Going Deeper With the Sermon

Speaker: Dr. Marnie Crumpler
Date: December 11, 2016
Text: Joseph: Belief in Betrayal

BIG PRAYERS

JOSEPH: BELIEF IN BETRAYAL

MATTHEW 1: 18-25

SCRIPTURE

Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared 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. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins." All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:

"Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel"

(which means, God with us). When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.

PRAYER

Heavenly Father,
    As we draw one step closer to Christmas, we ask that you would reveal to us once more the wonder of the incarnation and refresh within us our sense of awe that you would go to such great lengths to redeem us, rebellious as we are.
    The Apostle Paul reminds us that the central mystery of Christmas is that your Son, our Lord Jesus, set aside heaven and entered into our broken world. He did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but emptied himself, took on the form of a servant, and humbled himself for our sake, becoming obedient to death--even the death of the cross.
   As we consider the ways that Jesus humbled himself, by your Holy Spirit help us to imitate him. Help us to look not to our own interests, but to those of others. Help us to be united in purpose, and in love. Help us to set aside selfish ambition and conceit, and in humility to regard others as better than ourselves.
   Stir within us a deepening desire to know you and grow as your disciples-rooted and built up in Christ, and established in the faith, abounding in thanksgiving.
   May that discipleship bear fruit in ministry to one another--encouraging, exhorting, and equipping so that we may become more like Christ. 

   And may our likeness to Christ cause us to share the cares and concerns that marked Jesus' life and ministry. May we proclaim the Gospel of the Kingdom. May we care for the least, the last, and the lost. May we give of ourselves generously to carry out your mission to the world around us? Through Christ our Lord, Amen.

BIG IDEA

We all have different reactions to Christmas. Some of us find ourselves angry or caustic. The pains we've experienced during the course of the year bubble to the surface at "the most wonderful time of the year," and we become resentful. Others find Christmas confusing. Messages surrounding Christmas compete with one another and, like Charlie Brown, we're not sure that we get what Christmas is really all about. There's another reaction that Christmas can inspire: courage. Like Joseph, we can move through anger and confusion, and into courage. Joseph trusted God and he trusted Mary. As a result, he refused to divorce her and he stepped in and treated Jesus as his own.

REFLECTIONS

1.  Joseph is easily overlooked when we read the Christmas narratives and yet his act of faith is one of the profoundest parts of the story. Some acts of faith are seen and recognized easily, like Mary's. Others, like Joseph, are easily overlooked. Consider this: Joseph's quiet faith made Mary's faith possible. How might have the birth of Christ, and his life, looked differently had Joseph divorced Mary and abandoned Jesus?

2.  Matthew describes Joseph as "a just man" (ESV) or "a righteous man" (NRSV). In other words, he followed the Law of Moses and the teachings of the Rabbis. In failing to divorce Mary he opened himself to the charge of disobedience since the law required a divorce in instance of infidelity. How might we reconcile Joseph's character with his decision to go forward with his marriage to Mary?

3.  Matthew notes that the events of the passage we've read fit into a larger story-the story of God's redemptive plan for his people. The writer quotes Isaiah 7:14, "Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel." Does this help you to make more sense of the 'why' behind Jesus birth? How?

4.  We're in the third week of Advent, the four weeks leading up to Christmas. Consider the big idea. Which reaction to Christmas best describes you today? Are you caustic or angry? Are you confused? Perhaps you're feeling inspired to courage. Take a moment to reflect on this or to write a brief paragraph exploring how you are feeling.

5.  The angel instructs Joseph to name Mary's child, "Jesus." Jesus' name explains his mission. Jesus is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew "Joshua," meaning "Yahweh [God] saves." How has Jesus' name and Jesus' mission impacted you? Has Jesus' saving purpose been accomplished in your life?

6. The prophet Isaiah also refers to the coming Messiah as "Immanuel," which means "God is with us." Read Philippians 2, especially verses 1 through 11. Reflect for a moment on the cost that made it possible for God to be with (or among) us. What does God's presence among us make possible? How does it change us?

PRAYER

Gracious God,
Thank you for the gift of your Son. Help us to be like Joseph and choose the way of faith and of obedience regardless of how quiet, subtle, or unnoticed it might be. Remind us that obedience is its own reward. Amen.