‘The Characters of Christmas’
Message: ‘Mary & Joseph: Peace’ Text: Various
Introduction: This is the time of the year when TV stations start airing their ‘Year in Review.’
- It’s a stroll down the memory lane of prominent news stories.
- It’s also the time we start thinking about what we want to do differently next year.
- Did you know 2018 is only 15 days away?
To think about what we want to do differently next year, we have to take an honest assessment of how this past year went for us. So, how did 2017 turn out for you?
- How was school? Good grades so far?
- How did your job go? Promotion? Raise?
- How about your marriage? Are you more in love with your spouse than you were this time last year?
- How about your children? Are their lives going in the direction you hoped they would?
- What about your walk with Jesus? Have you found victory over recurring sin? Has your faith been proven true? Has your heart enlarged to love Jesus more this past year?
If you could do a picture ‘Year in review’ of your life, what would it include? Oh wait, if you’re on Facebook, they do that for you.
I think most people post pictures on Facebook, that are just the ‘good parts’ that represent how they want people to view their lives. If we posted a true sampling of our lives in pictures, perhaps people would see a much different us…
- One where we fail.
- One where we struggle to do the right thing.
- One where we’re so overwhelmed we loose it.
- One that shows we don’t have all the answers and are barely holding things together.
Background: I think the pictures we usually see of Mary & Joseph’s lives during the Christmas season are a lot like the ‘Best of their year in review.’ They tend not to focus on their struggles only on what God was doing in their lives. But I believe that’s a mistake.
Life, for Mary and Joseph, wasn’t going as they planned; they were engaged, Mary was pregnant and Joseph knew he wasn’t the father.
- They had every reason to think their future together was going to be a disaster.
But, the chaos that was their life, was transformed by grace and that grace led to trust, to obedience and to peace.
Transition: Open your Bibles to Luke 1:26. Let’s look at how Mary & Joseph’s journey together started out chaotic but ended in peace.
- Mary & Joseph
- Mary: Luke 1:26-38
Read: Luke 1:26-38
To think that Mary, a teenager, was shaken when the angel talks to her, is an understatement. Luke describes her at that moment as greatly troubled, another way to say it was she was very agitated. She wasn’t expecting anything like this… this wasn’t part of her 5 yr plan.
- Yada yada yada … pregnant
At that moment, that’s all she heard.
- Yea, she knew she hadn’t been with a man, but no one would believe that… would they?
- And what about Joseph? How’s he going to take it… I’ll disgrace his good name. He won’t believe it either.
- I’ll be left on my own because even my family won’t take me back.
Yet, Mary, allows the angel to talk. And what she hears, starts to change not only her mind but sooth her heart.
- Mary, the Lord is with you!
- You have found God’s favor/grace!
- Yes, Mary, you will have a baby, Joseph will not be the Father and it won’t be… how it’s usually done.
- You will call the child, Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins and be called the Son of the Most High!
- The Lord will give Him the throne of His father David. Mary, that means He is the Messiah!
- And in case you’re wondering, the Holy Spirit will make all this happen.
Perhaps even at that moment Mary is thinking this all seem just too out there, can it be true?
- The angel, to validate what he’s saying, tells her, your relative Elizabeth is pregnant in her old age.
- Mary, nothing is impossible with God.
She responds to God’s call by saying: I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.
- Mary experienced God’s grace.
- She was sensitive to God’s presence.
- Her faith is bolstered and she’s obedient to the call of God on her life.
- And for that moment, she experiences peace in the midst of the chaos that is her life.
Is it possible, that God has been trying to talk to you, but all you’ve heard is
- …yada, yada, yada… loneliness.
- …yada, yada, yada… fear.
- …yada, yada, yada… worry.
You’re desperate for peace but that peace seems impossible, at least for as long as ‘whatever this situation is for you’ lasts.
- Ask God to make you sensitive to His presence.
- Ask God to show you that nothing is impossible with Him.
- Ask God to extend to you an extra measure of His grace and a heartfelt desire to obey Him in the midst of your desperate situation.
And then allow God to work.
- Wait, trust, that the God of peace will give you His peace, the peace that passes all understanding.
- Joseph: Matthew 1:18-25
Read: Matthew 1:18-25
Joseph was a ‘man’s man.’ He worked a respectable trade. When the time came for his parents to find him a wife, they chose Mary.
We know from the text that he was a just man.
- That means he was spiritually sensitive and tried to live by obeying God’s Law.
- Others recognized that Joseph feared God and honored Him with his life choices.
