Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the Lord has been good to you. Amen.
18 This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. 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 be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”—which means, “God with us.” 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 had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus. This is God’s Word!
In the name of Jesus, dear fellow worshipers of the Christ who came, who comes, and who will come again,
It is a most joyful time as a family announces the birth of a new child. Hardly anything could be more exciting as God showers the gift of life on people in such a miraculous and yet mysterious way. How much more that can be said when the birth announced is the impending birth of the Savior promised centuries earlier! So in our brief time together on these three Wednesday evenings we will take a closer look at the way God in his grace and wisdom announced the birth of his only begotten Son. Tonight we consider the cross laid on the life of a godly man named Joseph. It is an announcement of great joy for all. At the same time it is an announcement that simultaneously placed Joseph in a bind and made him a recipient of a great blessing. Tonight the Holy Spirit guides us by his Word as we consider – A birth announcement to a godly husband. Under said theme we consider: 1) a righteous man’s plan, 2) a miraculous announcement, and, 3) faithful obedience.
Perhaps we need a little information about the way marriage worked in the Jewish culture of Jesus’ day. The engagement or more properly, the betrothal was a legally binding agreement. The only way to get out of betrothal was through a legal divorce. Yet, when a man and a woman were betrothed they did not live together until after the actual marriage. The husband to be used the time between betrothal and the wedding to get his house fixed up for his new wife. Once the house was ready the marriage festivities began.
So now consider the huge disappointment and sadness Joseph felt on hearing the disturbing news the Mary was expecting a baby. Immediately, he would have thought that she had been unfaithful to him. This is where we learn a little bit about Joseph’s character. He could have made a public spectacle out of Mary – even insisted that she be stoned to death. But the Holy Spirit informs us through Matthew: Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. Joseph was indeed a stand up kind of guy. Even in his anguish – he does not seek revenge or punishment but graciously spares Mary public disgrace. Joseph shows his trust in the Lord in his actions. May we learn a lesson from Joseph to deal graciously and calmly with life’s crises – trusting that God will take care of us!
So what changed Joseph’s mind about the woman pledged to be his wife? A miraculous announcement from God changed his mind! 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 be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”—which means, “God with us.”
“Conceived by the Holy Spirit? What a story!” Joseph’s sinful nature must have concluded. Yet, in a very incredible but understated miracle, Joseph trusts what God says to him through the angel. He had every reason to doubt this message, but he didn’t. God’s Word grabbed hold of Joseph’s heart and convinced him this was the honest to God truth. This was God’s plan of salvation coming to pass – Joseph wouldn’t object. Instead he would trust. So often we think to ourselves that if only God would talk to us and tell us what his plans are we would have such an easier time believing it. I think this account speaks against that opinion. This was not easy for Joseph to believe. This was something that is completely contrary to how things work. This is a miracle that defies all the laws of nature – women don’t get pregnant without a man. Yet, that is exactly what happened here! Joseph believes it! May we learn from Joseph to take God at his Word even when it defies human logic! May we learn from Joseph to quietly stand up under the pressure of those who ridicule us for what we believe!
We see in this also that God delivered on the promise of a Savior that he had made to his people through his prophets. God is always true to his Word. God had sent the one who would save his people from their sins. God had come to dwell among his people – to take on human flesh – to become man – to take our place under law – to rescue us from eternal death in hell!
Consider how Joseph showed his trust in what the Lord said in his actions. Joseph demonstrates faithful obedience. 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 had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus. Did you ever think that your lot in life was awful? Did you ever begin to complain about all the things you had to do or all the unpleasantries you had to deal with? Think of Joseph. The easier course for him was to walk away from this. He had to put up with the ridicule of people criticizing his decision to take Mary as his wife. He would have the responsibilities of caring for the Savior – as an earthly guardian. Things were not easy. At the same time this was a high and important calling he had received from God. This was important work. By God’s grace he was given this honored position as earthly guardian of the Savior!
Joseph willingly and joyfully did what God said. What an example for us to follow! As Jesus, the Lamb of God, went uncomplaining forth to die for us, may we go about the work God has placed before us with a willing spirit. Let’s not just listen to the Word, but also do what it says!
Obviously Joseph couldn’t do this all by himself. It was impossible – humanly speaking. But with God all things are possible. The same can be said about our life of faith. It is impossible for us to please God – humanly speaking. The only way we can please God is the way that Joseph pleased God – faith in Jesus. As the author of the letter to the Hebrews puts it, “And without faith it is impossible to please God.” Even our righteous acts are like filthy rags before God without trust in Christ. In Christ we are covered in his righteousness. So let us put aside all boasting in ourselves, approach life with the humble obedience of Joseph, and boast in Christ alone!
What good news this birth announcement brings! In an incredibly miraculous way the Son of God came to save us! Let us marvel at the merciful and mysterious way that God accomplishes our salvation! Let us celebrate the arrival of our Savior in Bethlehem! Let us appreciate the way our Savior comes to us now through Word and Sacrament! Let us look forward with great anticipation to the day when Jesus returns at the end of time! Yes, let us rejoice that Jesus was born to save us from our sins! Amen.