Summary: A sermon for the fourth Sunday in Advent, or Christmas Eve.
“What A Difference God Makes!”
By: Kenneth E. Sauer, Pastor of Parkview United Methodist Church, Newport News, VA
I was talking with a colleage of mine this past Tuesday morning, and he was telling me
about his family. He was telling me how excited he was that his children would be coming home
for the holidays.
During our conversation, he made a very interesting comment. He explained to me that
he and his children have grown especially close now that they are grown, and that they thank
him for the way that they were raised. They thank him that he and their mother took them to
church, and instilled values in them--values that last a life-time.
Obviously God made a big difference in the life of my friend’s family, and I beleive that
this is the case in most instances.
And this is an especially important fact to remember in this day and age when less and
less people claim affiliation to a house of worship.
There are literally millions of families in America today who do not attend any church,
and who do not make God a part of their family.
And we can see the effects of this all around us as more and more families are breaking
up, and as more and more children are turning to drugs and other forms of escapism in order to
fill the void in their lives.
My son Ben for example, came home from school one day and told us that right down the
street at Heritage High School there is a large contigent of students who are dabbling in Satan
worship and witchcraft.
One child came up to Ben and asked him to sign his name on a sheet of paper, but before
he could do this a friend of his warned him that this kid belongs to a group that is trying to win
souls for Satan.
And sure enough, when Ben took a close look at the paper he was being asked to sign, he
saw that it was a contract, and the words of the contract went something like, “By signing my
name, I hereby agree to give my soul to Satan.”
When Jeanne heard about this, she asked, “I wonder what church these kids go to?”, and
I answered, “That’s the problem, they probably don’t go to any church.”
I knew a young couple in Macon, Georgia who joined the church I was serving. They
were having all kinds of marital difficulties, and were just about ready to call it quits, but
decided to try attending church as a last ditch effort to save thier marriage. In essence, they
brought God into their lives.
Over time, this young couple became very involved in the life of the church, and the
husband even started a children’s choir.
And he gave that choir a name. One day I asked him why he had chosen the name he had
chosen, and he told me that he had named the choir after his home church.
He could have named the choir “The Happy Singers,” or something like that, but no he
decided to name the choir after the church that gave him his formative Christian roots.
Obviously God had been a part of his family, and that meant an awful lot to him.
This couple is still married, and last I heard from them their relationship had gotten much
better because they had invited God into their family.
So the question I want us to ponder this morning is: “What difference does it make if God
is in our family?”
If we take a look at our gospel lesson, it becomes immediately apparent that it made a big
difference in the life of Joseph and Mary.
Mary and Joseph had been pledged to be married.
Among Jews at this time, the marriage vows were made at something called a betrothal,
and the law required that only divorce could end them.
The normal interval of time between the pledge to get married and the time that the
husband and wife would live together and have a physical union was a year.
And during this interval Mary became pregnant.
And according to the law, this is a situation that could be punishable by death.
What an awful predicament for this young couple to have to face!
So our gospel lesson tells us that Joseph took this situation to heart, through much
Imagine how difficult this must have been!
Mary was pregnant, but they were not yet living together.
How much gossip would there be?
What would the neighbors think, and what would Mary and Joseph tell them?
Now, Joseph could have decided to publicly accuse Mary--making a spectacale of her,
and thus causing her to be stoned to death.