‘Dear Mum and Dad’ – A letter from a studentThisis the third installment in our Christmas seriesLast time we considered the difficulties and load that God entrusted to Mary and spent some time looking at the question … why is life so hard at times?You can be doing everything right … and yet life can still be very hard … if you did not hear me talk about Mary, please listen to the talk on the website.Our focus moves this week to Joseph … the man Mary was betrothed to. The man she was promised to in marriage.
Again, the familiar Christmas story.As I have said before, in our culture the Christmas story is seen to be a fairytale for children that grown ups should no longer believe.But in reality, what happened around the birth of Jesus is an adult tale that needs to be translated to make it accessible for children.What happened at Christmas was a key step in God’s unfolding plan to rescue the human race from the mess we have ended up in.
Lets have a little look under the surface of familiar events in the life of Joseph. A trusting, faithful and loyal man.Mary has just returned after visiting her cousin Elizabeth for 3 – 4 months … and Mary is pregnant.This 14, 15, 16 year old girl from a backwater village in Northern Israel arrives back home and is found to be pregnant. Totally out of character and completely unexpected.1. ’Found to be pregnant …’ This is no joke … there is no relieving twist at the end of this message. Simply, Mary is pregnant. Well, OK, not so simply given the circumstances. And it looks like Mary has said not anything to anyone at home … not her parents … and certainly not to Joseph. This is a shock of enormous proportions.Just think of this from Joseph’s point of view … what a betrayal … not just the incomprehensible idea of the whole thing … but when she is found to be pregnant, she is talking about angels and the messiah … it’s too much to take in.2. ‘Faithful to the law …’ Joseph is a devout man, wanting to please God, and wanting to do the right thing.The trouble is, if he accuses her of unfaithfulness … she could die.
This is the sort of Law that Joseph and everyone else would have been aware of.
2. ‘Faithful to the law …’ Joseph is a devout man, wanting to please God, and wanting to do the right thing.- If he accuses her of unfaithfulness … she could die.- If he accepts her in marriage … it would be like accepting that the child is his and that he has dishonoured Mary by sleeping with her and insulted her family by breaking with custom. It would be lying.- If he divorces her without accusing her … they are both shamed, as is the family, but Mary survives. Both reputations are ruined … though perhaps hers more than his … but there has been no lie, only dishonour.So, the only way for Joseph to retain his honour is to accuse Mary … instead of doing that he considers compassion and gives up his honour … something that would have been deeply important to him.I’m sure you have heard of a ‘win/win’ situation … an answer that works to the advantage of everyone … well, this is a lose/lose situation … there is no good way out. And Joseph knows it.3. ’… after he had considered this …’ The word that gets translated here as ‘considered’ appears in half a dozen other forms within the New Testament. In all the other places it comes with the sense of the person feeling rage, or anger, perhaps being very upset or deeply disturbed … the word does have the connotation of thinking deeply about something … but it is only in this case that none of the underlying angst makes its way into the translation. Perhaps the traditional perception of Joseph has too high a view of him. Joseph was deeply upset and shocked and crucially, still had not finally made up his mind on what to do.4. “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid …” And it seems that the angel gets to the nub of this problem … the reason why Joseph cannot say Yes to Mary … and it may be that he DOES believe her … is that he is concerned about what people will think. And so, it is quite possible that what stands in the way of Joseph doing the right thing is Pride … fear of being thought badly of.
Last week we saw some of the difficulties that God loaded upon Mary.Put into a place of vulnerability and danger with only God to rely upon.She has a story that very few people will believe. Being cut off from her family.And we saw that believers experiencing hard things in this life is not something unusual or unexpected … however, that as we follow Jesus faithfully Jesus promises us that supernatural Peace is available and also joy in the Holy Spirit.For Joseph the challenges are different … and tonight we are going to focus on the issue of pride.Pride is the first sin, and the beginning of all sin. Pride says, I don’t need God, I can do this myself. Pride makes self more important than God. Pride is deeply offensive to God because it is a deliberate put down.Pride is a problem that affects the whole human race, but it is often men who seem to struggle most with it. Let’s see what happened to JosephNo Discussion … we want to be included … we feel valued when we are.‘…faithful to the Law …’ we like to be seen to be in the right … have you noticed, some men never make mistakes? They certainly never apologize. Somebody else made a mistake and let them down.How others see us … when there is a problem, men like to explain why they did what they did. In doing this they are looking for affirmation and acceptance … they are looking for you to say … gosh, any reasonable person would draw the same conclusion you did and would have acted the same way. Men don’t want to lose face … we are afraid of looking bad or stupid. Another symptom of this sort of behaviour is making statements rather than asking questions.Facing the fear … we think the big deal is what others think of us. When we need to fear God.
Proverbs 3:34 gives God’s perspective on Pride … He actively opposes itIt also identifies God’s antidote to Pride.The opposite of Pride is Humility.John Stott; “At every stage of our Christian development and in every sphere of our Christian Discipleship, pride is the greatest enemy and humility our greatest friend.”Humility is not natural, but it is possible … it is a choice.God gives grace to the Humble … if you feel you are lacking the grace of God in your life then that is your cue to pursue humility. How do you do that.Well trusting God is a great start.So, choose to entrust yourself to God. Choose to entrust your impossible situations to Him, go to him with the areas of pain, give to him the regular irritations you experience,. Keep choosing to trust Him.In that way, you put yourself on the side of God, and you make room for him to give you grace. Be under no illusion, more than anything else, you need God’s grace for you life more than you need anything else.God gave Joseph some major issues to deal with and Joseph chose to humble himself, he gave up on pride and allowed others to assume things about him that were not true. God required this of Joseph and Joseph submitted himself to it … and incalculable good came from it.AMEN
Matthew 1:18 - 19<br />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. 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. <br />
Matthew 1:20 - 21<br />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. 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.”<br />
Matthew 1:22 - 25<br />All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). <br />When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a <br />son. And he gave him the name Jesus. <br />
Joseph … Shocked & Trusting<br />‘… found to be pregnant …’? [Matt 1:18]<br />‘… faithful to the Law …’? [Matt 1:19]<br />
Deuteronomy 22:23-24<br />If a man happens to meet in a town a virgin pledged to be married and he sleeps with her, you shall take both of them to the gate of that town and stone them to death—the young woman because she was in a town and did not scream for help, and the man because he violated another man’s wife. You must purge the evil from among you.<br />
Joseph … Shocked & Trusting<br />‘… found to be pregnant …’? [Matt 1:18]<br />‘… faithful to the Law …’? [Matt 1:19]<br />‘… after he had considered this …’? [Matt 1:20]<br />“Joseph son of David, do not be afraid …”<br />
Dealing with the problem of pride<br />No discussion – <br />Doing what’s ‘right’ – <br />How others see us – <br />Facing the Fear – <br />
1 Peter 5: 5 - 7<br />All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, <br /> “God opposes the proud but shows favour to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. <br />James 4: 6 But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the <br />proud but shows favour to the humble.”<br />