Summary: Just as Mary and Joseph were full of grace, so must we be.
When Jonathon and Daniel were younger, I used to say to them, “You’re full of blarney!” To which they would respond, “BJ!” as they thought I said that they were “full of Barney the dinosaur” because BJ is Barney’s friend.
“You’re full of it” is an expression we use either in teasing or in all seriousness when we reply to someone who makes claims that are outrageous or self-centered. Being full of it is an indicator that someone believes your attitudes and/or ideas are out of shape and out of touch with reality. It is a statement about what is inside you and Jesus had something to say about that from time to time.
In Matthew 15, a discussion takes place between Jesus and the Pharisees about what makes a person unclean or unholy. The Pharisees said it was the lack of following certain traditions such as ceremonial hand washing that made one unholy or unclean. Jesus replies that it was something deeper.
In verses 10 and 11 He says, “Then Jesus called to the crowds and said, “Listen to what I say and try to understand. You are not defiled by what you eat; you are defiled by what you say and do.” He goes on to say in verses 17 through 20: “Anything you eat passes through the stomach and then goes out of the body. But evil words come from an evil heart and defile the person who says them. For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all other sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander. These are what defile you. Eating with unwashed hands could never defile you and make you unacceptable to God!”
For a few moments this morning I want to have each of us ask our selves, “What am I full of?” by considering the importance of being full of grace – God’s grace and we begin our reflection with a review of our dramatic reading for this morning.
Joseph was in a tough place and he had two choices to make – one was to turn his back on Mary (and as we read in Matthew 1:19 he had determined to do that so as to not cause her public disgrace) or he could accept the word of the Lord via the angel and marry her, which he did. What made him choose the second option? What kept him from deciding to make a clean break with Mary? After all, Joseph had a reputation of being a “righteous or just” man. That description gives us an answer to why Joseph chose to marry Mary and become the earthly father of Jesus Christ.
Joseph was a “righteous and just” man because he was full of God’s grace. But what is grace let alone God’s grace?
The Greek word that is translated grace is charis that is related to joy or chara. It ties in with the ancient Hebrew words of hen that means to be favorably inclined toward someone and the word hesed that means faithfulness.
Grace then is a favorable attitude or disposition toward someone by someone. In other words, God was favorably inclined toward Joseph and Mary.
There are three important things about grace that we need to remember this morning and they may be what we don’t expect to hear about grace.
In Ephesians 2:8 and 9, Paul writes, “God saved you by his special favor when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.”
We need to remember first that grace is a gift that comes freely from the heart of God. I would also suggest this morning that grace is perhaps the most important Christmas gift because God in His grace loves us so much that He sent Jesus Christ to earth to bring us back to Him. God’s grace is also at work through the work of the Holy Spirit to help us become favorably inclined toward God. (That is called “previenent grace” or “grace that helps us be open to God.)
These are actions from the very heart and love of God that we cannot replicate or take credit for because it is a gift and a gift that is truly given comes from the heart of the person who gives it because that person is favorably inclined toward us just like God is!
I cannot tell you why God chose Mary … and Joseph to be the earthly parents of Jesus, but He did! But I do think that we can say with some certainty that God saw a grace and openness in Mary and Joseph that contributed to God making them a part of His plan. They did not choose this tremendous gift of life in the form of the baby Jesus; they received it however with obedience and faith that God honors in all who are so inclined.