18Now 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. 19Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. 20But 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. 21She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:
23“Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel,”
which means, “God is with us.”24When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, 25but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.
I love watching Hallmark Movies. Every year they start showing Christmas movies beginning in October. However, I don’t start watching them until after Thanksgiving. I typically want to enjoy each season. Time already goes fast enough…
I’m not the only one that likes Hallmark movies. Many people have told me that they too enjoy them. But have you ever thought about why so many people enjoy watching Hallmark movies?
In all honesty, I think I know why I enjoy them…
In every single move, “Life is perfect.” There is always some really nice looking fellow, a really pretty woman, boy meets girl, they fall in love, and live happily ever after.
Of course, sometimes in the story there is usually some kind of conflict, or sometimes just by pure coincidence that they meet, but it always gets worked out and often brings the couple even closer together.
Also, it is always in some cute little town and community where everybody gathers and enjoys their lives together.
It’s a perfect world in the Hallmark movies – and who doesn’t want a perfect world?
While it is nice sometimes to escape from our own issues for a couple of hours by watching Hallmark movies on TV, once the movie is over, our reality hits knowing that we are far from a perfect world…most likely far from a perfect life.
And this story today about Joseph and Mary is far from the perfect scenerio.
Jesus, the Son of God, born to a virgin mother, is a scandalous story right off the bat.
Mary, the mother of Jesus, became pregnant before she married Joseph – which in those days, could have gotten her killed.
Joseph, a good man, knew he had not been with her, and like any other human being would have assumed that his fiancée had been with another man.
Joseph was ready to end the relationship and move on with his life. And no one could have blamed him for wanting to do so.
Joseph had made us his mind – the next day he would go to her and let her off the hook gently so that he would not embarrass her or cause her grief.
No doubt, he loved her. Because if she really had been with another man – most of us would have wanted to humiliate her.
But Joseph loves her and cares for her. His mind is made up. Tomorrow, he will tell her that they will part ways.
So he goes to bed that night before he is going to break it off with Mary when an angel appears to him in the middle of his sleep.
The angel tells him that Mary had not been with anyone else, but that she was carrying a child that was conceived by the Holy Spirit.
In other words, Joseph…this child Mary is carrying is God’s son.
She told him what his name is to be and what this child’s purpose in the world was to be – “His name will be Jesus and he has come to the world to save His people from Sin.”
Think for a moment…
Do we trust what we have heard in a dream? Was the encounter so profound that Joseph somehow knew this was the work of God?
I mean this is scandalous, right? Would we not truly believe that what was really happening a real thing?
Would we not get up in the morning, scratching our head and wonder if what we dreamed was really real or just some crazy dream?
This had to be a big and hard decision for Joseph as to whether he marries Mary or not. Can you imagine how this must have weighed heavy on his heart.
Can you imagine the hurt and the pain he must of felt when he heard that Mary was pregnant?
And what if he was wrong about the dream. Then he would have looked like a fool.
But I wonder if he even considered that the information was wrong. Joseph was a good and righteous man, which means he most likely already had a good relationship with God; attended worship at the temple and in always in prayer and communication with God.
I imagine that Joseph prayed about what to do about marrying his fiancée Mary, and in his discernment, his prayer was answered by an angel who visited him in the middle of the night.
However, if we were in the shoes of Joseph…Would it not have been easy to dismiss the dream and go forward with your plans to quietly dismiss your fiancée and move forward with your life…
But instead…Joseph shows profound trust in God – knowing and understanding that his ways are not God’s ways.
Joseph remains faithful to Mary because God had intervened.
Against all odds in the context of the prominent Jewish Law at that time, Joseph takes a risk and remains completely faithful to Mary by trusting completely in God.
That very first Christmas was far from “picture-perfect” or even proper. The incarnation of God’s Son on the surface appears as a scandal!
Our perfect and awesome God comes to us in our world that is messy, broken, and suffering.
His name is Jesus, which means “God with us” and he comes for one purpose only – to save us from ourselves by breaking the barrier of sin and death.
God sends his Son Jesus into the world. He comes for you.
