December 17, 2017
As we continue our series today in Misfits of Christmas, we look at Joseph, the stepfather of Jesus. Joseph is an interesting character in the Christmas story. Much like Mary, we would expect the stepfather of Jesus to be a prominent man. A wise man. Someone with experience. Someone who would mentor the boy Jesus and give him great advice. Impart some knowledge on him. But the truth is, we don’t know very much about Joseph. We know that he was a carpenter and a descendant of King David. Other than that we don’t know much.
In fact, Joseph is in the opening chapters of the gospels, and after that we never hear about him again. Mary, Jesus’ mother, is mentioned throughout Jesus’ ministry, but not Joseph. Mary is at the foot of the cross as Jesus dies, but not Joseph. Because of that commentators believe that Joseph died early in Jesus’ life. Definitely before he started his public ministry at the age of 30.
But maybe the most puzzling thing of all, is that there is not a single word from Joseph recorded in all of Scripture. Never once does Scripture record a single thing that Joseph says. So if we are picturing an outspoken leader who is keen on giving advice, that’s the wrong picture. This misfit of Christmas is quiet and reserved. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t learn something from Joseph. More importantly, that doesn’t mean we can’t learn something about God’s glory through Joseph. So let’s take a look at this quiet and reserved misfit.
Joseph experienced a life-changing event.
What we are going to see is that Joseph is a misfit by the way he handled this situation.
18 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit.
We read this section just about every year during the Christmas season, and it is so easy to read this section and not stop to consider what is actually going on here. We read it like it is no big deal. But think about it. Joseph probably had plans for his life. Remember how their marrying system worked. They signed the marriage papers, and then started saving up for the wedding reception. That’s what pledged meant. Mary and Joseph had signed the papers, legally married, but now waiting to move in with each other until after the reception.
So here he was working hard saving up money for the reception. Maybe he even stayed late at the shop and worked on a few more cabinets trying to turn out as much work as possible to make as much as possible. Maybe he couldn’t wait for the day to bring Mary home. Maybe they’d be a happy married couple for a year or two, then they’d start to have kids. He could picture Mary holding their baby. Maybe he imagined the day little Joseph would be running around. He give life advice. Maybe he’d teach Joseph to be a carpenter like him. They’d live a quiet life in Nazareth but that’s okay because it was their life together.
But then the life changing event happened. Mary came back from visiting her cousin Elizabeth, and something was noticeably different. Pregnant. She was pregnant. And she tried to tell him that the Holy Spirit miraculously conceived a baby in her, and this baby was to be the promised Messiah from long ago. Joseph didn’t have any children, but he knew where children came from, and what Mary was telling him wasn’t it. He was left to believe that sweet Mary did the unthinkable. She cheated on him. Betrayed his trust and found love with another man.
All his plans were now messed up. The path that he was on, the future he could see so clearly, gone. Now what? Where does he turn? How does he start over? Do you think he was hurt? Absolutely. Do you think he was frustrated? Disappointed? Angry? Of course.
We live in a world where unexpected things happen. We may have one plan for our life, but often times we hardly end up where we planned to be. For instance, how many of you are where you thought you would be when you graduated high school or college? Plans change. Unexpected life changing events happen.
And sometimes those life changing events hurt. Sometimes they cause pain. And that’s because of sin. We are sinful and people are sinful. And when you mix sinful people with other sinful people in a sinful world, pain and hurt are going to occur. Sin is behind the life changing event of a broken marriage. Sin is behind the life changing event of losing a job. Sin is behind life changing events such as sickness, disease, cancer, strokes. Sin is behind the life changing event of death.
And like Joseph, these life changing events leave us feeling scared and anxious. It leaves our hearts shattered in a million pieces. And it’s all because of sin. Because we are sinful, people around us are sinful, and this world is sinful. And when we experience those pains and hurts, how do we respond? Well let’s look at how Joseph responded.
19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.
In the midst of his hurt, he sought to show grace.
Joseph had decided that he was going to divorce Mary. To divorce her, he had two options. 1) he could charge her with adultery and take her before the Jewish court. There would be a trial. It would be public. Everyone would know what she supposedly did. If she was found guilty of adultery, Joseph would be absolved, and Mary, according to the law, could be put to death. His other option 2) He could sign a certificate of divorce not stating the purpose of the divorce, bring two witnesses with him, give it to Mary, and move on. This way would mean people would talk. Why was Joseph divorcing his wife? Was it Joseph’s kid? Why is he leaving the mother and her child? Joseph would like bad, but it would keep Mary’s reputation up. And what we see is that Joseph showed grace. He showed love. He chose the second option. This is how he was going to divorce Mary. It would be quietly and he’d let people talk about him instead of Mary.
