Sunday, December 19, 2010

“How’s Our Faith?”

Matthew 1:18-25
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. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. 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. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins." All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:
"Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel, which means, "God is with us." When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.

A Message from the Pastor
He was tired. He was very tired. He hadn’t slept for two days. And now he was lying on his bed of straw in the corner of his one and one-half room house, tossing and turning. It was dark. There was one window in the house, but there was no candle lighted. After all, he couldn’t read so he tried to sleep as soon as it was dark.

He had found out a couple of days ago that the woman to whom he was betrothed was pregnant. And he knew it wasn’t him. He also knew that if he had found out, other people in the community would have, also. He was a pious man and respected his culture. Yet, he was also a kind man. While he didn’t know Mary well since the arranged marriage, he liked her and didn’t want harm done to her. He knew if he married her, he would be shunned by the community, possibly his whole life. It was shameful for a man to marry a woman who was pregnant by another man. In this culture of honor or shame, it would be more than he could tolerate. Yet, if he obeyed the laws of his religion and brought her to court, she could be stoned to death as an adulteress. He didn’t like either option.

As he lay there, he finally came to the conclusion that he would send her off to a distant relative in the Northern part of the nation. While her life would not be very good, if would be better than if she stayed here. She probably would be held in servant hood for the rest of her life, and the child inside her might end up the same way. This seemed to be the best alternative. Reaching that conclusion, he began to sleep, albeit fitfully.

While he was sleeping, he had a dream. A man came to him whom he identified as an angel. The angel told Joseph not to be afraid, but to take Mary as his wife, for the baby who was within her was the one the nation had been waiting for. He was the Messiah. And Joseph was told, that because he was from the lineage of David, he was to name the child Jesus. For Joseph knew that if he named the child, the child would officially be adopted by Joseph and adopted into the lineage of David. He was to name the child Jesus for that name meant “to save us from our sins.” He was the one identified as “Emmanuel,” by the prophesies, God with us. This is the one all the people of God were waiting for. Then Joseph went back into sleep again. When he awoke, he took Mary for his wife and had no sexual relations with her until she delivered the child. Joseph named the boy Jesus.

Okay men what would you do? What would you do if you found out your finance was pregnant, and it wasn’t you? What would you do, then, if you had a dream and were told, by what seemed to be an angel, that what was happening was holy and you were to marry your finance? Would you have the faith of Joseph? Remember what faith means: the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

And just in case the women may be a little smug right now, do you remember what happened to Mary? She was visited by the angel Gabriel. She was told that she would become pregnant by the Holy Spirit. Mary had to know that for the rest of her life she would be an outcast and labeled an adulteress and the child she bore would be shunned in shame because he was illegitimate. Would you do what Mary did when she visited her relative Mary? Would you praise and thank God for choosing her?

Just think about these two people, Mary and Joseph. Just think about how faithful and pious they were. Just think about how Jesus was surrounded by two parents who had such a faith in God that they were willing to literally risk all to follow what God wished them to do. Do we ever stop to think about what all this means? It’s not only the faithfulness of Jesus’, parents but the reality that Jesus came to save us from our sins and that God came to us in the form of Jesus to be with us.

Here we are with similar circumstances. We are led by the culture and our religion. We hear the songs, “I’m dreaming of a White Christmas” and “Jingle Bells.” We are told to shop until we drop. We are to spend, spend, spend. And our religion tells us that, “Jesus is the reason for the season.” and, “Let’s put Christ back in Christmas,” whatever those sayings mean.

While we do all the cultural things and are influenced by the sayings from our religion, do we really think about what Christmas is all about? Do we take in the significance that this child came to make us one with God and that God loved us so much that God became one of us?

Furthermore, we need to think about “he came to save US.” We need to consider the words, “God with US.” What about Jesus? After all, Jesus lost his life for the sake of the gospel. He picked up the cross. He died to self as he came from God and became one of us. He asks us to do the same.

Can we really sing, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel?”