Back to the Best of Christmas
Part 2: Live Like Joseph
Sermon by Rick Crandall
Grayson Baptist Church - Dec. 11, 2011
*What is Christmas about? -- Most people will tell you it’s about presents and Santa, lights and trees or days off from work and school. Some will even say that Christmas is about family and church.
*But it seems that fewer and fewer will actually state the true meaning of Christmas: The birth of Jesus Christ.
-Several years ago, a Barna poll found that only 37% of adults thought the birth of Jesus is the most important part of Christmas. (1)
*This year, let’s go back to the best things about Christmas.
-Joseph shows us some of these things, things that God also wants to see in you and me.
1. First: God wants us to have Joseph’s character.
*Joseph was a stand-up guy. That kind of thing shows up in times of trouble, and this was a time of trouble for the young couple. Vs. 18&19 tell us that:
18. The birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit.
19. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly.
*Vs. 19 tells us that Joseph was Mary’s husband, but not in the way we think today. At this point, Mary was only “betrothed to Joseph.” But that meant a whole lot more than being engaged today.
*Hebrew marriages had two stages. In the first stage of betrothal, the couple was considered to be legally married, even though they did not live together as man and wife. This period of being separate, but legally married could last as long as a year. And it was far more binding than modern engagement. Only divorce could break it apart. And if they had been unfaithful to each other, it would have been counted as adultery punishable by death.
*Joseph and Mary had been joyfully making plans for a wedding. But then Mary gave him the shocking news that she was pregnant. Talk about trouble!
-With those shocking words from Mary, Joseph’s world began to fall apart.
-And the first time we see him, he was planning a divorce. (2)
*Troubles at Christmas:
-The hospitals don’t empty out at Christmas.
-The funeral homes don’t close down.
-Marriage problems don’t magically go away.
-Rebellious children don’t always come to their senses.
-People still get hurt.
-Dreams still get shattered.
*Pastor Mike Fogerson called his sermon on this subject, “Surviving the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” Then he told about the sad year his wife had a miscarriage on December 13th.
*And Mike said, “Our plans were to become parents, buy Easy Bake ovens, Raggedy Ann & Andy stuff and a lot of pink. We spent the Christmas of ‘98 crying and buying a casket. The only pink things were the flowers on the grave blanket.” (3)
*How will we ever make it through the troubles that come our way?
-One of the best ways is to have stand-up character.
*We need to be like Joseph. Vs. 19 tells us that he was a “just man.” Of course, he wasn’t perfect, but he was “a just man.”
-One big proof was the fact that Joseph knew this baby wasn’t his. Joseph had kept God’s standards of moral purity.
*He was a stand-up guy. But now he was facing the worst crisis of his life.
-How would he react to this nightmare?
*Bruce Ritter explains: “Joseph believed Mary loved him, -- until the news that his precious bride is pregnant. Heart-broken and betrayed, how should he respond? -- Should he publicly shame her and serve her with a certificate of divorce? -- Should he surrender her to a public stoning?
*Her explanation of the pregnancy was unbelievable, even blasphemous. And it did nothing to ease Joseph’s emotional pain. If Mary would not have been stoned on the charge of adultery, she could have been stoned for blasphemy.
*However, Joseph chose the path of mercy. In vs. 19, he did not want to make a public example out of Mary, so he had decided to divorce her privately.
*It was a response born from stand-up character. And this was before the dream, before the angel spoke to Joseph.
*Before any divine explanation, Joseph chose mercy. There was no malice, no explosion of anger. Certain words could have been appropriate here:
-“How could you do this to me? Who’s the father? Tell me his name!”
*But, no angry words are recorded, -- only tenderness. Joseph might be the talk of Nazareth. Friends might hurt him with snide comments, but he would not hurt Mary, no matter what he thought she had done to him. (4)
*Joseph was full of goodness, kindness and mercy. And this is part of God’s best for our lives. Even when the trouble comes, keep seeking to overflow with God’s goodness. Walk in the ways of the Lord. Don’t give up! God blesses obedience. And Godly living pays off in ways we will surely see in the long run.
*God wants you to have Joseph’s character.
2. And He wants you to have Joseph’s confidence.
*Joseph had confidence in God. We need the same kind of faith we see in his life. And as we look at vs. 20-23, we find 4 things to believe.
 First, we need to believe that God guides His people.
*Look at God’s guidance in vs. 20: “But while Joseph thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.’”
*In this verse, God guided Joseph through an angel and a dream.
