We usually start a sermon with something funny,
A psychologist told a friend of mine,
that if he wanted to feel better about himself,
he should finish whatever he started.
He told me that he finished two bags of M&Ms and a chocolate cake.
*And he feels better.
Aren't you glad that God finished what He started.
Tonight, I’d liked to give my interpretation of what happened in the life of Mary and Joseph.
The town of Nazareth
Some people think that the name Nazareth
comes from the hill that is located right behind it.
You can see for a long way from the top of that hill.
The name Nazareth comes from the Hebrew notserah
which means one guarding or one watching,
referring to the hill which overlooks and guards.
The city of Nazareth is not mentioned in the Old Testament.
Nazareth is the town that Jesus grew up in and
where he began his ministry (Matt. 13:54).
It was here that the people were so offended that they tried to throw him over edge of the cliff where their city was built
Modern day Nazareth
is located on the steep slope of a hill,
about 14 miles from the Sea of Galilee and
about 6 miles west of Mount Tabor.
Today It is called en-Nazirah,
which probably means ‘a watch tower
and has about six or ten thousand people living there.
It lies “as in a hollow cup”
farther down the hill from where the ancient city was.
The main road between Egypt and the interior of Asia
passes by Nazareth
near the foot of Mount Tabor,
and then on to the north, to Damascus.
The population in the time of Christ was probably
15,000 or 20,000 people.
THE STORY OF MARY AND JOSEPH
1. Somehow or other a marriage was arranged between Joseph and Mary.
In those times a marriage had two stages.
The first stage was similar to the engagement period that we know today,
except that this period was taken far more seriously
and was in fact a binding contract.
2. During this engagement period between Joseph and Mary
the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary
telling her that she was going to become pregnant
by the Holy Spirit. And that her relative Elizabeth was 6 months pregnant.
3. Soon after the angel left Mary,
she went to visit her relative Elizabeth
who was already six months pregnant.
4. Mary stayed with Elizabeth for three months
until Elizabeth delivered John. (The Baptist)
5. After this three-month stay with Elizabeth, Mary went
back to Nazareth and by now she was three months pregnant and showing.
6. When Joseph found out that Mary was pregnant, he was very upset.
But he had a good heart and so he decided to quietly divorce her, not wanting to make a spectacle of her pregnancy.
7. Then the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and convinced him that Mary’s pregnancy was no ordinary thing.
It was the fulfillment of the prophecy that a virgin would conceive and bare a son. (Isaiah 7:14)
8. So Joseph believed God, changed his mind and didn’t divorce Mary.
In fact he took her home with him but didn’t have relations with her until after the baby was born.
9. Now that Joseph and Mary are on the same page, the story continues.
They spend the next six months making plans for the baby to be born there in their home town of Nazareth
with all their families present. BABY SHOWERS
10. But the problem was that God had prophesied
His son would be born in Bethlehem
so God had Caesar Augustus declare a census
so that Joseph and Mary had to go to the city
of their ancestors. The city of David or Jerusalem.
11. So now Joseph and Mary’s plans have gone out the window.
12. They probably thought God, what are you doing?
We don’t understand.
13. But, this was a trip that they had to make
so they packed what they had
and put nine month pregnant Mary on the back of a donkey.
Now I gotta believe that a donkey is not an easy animal to ride on even when you’re not pregnant.
There’s that backbone sticking up right where you have to sit.
14. Well Mary rode on this donkey all the way from Nazareth to Bethlehem
while carrying a fully developed baby in her womb.
15. The trip must have taken several days.
16. I think that this trip may have been
what initiated her delivery.
17. She could have been having contractions while Joseph was trying to find a room for them in Bethlehem.
18. Once again they may have been saying,
God, where are you?
Everything’s going wrong.
Why aren’t you helping us here?
19. When they did find accommodations,
it was a smelly old stable located out back behind the inn.
20. It was here that Mary’s contractions became closer and closer until she delivered her baby.
There in an unsanitary corner of a place meant for animals; there on a pile of straw,
she delivered; the Son of God.
21. After her baby was born,
all she had to wrap him in was some rags that she had.