Joseph and Mary got engaged and they started to make plans for their future.
- Where they would live?
- How many children they would have?
- How can he grow his carpentry business to support a wife and later a family?
We’re not told how long it was from the time they got engaged to the time Mary returned from Elizabeth’s house, but she was already showing that she was pregnant.
Then Mary, to Joseph horror, told him she was pregnant. Now, Joseph is questioning the plans he made with Mary… after all, she had been unfaithful to him.
- His life, his plans all come crashing down.
Perhaps he thought, Is this where honoring God with my life has gotten me?
Yet, Joseph, a kind and compassionate man, runs through his mind the idea of giving Mary a quiet divorce. He didn’t want to add to her shame.
Those very thoughts were probably going through his mind just as he went to sleep. While sleeping, an angel appeared to him in a dream.
- God knows you Joseph.
- He knows the seemingly impossible situation He’s about to place you in.
- And Joseph, God knows that among any number of other very real feelings like shame, and anger, you’re afraid.
- Joseph, God, will not only address those feelings, but promises you peace.
Everything that the angel said to Joseph, the angel Gabriel had already said to Mary.
- I believe God wanted to make it perfectly clear that Mary was telling the truth.
- And, since God was involved in making all this happen, He will be with them all the way through.
Joseph believes the angel, because Joseph believes the God who sent the angel. He’s obedient to God and the next morning, Joseph marries Mary.
And so there would be no question about the nature of Jesus’ birth; Joseph and Mary do not consummate the marriage until later, after Jesus is born.
Joseph was at peace with what Mary told him about being pregnant. And I am sure Mary was all the more at peace when Joseph told her what happened in his dream and that he did, in fact, trust her.
- It was both Mary and Joseph’s trust in God and obedience to His word that brought peace in their chaotic lives.
Read: Luke 2:13-14
What a relevant message. We live in a world filled with anger, hatred, distrust, and divisiveness.
Here, on that prophecy fulfilling night, the angels join together as one voice.
- They give honor and glory to God.
- Then, they extend God’s peace
Notice… Peace among those with whom He is pleased. Do not miss this point.
- The angel is not offering peace to everyone.
- He is offering God’s peace to specific individuals… to those with whom God is pleased.
Look, we all would agree that peace is elusive at best in life. But understand,
- It’s elusive, not because God has made it impossible for people to experience His peace.
- It’s elusive because people have chosen not to follow what God has said is necessary to know His peace.
What is that? What’s necessary for the average Joe and Jane to know God’s peace? Trust and obey.
- Trust the Good News the angels brought that awe and wonder filled night in Bethlehem.
- Trust that Jesus is God, and that He came to give His life on the cross to forgive our sin.
- Then obey. Speaking of Jesus, the apostle John wrote this in John 1:12 But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God.
To believe in Jesus is to trust. To receive Jesus is to obey.
Just as the angels offered peace after they gave honor and glory to God, so it is in our own lives.
- We can know God’s peace when our lives are both honoring to Him and bringing Him glory.
- And they will, when we, by faith, give our lives to Jesus.
Here’s a little of what the Bible tells us about God’s peace.
- Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. (John 14:27)
- I have said these things to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)
- For He Himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in His flesh the dividing wall of hostility (Ephesians 2:14)
- And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:7)
- May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. (2 Peter 1:2)
Conclusion: The picture on the front of the bulletin is not a typical picture of Mary & Joseph who are usually shown at the manger at peace with the seemingly impossible work God is doing in their lives.
- The picture on the Bulletin cover shows them before the manger and the birth of Jesus.
- They look anxious, they look flustered, they look anything but peaceful.
And I think, as the birth of Jesus became more and more of a reality,
- they ‘learned’ to be at peace with a very difficult and embarrassing situation.
- Because they ‘learned’ to trust God
- and they ‘learned’ to obey His word.
I think that’s how our lives should look if we did an honest review.
- There will be times our faces show our fear, anger, confusion and worry.
- But there will also be pictures where we are at peace.
And no matter what circumstance we find ourselves in along that journey, we are assured of God’s presence with us. And as we trust Him and obey His word, His presence brings us peace.
Mary and Joseph both trusted and obeyed God’s work in their lives and even though their situation would bring them shame and harassment from others, they had peace.
But pastor, you don’t know my situation. No, I might not. But God does.
- Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all. (2 Thessalonians 3:16)
Peace is a gift of God, given to those who are in a right relationship with Him by faith in His Son, Jesus.