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December 2, 2012, 12:43 PM

The Christmas Story: Joseph. Sermon Text.

Matthew 1:18-25

Joseph is the man in the Christmas Story who might be better known as the forgotten man.  This husband of Mary and the adoptive father of Jesus.  He is scarce in the Bible, appearing only briefly in the infancy and childhood narratives of Matthew and Luke.  Mark makes no mention of him and John mentions him twice in passing for his role as the father of Jesus.  Joseph doesn’t speak a single line in the Bible.

The reason for this silence may well be due to Joseph’s old age at the time; some traditions claiming that he is 91 years old when he and Mary tie the knot.  If that is indeed true, then it’s understandable how he’s fallen by the wayside.  Joseph would’ve been long gone by the time Jesus began his public ministry.

But I want to suggest that we not let forgetfulness reign when it comes to Joseph, he is important.

From Mathew's perspective -- the Gospel writer's point-of-view -- the most important thing about Joseph isn't so much about his character or his vocation as a carpenter or anything that he has done in his life.  His importance, according to Matthew, is in his family connections.  He is a blood relative of King David.  For Matthew, Joseph’s key contribution is heredity.

A few years ago, Time magazine ran a Christmas story on Joseph.  The article quoted a minister as saying that God could have chosen any man in the world to be the daddy of Jesus, but he chose Joseph.  Well, that’s not quite right because the father had to be a descendant of David, which reduces the candidacy pool drastically.

However, I think there are some other teach-ables from this forgotten man of the Christmas story.  Namely this:  This godly man provides a stellar example of what it means to live faithfully and humbly into God’s plans.

I’ll look at three areas:

1) His faithfulness

2) His godliness

3) His Steadfastness To God’s Purposes.

Let me begin with his faithfulness.

Matt. 1:18 says, Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his…Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.”

Now, guys, put yourself in Joseph’s sandals:  You’re engaged and your fiancée turns up pregnant and you know it’s not you!  I was thinking about calling this sermon, “Yeah, Right!”  The girl’s pregnant but she hasn’t been messing around, yeah, right!

Joseph could have really made some righteous indignation hay out of this.  According to the Law of Moses, he could’ve had Mary put to death (cf. Deut 22:20-24).  At the very least, he could have shamed her and her family in a public divorce (cf. Deut 24:1-4).  But, Joseph didn’t exercise either option; but, “being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.”

Everything changed when he met the angel of the Lord in a dream.  Again, put yourself in Joseph’s sandals; it takes a deep and abiding faith to believe the announcement.  "Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.  She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins." (1:20-21 ESV).  Matthew then reminds us that this is a fulfillment of Isaiah's Immanuel's virgin birth prophecy.

Seriously, we have the benefit of biblical-hindsight, and yet the virgin birth still proves to be a stumbling block to far too many folks.  Think about Joseph!  Yeah, right.

And one other thing while we’re talking about Joseph’s faithfulness:  Following through on this marriage was costly in that it brought about a lifetime of personal scandal.  Scripture hints at merciless rumors of hanky-panky with the birth of Jesus.  And yet, Joseph was a man of faith.  he trusted God.  he believed what the angel of the Lord told him.  He was willing to live into God's plan, no matter the cost.

Let's look now at his GODLINESS.  The Gospels present Joseph as a very devout man.  Jesus did have the benefit of having a godly earthly father.

According to some apocryphal (dubious) stories of Jesus’ childhood, we hear about Joseph admonishing a young Jesus about cursing his playmates so that they die; or on a brighter note, Jesus making clay pigeons under Joseph’s watchful eyes and then bringing them to life.

These stories are fictional; but we do know for sure that godly Joseph’s piety because his repeated trips to Jerusalem for the many religious festivals and faith observances.  Mary and Joseph were poor, but they understood what it meant to give their all to God.  Joseph was a godly man.

But there’s one final thing that I want you to know about Joseph, and that’s his steadfastness to the purposes of God.

In another heavenly dream (Matt. 2:13-15; 19-23), the angel warns "Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him." (2:13 ESV).  King Herod issues orders for every Jewish male child under two years of age.  Joseph risks life and limb to get his family out of Israel and into Egypt.  At God’s word, Joseph uproots his entire family, just like Abraham.  Again, put yourself in Joseph’s sandals!

By the time of another angelic dream, the threat is over and God calls Joseph and his family back home.  It’s significant that Matthew quotes Hosea 11:1:  “…Out of Egypt I called my son.”

My understanding is that Joseph is favorably compared to Moses:  Joseph must respond to the dangerous call of God and lead his clan out of Egypt, back into the Promised Land.  And once again, Joseph responds with steadfast faith to go back into a dangerous land with his family.  I think he does all of this because he understands that this is God’s purpose, not only for himself, but for the entire world.

My friends, as we begin our journey into Advent, can I suggest that we all seek to follow the example of Joseph?  May we all respond with faithfulness when the call comes on our lives.  May we all be diligent to preserve and nourish the faith in our families – may godliness be a priority in our families in the coming New Year.  And finally, May we all seek to be steadfast in the purposes of God, even when it might scandalize us; even when it might not be the most comfortable thing to do. Even when it might not be the safest thing to do.

I encourage you to follow the example of the forgotten man of Christmas.   Amen.

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