If this is true and we believe in our hearts that Jesus Christ is our Savior and Lord and came into our messy world to save us from our sins,…and if we are to completely and profoundly trust God in the same way that Joseph trusted God,…what then might we be called to do?
Does God open doors for us, or give us a vision, beckoning us to trust and follow?
Like Joseph, are we are called to rise and follow God’s call, not knowing where the journey will take us, or the path that God has set before us, but to trust in God alone, no matter what…no matter what our circumstances may be…
I can’t help to think about a story I heard one time demonstrating our trusting God…
There was a man who was walking along the side of a cliff, when he slipped and began to fall off of the cliff. He’s now on the side of the cliff, barely hanging onto a tree limb. He looks down and realizes that if he can’t hold on or if the tree branch gives out, he will be killed when he falls.
It’s a very long drop to the bottom.
He begins to yell for help…”Is anybody up there?”
And then hears a voice that tells him to “Let go.”
The man replies, “Are you crazy?…I will die if I let go.”
The man cries for help again…Is there anybody there to help me? Please help!
Again, the voice tells him, “Let go.”
This time the man responds, “Is there anyone else up there?”
No doubt this man is in trouble, but yet God calls him to “Let go” – the hardest thing for any of us to do.
Every single one of us here is this place today is most likely in some kind of situation that we are being called to “Let go” and “Let God” be in control.
To put our trust in God – knowing that our ways are not God’s ways.
I made a visit yesterday to a daughter whose mother was dying. Her mother’s name is Nancy.
A week ago, Nancy was given a very grim future in which she was suffering from Congestive Heart Failure.
For almost six days, Nancy never woke up, never ate or drank anything, was given morphine for her pain…and her breathing was hard and labored.
I went yesterday to go and visit her daughter who had been by her mother’s side this entire past week at the hospital.
I walked into the room, and Nancy was sitting up in the bed with a big smile on her face and wanted to eat and drink a Pepsi.
This woman’s daughter and Son-in-Law had been so distraught about the passing of Nancy, especially right here at Christmas time.
But yesterday, they received a gift. A gift of time to spend one more Christmas together.
Trusting in God’s will, we felt the presence of God and God’s peace.
You know what I think…I think and believe that when we “Let go” and trust Jesus with everything that we have…our whole heart…
We get a glimpse into heaven. We get a tiny spec of what our eternal life will be like…
Sometimes I think I get it wrong. I want to think that I need to do all the things Jesus tells me so that I will be a better Christian…like:
To love God and my neighbor
To confess my sins and pray…
To trust God at all times…no matter what the circumstance…
Sometimes I think I want to do all those things so that I can have hope in my eternal life –
But I don’t think that is the case at all –
Beacause I already have eternal life as my destination…WE have eternal life because Jesus has already promised that to us and took care of that on the cross.
And yes, we can always be better Christians…but
Each of us have already been chosen as children of God.
Doing the work of the Lord – obeying, trusting, repenting, and praying is not so we have salvation or even to make us better, but because we get to experience the presence of God in our lives!
We get a glimpse of heaven.
Every single time we give ourselves to God, we receive the presence of God in our lives.
We are changed when we experience the fullness of Christ. We are led on a journey that we cannot understand or fathom.
Our profound trust in God – the one who created us – changes us from the inside out – where God is always doing something new and different in each and every one of us.
I love a good Hallmark Movie where everything is picture-perfect. But we all know that is not at all how life works.
Our world is far from perfect. In fact, it’s messy – real messy. It’s a world full of sin, hate, and a place where evil resides.
Even the very first Christmas doesn’t appear to perfect or even fit for a king.
We live in a world where it sometimes feels easier to handle things quietly and without a fuss – instead of hearing God’s call to live differently.
But God comes and God is with us because Joseph said “Yes” and put his trust in God.
In spite of all odds against the Christ child, Jesus is born.
This life is not picture – perfect. But the next life is –
Do you want a glimpse of that perfect world? Do you want to feel the presence of God?
Obey. Say “Yes” to God’s call. Repent. Pray. Trust. Believe.
Not because it will lead you to salvation, but because you will know and see Emmanuel – that Jesus is God with-us.