Summary: Consider the spiritual struggle of Joseph in his dream as spiritual labor pains we all go through as God leads us.
The Labor Pains of Christmas
December 12, 2010
When a woman gives natural birth to a child there is immense pain. Comedian Carol Burnett said the pain was like imagining what we would feel if someone pulled your eye lid back over your head. But ultimately out of the pain of labor comes the new life that is loved and cherished.
This morning I don’t want to talk about Mary’s labor pains; but Joseph. Joseph endured spiritual labor pains about the birth of Jesus. The pains and he went through are pains we experience if we believe in God and believe that God interacts with us.
Read Scripture: Matthew 1:18-25
Joseph’s spiritual labor pains begin when God speaks to Joseph in a dream. Joseph’s fiancée, Mary is already pregnant, but she is suppose to be a virgin. Virgin births aren’t suppose to happen. In the Old Testament there are stories of old women like Sarah late in life having a child by her husband Abraham. There are stories about married women like Hannah who was married but barren and then miraculously became pregnant with the a child who would become Samuel the prophet. But never is there a story of a virgin, a woman who had no sexual relations with a man having a child.
The Bible tells us Joseph was a righteous man. Respected men like Joseph weren’t suppose to marry a woman who had broken the religious laws about sexual purity. For Joseph the dream must have been bordering on becoming a nightmare. His struggle and his pain would occur as God gives him instructions that seem to go against what is reasonable and acceptable.
The first labor pain that caused Joseph to take a deep breath was fear - Verse 20 tells us that the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and told him not to be afraid to take Mary has his wife. That is something to consider. God will ask us to do things that cause fear. The very signal that God is getting close to us, getting ready to clear His throat and whisper to us there is something He wants us to do may cause us fear. Fear is very often the emotion we avoid. We try and extinguish fear. Companies spend millions advertising products we can buy so we don’t fear. We’re offered cell phones so we don’t have to fear being out of touch, GPS devices so we don’t have to fear being lost, safer vehicles, home security systems, and there is even website service now advertised on television where you can do background checks on anyone you want to so you can be sure the people you’re in contact with are safe. We’ll do anything to avoid fear be it positive thinking, pill, perks of pleasure you name it.
Fear must have its purpose because God was okay with Joseph feeling fear as God began to speak to Joseph in a dream. Has there been anything brought to your awareness and it scared you, threaten you? Could that fear be God’s leading and will at work in your life? Now many things may be frightening and are not God’s way of speaking to us. But the birth story of Jesus, reminds us God’s closeness to us, stronger presence, moving in our lives could get us anxious, nervous, fearful - it did Joseph.
What if the fear we felt might be something to help us to let us know God is near. God wanted Joseph to change his decision even though it caused Joseph fear.
What if the very Christmas present God wanted to give you this year was an experience of fear, but holy fear, fear that awakens us somehow to God’s presence and purpose in our lives and our church?
The second labor pain for Joseph was to be invited to be a part of God’s plans. - Verse 21 tells us that the Lord speaks to Joseph in a dream that Mary will give birth, the name of the child will be Jesus because he will save his people from their sins. One thing v.21 tells us is that the fear we experience is somehow connected to God’s plans. The fear was connected to God’s plan of this miraculous birth. God wanted Joseph to know it was okay to trust, it was okay to move forward because God’s plan was behind the birth of this special child. What counts is that God’s will and purpose is behind the events that will unfold. The birth of Jesus is about more than God is just with us, He is with us to do something and that something is to accomplish the rescue of people from a life of sin, misdirection. If God is the architect of all life then the issue for us is not to get God’s blessing on what I want; but to discover our role in His plans.