22. The only place she had to lay him was in a trough a place where the animals ate their food.
23. Talk about being in poverty.
24. Why would God allow his servants to go through this kind of trouble?
25. And then there’s the issue of the shepherds.
26. Shepherds were on the lowest rung
of the Jewish social ladder.
27. And yet it was for the shepherds that God opened the gates of heaven and revealed the angels glory.
28. It was shepherds that were told
where to find the Christ child.
29. It was shepherds that were the first
to see the Son of God right after Joseph and Mary.
30. And it was shepherds that went throughout the area telling everyone what they had seen
and what they had been told.
31. God continues today with this theme
of using those things that are the lowest
in worldly importance
to accomplish His plan for this lost and dieing world.
32. That first night passes away and a new day dawns.
The night will pass away and a new day will come.
33. I think that Joseph and Mary
decided to settle in Bethlehem
and have Joseph open a carpenter shop there.
34. For about a year or so, they lived in Bethlehem
until one day some wise men came to their door,
asking to see the child King, of the Jews.
35. They brought three rich gifts for the King.
They worshiped Him and
then they left to go back to their own country.
36. Once again the angel of God spoke to Joseph in a dream again saying:
“Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” Matthew 2:13
37. And so they packed up again and moved to Egypt.
GOD DOES TAKE CARE OF OUR NEEDS.
38. Even though God didn’t provide for Joseph and Mary in a lavish manner,
He did provide all that they needed.
39. The donkey did get them to Bethlehem.
40. The stable did get them inside out of the cold.
41. The shepherds proclaimed the birth of the Son of God.
42. And when the move to Egypt was needed,
rich gifts were given to them so that they could make the trip.
43. I find it amazing and somewhat saddening that God had to call in wise men from some other country in the east to come and worship the savior of the world,
while the religious leaders of the Jewish nation knew nothing about it.
44. Even if it looked like God had forsaken Joseph and Mary, when they arrived in Bethlehem,
the truth is that God did provide everything that they needed.
45. With a man like Herod on the throne of Israel,
certain covert things needed to be happening.
46. God was in control of the whole thing
and when the time came for
Joseph, Mary and Jesus
to flee to Egypt,
God provided the means for them to make the trip.
47. The same thing is true for us today.
When it looks like God isn’t taking care of us like a God should,
we need to remember that God knows a whole lot more
about what is going on in this world than we do.
48. Actually we are in a spiritual war
while we are in the world.
49. This world is not our home,
we’re just passing through.
Our treasures are laid up
somewhere beyond the blue.
50. Our assignment (our mission)
is to live like Jesus did
and take as many people to heaven with us as we can.
51. God will provide everything we need
right up to the time that we are called into His presence,
and then the things of this world will pale into an insignificant past.
52. We are facing financially difficult times ahead,
but the same God that provided for His Son will provide for us too.
53. He will provide for us better than we deserve.
54. We need to be on our knees thanking Him
for what He has given us today,
and be ready to share what He has given us,
NOW THAT I'VE TOLD YOU THE STORY AS I THINK IT WAS, LET'S READ FROM GOD'S WORD WHAT WAS ACTUALLYWRITTEN.
Luke 1:26-45 (NIV)
The Birth of Jesus Foretold
26 In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. 31 You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.”
34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be calleda the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. 37 For nothing is impossible with God.”
38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” Then the angel left her.
Mary Visits Elizabeth
39 At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, 40 where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! 43 But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!”
Matthew 1:18-25 (NIV)
The Birth of Jesus Christ
18 This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.
20 But after he had considered 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 home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus,a because he will save his people from their sins.”
22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”b—which means, “God with us.”
24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.
Luke 2:1-20 (NIV)
The Birth of Jesus
2 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to his own town to register.
4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
The Shepherds and the Angels
8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christa the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”
15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
a Or So the child to be born will be called holy,
a Jesus is the Greek form of Joshua, which means the Lord saves.
b Isaiah 7:14
a Or Messiah. “The Christ” (Greek) and “the Messiah” (Hebrew) both mean “the Anointed One”; also in verse 26.