*Wayne Brouwer reminds us that one of angels’ primary jobs is to be messengers for God. Wayne said: “In fact, in both the languages of the Bible, the word ‘Messenger’ is the same word as ‘Angel.’ The terms are identical.
*But Angels don't show up every day. That is why the visitations by the angel in the Christmas story are so dramatic. Angels bring big messages. They only come around when the message is marked special delivery. . .
*Normally, God talks to his people through prophets and preachers and the Bible. But sometimes no one can carry the message except the angels alone! And that's why an angel came to Joseph. (5)
*God may never guide you by an angel, but He will surely guide you through His Word! And you may never get a special dream from the Lord, but you can always look into His Word, and find the message you need to hear.
*And Matthew reminds us that we can always trust God to keep His Word.
-In vs. 22-23 he summed-up this miraculous story by saying:
22. Now all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying:
23. "Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,'' which is translated, "God with us.''
*Over 700 years had gone by since God made that prophecy. But God kept His Word. And He always will. We need to believe that God guides His people.
 And we need to believe that God came to earth in a miraculous way.
*Again in vs. 20: “While Joseph thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.’”
*God became a man. The infinite, eternal God stepped into time and space to become a man.
*James Merritt told of a pastor who was preaching on Jesus and his virgin birth. After church a hard-hearted skeptic went up to the preacher and said, “I don't believe that story, and I don't believe you believe it either.”
*The pastor replied, “Well, you are mistaken, for I do believe it.”
*The man then gave this challenge to the preacher: “Suppose a young woman about six months pregnant walked into your office and said, ‘I'm expecting a baby. This is the only boyfriend, I have ever had, and he has never laid a hand on me. I conceived this baby miraculously by the Holy Spirit.’ Would you believe her?”
*He thought the pastor would surely say “no”. But to his surprise, the pastor said, "Yes, I would believe it."
*Then after a long pause, the preacher added:
-“I would believe it if that birth had been foretold by prophets hundreds of years before the baby was conceived.
-I would believe it if an angel visited this boyfriend and said, ‘Do not be afraid to take this woman as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.’
-I would believe it if when that baby was born wise men traveled from afar and brought gifts to worship him and a star guided him to where that baby lay.
-I would believe it if her son had power over the wind and the waves, over death and disease.
-I would believe it if her son died on a cross and was raised from the dead three days later.
-I would believe it if that son went out to a mountaintop and visibly went back up into heaven while an angel stood by and said, ‘This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.’
-And if his disciples through two thousand years were numbered in the billions, I would believe it.” (6)
*We believe that God came to earth in a miraculous way!
-It’s the truth! -- And we must believe it!
 More than that, we must believe that the Lord came into this world to save us.
*In vs. 21, the angel told Joseph something extremely important: “She will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”
*As I mentioned last week, this name “Jesus” literally means “Jehovah is salvation.” So Jesus’ name highlights the most important mission of his life: To save us from sin and reconcile us to a holy God.
*Bill Bouknight explains: “Jesus was the only baby in history born for the purpose of dying. Across his manger fell the shadow of the cross.” (7)
*But why did He have to die? -- A big part of the answer can be seen in this letter a little girl wrote to Santa. I can relate to what she said. “Dear Santa, I tried to be good this year, but it just didn't work out.” (8)
*You know it never will. No matter how hard you try, you just can’t be good enough. That’s because we are all born with a terrible, spiritual disease called sin. And it is deadly.
*Bouknight reminds us that the symptoms of this sin disease are everywhere: Drug and alcohol addiction, child neglect, lying, stealing, racism, family friction, divorce and money worship. Unless the sin virus is cured, it will increasingly wreck our lives in this world and separate us from God forever.
*The good news is that a cure has been found for the sin disease. God sent it through a baby, His Son, born into a Bethlehem manger. (7)
*But what a cost for this cure!
-God’s Son leaving Heaven to live in our fallen world.
-God’s Son dying on the cross to take our suffering and death, then rising again to give us His eternal life.
*But how do you get the cure? -- You have to turn to God in faith, trusting Jesus, receiving Him as your Savior and Lord.
-We need to believe that the Lord came into this world to save us.
 And we need to believe that the Lord came to stay with us.
*As we see in vs. 22-23:
22. Now all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying:
23. "Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Emmanuel,'' which is translated, "God with us.''
*This verse shows us that the only way God could fully be “Emmanuel,” the God with us, was to become one of us. And that’s what Jesus did on the first Christmas.
*Hebrews 2:14 explains it this way: “Inasmuch then as the children (i.e. the children of God) have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil.”
*Hebrews 2:17 says, “Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.”
