Sermon Advent 4: THEME: “Trusting His Choice”
1:18 Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 1:19 Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. 1:20 But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 1:21 She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 1:22 All this took place to fulfil what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: 1:23 “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.” 1:24 When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, 1:25 but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.
If ever a person had to lay it all on the line for trust in an unseen God it was Joseph. If ever a person had to simply let the “why” question go and just let God continue to choose him for God’s own purposes – which were quite unorthodox, it was Joseph.
I feel for the guy every time I ponder him in these first Christmas events. He really is what we might say on a “hiding to nothing”. His plans for the usual way in which a man and a woman leave there families and be joined together as one in the wonderful gift of marriage are completely upset but God.
He, the town wood working man, and Mary a young woman, are meant to go through the process of family negotiations and procedures and be married in the synagogue, share a week of great joy for all concerned and settle into life in their rural town – making furniture, making babies, making a life – and all being quite faithful to God and his call to fulfil their vocations and stations in life.
Mary gets pregnant! What is God doing?! The plan is rudely interrupted by God. God puts a “spanner in the works”. Instead of right and good family involvement and wedding and joy, there is a descent into shame, hearsay, rumour, judgements, fear, uncertainty, lack of clarity anymore. Everything is turned upside down – and they just have to cope with what God was doing.
Have you experienced this? Have you felt like this? Do you feel like this now? Rudely interrupted by a “spanner in the works” and an interruption to how you thought things would or should go?
How did you cope? How are you responding to this interruption? Fobbing it off as nothing? Wallowing around in self-pity? Living with huge doubts about yourself, your God, your ability, your strength?
Well, now you are with Joseph. This whole interruption to his life was always beyond him and surely quite unknown to him.
Joseph surely must have had trouble sleeping. His head must have been running those why questions over and over in his head like a repeat TV commercial stuck on loop. Why did God choose Joseph? Why did God choose Mary? Why did God choose me and you to be bearers of his good news for a world?
But we hear in these accounts of the first Christmas a man who also knows when to put the “why” question away in order to simply respond to what was happening with simple faith in the God who was making this whole surprising interruption happen.
Why? That’s the question being questioned this Advent. When is right and good to ask God why and when it is unhelpful and doubting to keep asking why God chose you, why this happens or that happens. When is it more helpful and faithful to simple not ask why when we don’t understand God’s ways and just let God do and act and speak by his Word and “keep it in our hearts” as Mary is said to have done?
After I feel for Joseph and his situation caused by a Divine interruption, I admire the man and I marvel at God’s grand plan that is very good for Joseph and for you and me.
As Mary said last week, “Joseph could have turned me out of the town or even had me stoned”. But Joseph did not do this. Joseph went with God’s plans and this very uncomfortable divine interruption to his life.
God asks him to do this. In this dream we heard of, God says,
“Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.
“Joseph, son of David”.
Now there is a title Joseph might not have expected. “Son of David” King David. Joseph – named in the great line of the great King – the “man after God’s own heart”.
What an affirmation and story. Joseph’s story just got bigger and grander. In this naming of Joseph, the Lord places Joseph in the big story of all those promises that Joseph would have heard read aloud down at the Nazareth synagogue all his life.
“Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.”
Joseph is part of that plan.
That grand vision of God’s breaking into this troubled world and changing the very nature of how he relates to sinners – Now not by sinners trying to be perfect in morals and being good or simply avoiding all of that and doing their own things the way they please but in the new way of God’s grace; the third way, the way of God graciously gifting us with his forgiveness and kindness when we can’t earn it or ignore it anymore – simply saying “Yes” and going with God’s wonderful vision for living.
Joseph fell into the third way – the grace way, the gospel way. He heard this news and he stopped asking why and just said, “yes”. Will you?
There is a time to stop asking why and just let God be God and trust him for the outcome of the situation and your future as a result. Joseph, Shepherds, Mary, Elizabeth and millions of people since have known that God chooses people to enact his good plans for rescuing the world; by the words and deeds everyday people, scared people, interrupted people, unsure people. God chooses people to be part of extraordinary things he is doing for the good of all.
His choosing can be very inconvenient and even personally costly. Joseph and Mary had to deal with being shamed in their community – misjudged, thought unwell of. His choosing of you may sometimes mean the same.
His choosing of you to enact something, teach something to someone, share something with someone, enter into a particular commitment or service for the sake of others or bear your illness, your doubting, your sorrow may be his calling, as it was for Mary and Joseph and their families.
But worth it
But fiends, would Mary and Joseph rather have not been included in this grand vision and this magnificent story of good news? Would we rather go the easier route and rely on other people and/or things to deal with what is interrupting your life than be chosen to be in this good news story that is still interrupting the world, calling it to account and sounding out the cry of God’s goodness and kindness like Jesus crying in that feeding trough?
Chosen person of the Lord, no need to be afraid of what is happening in your life or even what may happen in the future. There is a broader activity and story being written with your life as part of the story today and tomorrow. You are a page in this great active story of life. You are a witness as John was witness to the Saviour. As John pointed to Jesus, so you do too as you hear God calling and respond to his call on a daily basis in all your work, your rest, your play.
Just say, “Yes”.
Joseph found himself caught up in something big. He did not know how big. What is God catching you up in? What is God empowering and calling you to participate in as he continues the word of this Christ-Child in drawing the world to himself by forgiveness and sheer love?
Will you let the why go for Advent and Christmas and just do a Joseph – just say “yes”?
Share your high and lows for your Christmas plans and preparations this year…
Read through the text carefully with particular focus on Joseph and his actions and what the Lord says to him. Share your thoughts on;
What did Joseph have to deal with?
What did he decide to do?
What did God call him to do?
What would God’s calling have have meant for Joseph in his community, in his relationship with Mary and his relationship with the Lord?
We spoke of Joseph having to put the many “why” questions about all this away and his response of simply saying “yes’ to the Lord’s plans for him. Share any experiences that you or others may have had like this where you had to stop asking why and simply say “yes” to the Lord in a a particular circumstance. Share what this was and what this is like.
I reflected briefly on how God’s named Joseph when he spoke to him. he named him “Joseph, Son of David”. That says a lot. That puts Joseph in the family line of king David and in the line from which the Messiah was going to come. it is important for this truth to be told for the credentials of Jesus and the integrity of what happened at his birth. However this name also surely acts as a strong affirmation of Joseph by the Lord. Share your thoughts on how the Lord chooses the hard moments in our life’s calling to strongly affirm us as his dearly loved men and women. When have you ever had a strong sense of God’s affirmation of you as his loved person? Share any stories on this…
If God was to name you, what name do you think he would use? Joseph was named “Son of David”. What might he name us Christians?
Joseph was part of an extremely BIG plan of God for the whole world. he must have found this rather hard to understand and believe. His family and friends must have also found this hard to believe. Do we find it hard to believe we are part of God’s BIG plan for his world still? What hinders our belief in God’s big plans to draw all people into Christ and what does these Christmas events say to us about our belief in what God is doing in our lives and for his world? Share your thoughts…..
Let us all with gladsome voicepraise the God of heavenWho, to bid our hearts rejoicehis own Son has given. O Lord Christ, our Saviour dearplease ever be near usgrant us now a glad new yearAmen. Jesus hear us.