Is that how we react when our hearts are broken into a million pieces? Do we seek grace?
There’s a saying that goes like this, “Hurt people hurt people.” In other words, when someone is hurting, they respond by hurting someone. When we are scared about the future, and someone attempts to comfort us, we’re tempted to lash out. Be short with them. Tell them we don’t’ want to hear it.
If we do get laid off from a job, we’re tempted to talk badly about that company. When a coworker or a loved one, or a friend hurts us, in our hurt we look to hurt. To get revenge. And sometimes we don’t just hurt people, but we hurt God. To be sure every sin we commit hurts God. Every sin we commit is ultimately against him. But sometimes in the midst of our hurt, we hurt him directly. We are diagnosed with a sickness or cancer, and we pray that God heal us. But when our situation doesn’t change, we question why he isn’t there. We lash out at him and accuse him of not caring. We accuse him of not being loving.
When tragedy strikes and our hearts are broken in a million pieces, we sit there in the depths. Attempting to pick up the pieces of our hearts. And from the depths of our pain and hurt we lash out and we hurt God. We accuse him of not being a good God because how could a good God do this? How could he make us go through this? If he really loved us, why did he let this happen?
Joseph could have done that. He could have lashed out at Mary or at God. But he didn’t. He decided to respond in grace. But after he had made his decision, an angel appeared to him before he could carry it out.
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 fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).
I wonder how long it took Joseph to fall asleep that night. As he there broken hearted, wondering what happened, and how things went so wrong. But then he drifted off to sleep, and angel appeared to him. And he told him not to be afraid because that baby in Mary’s womb was in fact from the Holy Spirit. That baby is the promised Messiah. Mary was going to give birth to a boy and Joseph was supposed to name him Jesus, which means the Lord saves. And that’s exactly what that boy would do.
Jesus was born to save us. He was born to save us from this broken world filled with its hurts and pains. Filled with its broken plans. Filled with sin and sinful people. He was born to save us from our sins that one day we might live forever with him in heaven. There in heaven there is no brokenness. No hurt. No pain. No fear. Instead, Jesus will wipe away every tear from our eyes. Our hearts will always be full of happiness. There will be peace and smiling and laughter. There will be contentment and eternal joy forever.
But in order to get there, this baby Jesus needed to be born. This baby Jesus needed to grow up and live perfectly. This Jesus needed to go to the cross to pay for every one of your sins, my sins, and the sins of the world. The punishment that brought us peace was upon him. This Jesus needed to be placed in a tomb and three days later burst forth alive. That’s what he was born to do. He was born to save you from this place. And that’s exactly what he did. He did what his name says. He saved you. And that’s the hope that we have. One day we’ll leave this world of pain and sorrows and be in eternal happiness and joy.
And while that’s great and we are so happy about that, what about now? What comfort does that give me as I face this life filled with pain and sorrow and hurt? Yes, one day I will live in heaven where there is no pain, but what about now? Verse 23. He was also called Immanuel which means God with us.
Joseph’s life didn’t just get better because of the angel’s message. He still had hurts. He still had sorrows. But he had the promise of Immanuel; God with us. And that’s the promise you have too. No matter what you go through in this life, Immanuel; God with us.
- As you bend down and slowly start to pick up the pieces of you heart, God is with you.
- As you hear the news from the doctor, God is with you with his arm around you.
- As you lie awake at night fearful and anxious, God is with you protecting you, defending you, figuring the future out for you.
- As you carry the weight of your burdens, God is with you wanting to carry it with you.
See, the joy of Christmas is just that. The greatest joy is that Jesus was born to save us from this world. But the other joy that we have is knowing that we are never alone. Everything we go through in this life, God is with us. Immanuel. And because God is with us, we know that he will sustain us, pick us up, and help us through this life. Because he is with us, we know that one day, our sorrows and pains will end as he ushers us into eternal life with him. Then we will finally see our Savior who has been with us since before we were born. Then we will see Immanuel; God with us forever.
Joseph listened to God’s Word.
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 did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.
This wasn’t the plan for Joseph’s life. It is not what he expected at all. Yet he listened to God’s Word. He trusted God when he told him God was with him, and he knew that no matter what he faced in the future, God would continue to be with him.
Christmas time can be a hard time. While some of us are happy, some of us are sad because family isn’t with us. But at Christmas, we can all be joyful. Maybe not happy, but joyful. We can be content in our circumstances because we know what Jesus has done for us, and what he will do for us. We can be joyful because of that first Christmas when Joseph named the child Jesus; the Lord saves. Immanuel. God with us. Let that fact mend our hearts this Christmas. Let that fact be the reason for joy not just this Christmas, but always.