Advent 4 2016
Immanuel Lutheran, Hamilton, Ohio
December 18, 2016
Psalm 24:1-10, Isaiah 7:10-17, Romans 1:1-7, Matthew 1:18-25
Pastor Kevin Jud

Sometimes being a follower of Jesus can feel like a long, monotonous slog through life.  Day after day.  Week after week.  Worship service after worship service.  Sin and forgiveness.  Sin and forgiveness.  Get up, try to do what you are supposed to do, go to bed.  Repeat.  Read your Bible, come to worship.  Hear the Good News.  Repeat.  There is, at times, a desire for more; more excitement, more emotion, more direct revelation from God.  More direct interaction like back in Bible times when angels would appear to people.  How cool would that be to have an angel appear to you?  How exciting would it be to have an angel come and talk to you and bring you a message from God?  That would be pretty amazing, but for the most part we live pretty average lives as followers of God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Joe is one of the good guys.  An average Joe.  A blue collar kind of guy who makes his living with His hands.  He is loyal to one girl.  He is patient.  They have been pledged to each other for quite a while and Joe has been a perfect gentlemen. He is concerned about his own reputation and he is concerned about the reputation and honor of his future wife.  He is a hard worker and is very much looking forward to getting married and starting a family.  Life is going along pretty well for this good guy from a small town. Life is good for this average Joe.

Everything is going good, that is, until it all comes crashing down on Joe with two words from his fiancée, “I’m pregnant.”  What?!?  How can this be?  Joe has been chaste; he has been waiting until the wedding night; how can this be?  Oh no!  No! No! No!  This can’t be true.  This sweet young lady that he has been waiting to marry has been with another man. This one that Joe had been waiting for and protecting her honor; she has given herself to some other guy. Life for this average Joe went from good to terrible with just two words, “I’m pregnant.”

        Life for this average Joe went from good to terrible with just two words, “I’m pregnant.”

Joe’s head is spinning.  Joe is concerned about his reputation.  Everyone is going to think that he took indecent liberties before the wedding day.  They will think Joe is a cad.  They will think that he was not willing to wait until the wedding.  Everyone is going to blame him for getting her pregnant.

Now Joe could be very clear to everyone that this is not his child; he did not get her pregnant.  It’s not his fault.  She is a loose woman.  She cheated on him. This is all her fault.  Joe can make sure everyone knows the truth.  He could do this, but Joe is a good guy and even in the pain of his heartbreak and humiliation he is still concerned about her reputation and her safety.  Joe still cares about her and he is still a good guy.  If Joe blames her, people will accuse her and shame her and shun her and maybe they will even hurt her or kill her for cheating on Joe.

Joe decides he will try to do the best for both of them and quietly break off their engagement and be on his way.  Maybe she can leave town or lay low for a while and all this will somehow blow over.  Maybe he can go back to being just an average, albeit lonely, Joe.

Then this average Joe finds out he is no longer average. That night, while he sleeps, Matthew 1:20 (ESV) 20 …an angel of the Lord appear[s] to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.”[1]

This average Joe is going to be the step father of a miraculous baby boy.  The angel tells him, Matthew 1:21 (ESV) 21 “She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”[2]

Joe is going to be stepfather to Jesus, in Greek, ihsous, in Hebrew, Ya-shawa which means YHWH Saves; the Lord saves.  Joe is going to be responsible for caring for Immanuel; God with us.

Joe is going to get married after all.  He will step up and do what the angel instructed him to do.  He will take upon himself any shame and scorn that people might otherwise direct towards his pregnant wife Mary.  He will make sure no one hurts Mary or the baby.  Everyone will think that the baby is his baby and he was the one to pressure Mary to compromise her honor.  Joe will take the shame and protect Mary and the unborn child from harm.  Joe’s life is changed completely with two words from Mary and then changed completely again with a visit from an angel of the Lord.  How crazy must this all be for Joe?  How frightening.  How disconcerting.  How life-altering.  Jesus’ arrival on the scene has brought with it great trouble and turmoil.  And Joseph is transformed from being an average Joe to being the stepfather of God in flesh and his adventures are only beginning.

