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Joseph In a dream Br Rd 31 Dec 2006 am

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Joseph ... in a dream

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,  because he will save his people from their sins.”

Mat 1 18-25 &c

Of all the characters in the birth narratives of Jesus, Joseph is in many ways the least celebrated.  He is almost always depicted as standing in the shadows of the stable whilst the light falls on the manger and illuminates the face of Mary.  Yet he features in all of them – with the possible exception of the visit of the wise men – who do not seem to notice him at all!

We may consign him to the shadows – but Scripture shows him to be a man of remarkable spirituality – a man confronted with the impossible – but trusting and obedient.

I want to commend to you this morning, as we stand upon the threshold of a New Year, the dignity, faith and obedience of this man.  Joseph represents for us the degree of commitment that is required of us – and is so often lacking in present day worshippers.

I am particularly interested in the way God changed Joseph’s plan and entered into the life of Joseph – giving it a unique, yet remarkably accessible quality.   We cannot easily identify with Mary – but, I suggest to you, there are lessons to be learned from Joseph that are particularly relevant at this time of year when we may well be considering a change in our lives.

Joseph was confronted with a challenge.  His betrothed is pregnant – and the society in which he lived dictated a situation which at one extreme would have demanded Mary’s stoning – and at the other meant that the couple would be stigmatised by all their relatives and friends.

Joseph has to plan for this – and his plan, born of a caring and pious nature – is to find a quiet way of settling the matter.

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.

The betrothal had been done in the presence of witnesses – Joseph intends to divorce Mary before two witnesses – but away from public gaze so that she may not be stigmatised or worse.

From a human perspective what Joseph intended is caring and pragmatic. But God has other plans.  He intends His Son to grow up in a family with both parents. Joseph has been chosen for that role.  God communicates with Joseph in a dream.

Like many before and after him, Joseph “had a dream!” – in fact, in Matthew’s account you can find four dreams: the one we have just noted, and in Chapter 2:-

13 When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “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.”

19 After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt 20 and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.”

Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, 23 and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets: “He will be called a Nazarene.”

These instances reinforce the essential role that Joseph plays in these narratives – and of course in the upbringing of Jesus that followed.

I commend to you the sensitivity of Joseph to the guiding hand of God.  As you and I step across the threshold into 2007 we need to know what God plans for us.  It may run counter to our own ideas.

JOSEPH presents us with a pattern for decision making, for our role in the work of the Church, and our own personal discipleship:

1.   Coming to terms with the impossible

2.   Becoming a part of the truth of Christmas

3.   Being obedient to the voice of God

Coming to terms with the impossible

A quick look at the story in Matthew shows us the ways in which God communicated with Joseph.

·        His own thoughts and plans

·        The voice of God through His angel

·        The supporting words of Scripture

It is hard to imagine how difficult Joseph must have found it to come to terms with Mary’s pregnancy.  The mixture of doubt and disappointment and confusion, must have been almost overwhelming.

He was indeed on the very brink of a decision to “divorce” her when the dream came.

As believers we are constantly put into positions where we have to balance our own judgement with the revealed words of God.

As a devout Jew, Joseph knew the implications of Mary’s pregnancy and their effect upon both of them.  He was also aware of the importance of the written word of God – and Matthew makes the point of giving us a Bible reference for the situation:

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”—which means, “God with us.”

It helped Joseph to understand his unique situation to realise that God had already spoken through Isaiah about a “virgin conceiving”

But it required the intervention of God through His messenger in a dream to apply this to Joseph himself – and to prevent him from cancelling the marriage contract that existed between Mary and himself.

God uses His word and His own direct intervention, if necessary, to remind us that His plan matters more than ours.

Do you have plans for the New Year?  Be sure to weigh them against what God is saying!                                     

But, if this has a relevance to believers – it also has a message for those who find the supernatural element in the Christmas Story challenging.

Whilst many are happy to enjoy the “fringe benefits” of the birth of Christ – many are reluctant to approach too closely.

The story of Joseph requires that we step right up to these events and face them for what they are.   Coming to terms with the impossible.

Here we are confronted with the unthinkable.

God’s own Son – born of a virgin!

 

Many have difficulty with that.

We need (as believing Christians) to explain to the world that:

·        There is a mystery here – God becoming flesh

·        There is a reason for this humanity – and deity

·        That God who can create can do anything

Some – like Joseph – try, in the face of these difficult truths, to find a way of putting all that aside – gently but firmly ( so as not to get involved ).

Is it possible that someone here is trying to do that with Jesus?

The issues that influenced Joseph may influence you:-

1.     The view of others    “…public disgrace…

2.     The impossibility of a real commitment   “…to divorce her quietly…

There is also ANOTHER POSSIBILITY which arises from a misunderstanding of the story –

To be merely a bystander!

So many occupy that position!

Becoming a part of the truth of Christmas  Vv 20-23

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, because he will save his people from their sins.”

22 All this took place to fulfil 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” which means, “God with us.”

God intervened as far as Joseph was concerned: an angel explained and a command was given:

It’s all been planned – don’t be afraid

It’s all from God

You are to give him the name  JESUS

So, how did Joseph become a real part of Christmas?     To him specifically was given the responsibility of naming the Saviour.

1.    By listening to the voice of God

2.    By trusting God

3.    By recognising the Saviour

And, how do we become part of the real Christmas?

By the same things.

Being obedient to the voice of God

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.

Again and again it is recorded of Joseph here in Matthew that he did just that – he obeyed – he turned the dreams into reality.

It is one thing to HAVE A DREAM – but altogether different to work out that dream in real life.

Joseph set aside his OWN PLANS to deal with the situation quietly – and he put into action the PLAN OF GOD

·        He obeyed in the light of the impossible

 

·        He came out of the shadows and lived

 

·        He rejoiced to name the baby – JESUS - Saviour

And in so doing he sets us an example.  We cannot get involved in the original narrative – but it is the will of God for us that we respond to it in a similar way:

MULTIPLE MOUSE CLICKS


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a Isaiah 7:14

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