
Joseph knew his Bible. Joseph knew about justice and Joseph knew about mercy. So, he decided to arrange a quiet divorce (Matthew 1:19).
My prayer for this year is that come 31 December I will know my Bible better than I do today. My prayer for you is that come 31 December you will know your Bible better than you do today!
As we read God’s word, the Bible, he will lead us and direct us, just as he led Joseph. However, as we read it, we must listen to God’s voice, and we must look for God at work in the world around us. Joseph had made a good biblical decision to divorce Mary.