This world is full of darkness and trouble and turmoil. The world loves the darkness and Jesus brings difficulty into the lives of those who love him because Jesus is not of this world.  Jesus does not bring friendship with the world.  Jesus is the light and the darkness does not understand the light.  The world is a world of selfishness and greed and indulgence and evil; Jesus brings a message of peace, love, and service.  Jesus bring peace; God and man are reconciled.  As a redeemed child of God you are called out of the ways of the world and called onto the path of God to delight in His will and walk in His ways, doing what you are supposed to be doing in your various vocations of life.  Life as a follower of Jesus can be difficult.  It means living as a child of light in a world of darkness.  It means feeling out of place in so much of the world.

Now, you likely will never be spoken to by an angel of the Lord like Joseph was and given immediate, life-changing instructions.  You likely will never have an angel of the Lord appear to you in a dream and that is a relief because the messages Joseph received were life-altering.  You may never be spoken to by an angel of the Lord like Joseph was, but you were spoken to by an angel with a message from the Lord for you.  The word “angel”; “angelos”, in Greek means messenger.  In English we think of angel as like the angel Gabriel.  But angel simply means messenger.  So an angel has spoken to you.  A messenger of the Lord has spoken to you the word of the Lord, “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Those words changed you from being an average person in this world and called you into the Kingdom of God as a child of God; an heir of the riches of the Kingdom of Heaven.  It called you out of being an average person to being a royal priest of God Almighty offering yourself as a living sacrifice.

That messenger of God who baptized you may have worn a white robe, but he was just a man speaking on behalf of God bringing you the Good News of forgiveness in Jesus Christ.  There are still angels bringing you the message of God and that message is still, “your sins are forgiven.”  The message is still radical in calling you to live in love and care for others.  The message is still about that baby who is God incarnate; God in flesh, who has come to give Himself for you.

The message is still about that baby that Joseph cared for and protected while being knit together in Mary’s womb and cared for and protected and taught once He was born.  It is about that baby that Joseph, being instructed by an angel, escaped with to Egypt along with Mary to flee Herod’s sword and then brought back to Nazareth when Herod the Great was dead. It is about that child that Joseph raised. It is about that child who is the one; the Christ; God in Flesh.  This child placed under Joseph’s care by an angel is God in flesh who grows up to offer that flesh on the altar of the cross as a sacrifice for your sins and the sins of the world.  The one protected from shame and scorn by Joseph takes on the shame and scorn of the world for you.  God came into the world to save the world.  Jesus coming in the flesh into the human story changes everything. God came to be with us to live the perfect life and die as the spotless Lamb of God.

An angel comes to the Virgin Mary to announce to her that she would give birth to the savior conceived by the Holy Spirit. An angel comes to Joseph to tell him to take Mary as his wife because she is pregnant with God.  Angels are still around you guarding and protecting.  Messengers are still bringing you the Good News about that baby boy.

Sometimes being a follower of Jesus can feel like a long, monotonous slog through life.  Day after day.  Week after week.  Read your Bible, come to worship.  Hear the Good News.  Repeat.  Even those working in full time ministry as teachers and pastors and missionaries can feel the grind of getting through life one day at a time trying to live God’s way of love and service.  Life in Christ is often a daily, repetitive struggle.  Life in Christ is generally not a series of exciting events.  Even for Joseph, who received multiple instructions from an angel in his care for Jesus, most of his life was spent in quiet obedience, loving and caring for Jesus and Mary and their other children and that is okay.  Quiet obedience and humble repentance and loving and serving others is a good way to live because you have the Good News of the Christ who came to save you.  Jesus came for you.  Jesus brought light into a world of darkness and you have that light.  In service to God Joseph guarded Jesus from the womb through birth and childhood.  Joseph made sure Jesus was safe so He could die at the right time for you.  And because of that you are destined to live forever in the heavenly kingdom because that baby that Joseph saved came to save you. Amen.

[1]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

[2]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

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