*Jesus was like us.
-In Matt 4:1, He was “tempted by the devil.”
-In Matt 4:2, He “was hungry.”
-Mark 6:3 tells us that Jesus was a carpenter.
-In John 4:6&7 Jesus was weary and thirsty.
-And in John 11:35 Jesus wept with sympathy for His friends.
*God the Son humbled Himself to become like us in all ways but one: The perfect Son of God never sinned even once in thought or word or deed.
*Hebrews 4:15 says, “We do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.”
-So the only sinless Man died on the cross to take the punishment for our sins.
-Now the Risen Christ who came to be the “God with us” is the God who stays with us.
*I like what Hebrews 13:5 tells us in the Amplified Bible: “[God] Himself has said, I will not in any way fail you nor give you up nor leave you without support. [I will] not, [I will] not, [I will] not in any degree leave you helpless nor forsake nor let [you] down [or ] (relax My hold on you)! [Assuredly not!]
*Jesus Christ is Emmanuel, the God who came to be with us and stay with us.
*Joseph believed the good news he heard from the angel.
-And now God wants you to believe.
-Will you do it? -- Will you put your trust in the Lord?
*God wants you to have Joseph’s confidence.
3. And He wants you to have Joseph’s care for other people.
*Joseph believed God, and we see the result in vs. 24&25:
24. Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife,
25. and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name Jesus.
*Joseph did the right thing. He obeyed God. He took great care of Mary and his step-son Jesus.
-Where would Mary and Jesus have been without Joseph?
-He stood in the gap to provide for them and protect them.
*Think about that trip to Bethlehem they had to make just before Jesus was born. They had to go, because of the Roman census. They had to go, because God had prophesied that His Son would be born in Bethlehem. Mary was very pregnant when they made that 70 mile journey to Bethlehem. They were on foot or maybe Mary was able to ride a donkey.
*How do you get a very pregnant woman anywhere?
-The answer is: very carefully.
*Joseph safely got Mary to Bethlehem. Then he safely got Mary and Jesus down to Egypt when Herod tried to kill the baby king. That was a journey of at least 90 miles, -- again, on foot.
*Joseph also provided love and guidance during the early years of the Lord’s life. In Luke 2, he made sure that Jesus was circumcised, and took baby Jesus to the Temple, to obey the law of redemption. Later, Joseph took Jesus to synagogue every week. The family also took the Lord to Jerusalem for the important feasts every year.
*The last time we see Joseph in the Bible was when the family had gone up to Jerusalem for Passover. Joseph took the best possible care of his family.
*Methodist pastor Bill Bouknight put it perspective this way: “When I meet with a couple in preparation for their baby's baptism, I always ask this question: ‘Have you prepared a will and have you specified in it who would rear your child if you were removed from the picture?’
*Young parents don't like to even think about that, but life's uncertainties make it necessary. It's a tough question. Whom do you trust enough to rear your precious child?
*God the Father had to answer that question when he decided to send his son Jesus to planet earth. God had to select a stepfather for his son.” And He chose a Godly man, a man committed to be the kind of man we all should be. (9)
*Joseph stood in the gap for people in need, and that’s what God wants us to do.
-It’s one of the best things we can do at Christmas or at any time of year.
*God wants you to have the best for Christmas, and today we see it in the life of Joseph. God wants us to have Joseph’s character, his confidence and his care for other people.
-So be a stand-up person, even in the times of trouble.
-Put your trust in the Lord.
-And stand in the gap for people in need.
*Go back to the best of Christmas, as we go to the Lord in prayer.
2. SermonCentral sermon “Christmas through the Eyes of Mary and Joseph” by Matthew Rogers - Matt 1:18-25 - Dec. 13, 1998
3. SermonCentral sermon “Surviving the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” by Mike Fogerson - Matt 1:18-25
4. Adapted from SermonCentral sermon “The Forgotten Figure of Christmas” by Bruce Ritter - Matt 1:18-25
5. Adapted from ChristianGlobe.com sermon “Special Delivery” by Wayne Brouwer - Matt 1:18-25
6. ChristianGlobe.com sermon “It Was the Birthday of a King” by James Merritt - Matt 1:18-25
7. ChristianGlobe.com sermon “Naming the Divine Baby” by Bill Bouknight - Matt 1:18-23 - 2001
8. ChristianGlobe.com sermon “The Names of the Christ-Child” by Bill Bouknight - Matt 1:18-23
9. Adapted from ChristianGlobe.com sermon “The Stepfather of God” by Bill Bouknight - Matt 1:18-25