Summary: A look at three principles that guided Joseph (the adopted father of Jesus) from Bethlehem to Egypt and back to Israel.

This time of year is always the same. People make a big deal over Christmas, and there are all kinds of services, newspaper articles, magazine articles, T.V. shows, and movies that relate to Christmas. Then, right on the heels of that, we hit all the "year end" festivities. Once again, there are all kinds of articles and shows that try to summarize everything that has happened over the past year. You’ll see specials of "The Year In News", "The Year In Sports", "The Year In Politics", “The Year In Computers”, "The Year In Entertainment", "The Year In Business", and just about anything else you can think of.

It’s nice to remember things that have happened. It’s important to learn from our past and appreciate where we’ve come from. But I think we need to be careful not to spend too much time looking backwards. I mean, 2003 has been an exciting year… a lot of great things have happened and we don’t want to forget that. But we also need to look ahead the coming year. So instead of thinking only about everything that happened in 2003, let’s spend some time looking ahead at what can happen in 2004. How are we going to grow? How are we going to build on our relationships? How are we going to strengthen our marriages and our families? How are we going to invest our lives? The year ahead still holds many secrets, but it can be a very significant year in each of our lives.

How significant is the year 2004 going to be to you? Is it going to be a year that you just try to get through? Or is it going to be a year when you make the best of your circumstances? Is it going to be a year when you are defeated by your failures? Or is it going to be a year when you learn from your failures and end up succeeding? Is it going to be a year when you trust yourself and are disappointed? Or is it going to be a year when you trust God and find Him to be faithful?

There’s a phrase that we often hear people say:

"If only I could begin again."

“If only I could start again, things would be different. If only I could do things over, I’d do them right.”

I think most people—perhaps even you—find themselves saying things like this. They’ve failed at some point in their lives and are living with regret. Perhaps they’ve failed in their relationship with God. Perhaps they’ve failed at school, or at work. Perhaps they’ve really messed up in a relationship and have all kinds of regrets. Perhaps they just didn’t take advantage of opportunities. Whatever the cause, people want a fresh start. I know I have often been in that position myself at different times in my life. There have been times when I have failed, or have messed up, or have felt defeated, and I have thought, “If only I could begin again.” I’ve made bad choices and had wrong priorities, and if I could I’d go back to those times and make them right.

Well, there’s good news for me and for everyone else who has ever had those thoughts:

God is the God of new beginnings.

He gives us a new heart. (Eze.11:19;18:31)

He has made us a new creation. (2 Cor.5:17)

He gives us new life. (Acts 5:20)

He puts a new song in our hearts. (Ps.40:3;Ps.98:1)

He’s given us a new covenant in His Blood. (Lk.22:20)

He renews our spirit. (Eze.18:31)

He renews our passion. (Ps.103:5)

He renews our strength. (Isa.57:10)

His mercies are new every morning (La.3:23)

In His presence, all things are made new. (2 Cor.5:17)

There are certain principles in the Bible that can help us discover this renewal. There are certain principles that can help us make 2004 the best year that it possibly can be. This morning I want to look at three of those principles as we find them in the life of Joseph, Jesus’ earthly father.

Let me give you a little bit of background on the passage we read earlier in the service. This passage takes place sometime after the birth of Christ. The wise men have just made their visit to see the Christ Child. We’re not exactly sure where they came from… could have been Persia/Iraq, Syria, or even as far away as India. We simply don’t know. But what we do know is that the wise men came from a distant country to the east of Israel and they came to see the newborn "King of the Jews."

These wise men were most likely astronomers who watched the sky diligently. They were also familiar with the prophesies of the coming of Jesus, and when they saw an unusual star one night that seemed to beckon them, they set off on their journey, following the star, to find this newborn King. When they arrived in Jerusalem, they started asking where they could find the Christ Child, not realizing that the advent of Jesus was not a public event.

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