Notes for message based on Matthew 1:18-25; “A”–Advent 4

This week’s readings are: Isaiah 7:10-16; Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19 or UMH 801; Romans 1:1-7; Matthew 1:18-25

You can read these readings here:   NIV  // NRSV  // The Message

 

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Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Heb 11:1 NIV). I would also like to add that faith is our human response to our relationship with God and to the religion that we espouse as our own.

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From the experiences of my life and my journey with God, I am convinced that our human response to faith is about two things:

  1. We must learn to hear and recognize when God is reaching out to us, and

  2. We must train ourselves to trust God and to respond to these invitations with appropriate actions.

 

Leviticus 20:10 clearly states, “If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife … both the adulterer and the adulteress are to be put to death.” Under the laws of the time, Mary should have been stoned to death.

The law of the time prescribed that unless Mary could prove that she was raped, she was to be stoned to death. And Mary could not prove that she was raped because she was not.

{One can raise a question whether Mary had a choice of saying ‘NO’ to God but that is a topic of a different sermon}.

According to the law of the time, justice would be served by stoning Mary because Joseph found her to be pregnant and because Joseph knew that it was not his child. Those of us, myself included, who are sometimes tempted to think of justice as a strict adherence to the laws, would be wise to remember words that Hosea preached to his congregation:

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NIV Hosea 6:6 [for God desires] mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.

In Joseph’s actions, compassion trumped religion. Joseph’s actions demonstrated mercy, not moralism.

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I do not suggest even for a second that Joseph did not feel anger, sorrow, regret, arrogance, self-pity, resentment, inferiority, guilt, and hurt pride when he found out that Mary was pregnant with someone else’s baby – remember, at first he did not know whose baby it was, all he knew was that his future wife was pregnant.

 

But Joseph also had emotions of love, hope, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, and compassion, and at that time of his life, those emotions kept him in check and instead of blindly following rules and traditions and subjecting Mary to public humiliation and death by stoning, he decided to “quietly” {Matt 1:19} divorce her.

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Joseph was a man of faith. That is why, when the angel showed up and told him that Mary’s pregnancy was of divine origin, Joseph knew enough of Isaiah’s prophecies (“Joseph, son of David,” & “and you are to call him Jesus”), that he was able to draw strength from his faith, make sense of what was happening in his life, swallow his pride, take Mary home as his wife and provide her with safe and loving home.

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Because of his knowledge of God’s word, Joseph recognized God’s messenger and God’s presence when the message was delivered to him and Joseph was willing to respond to that invitation with the way he lived his life.

 

I am sure that his willingness to serve God did not impress his neighbors; if anything he probably received a lot of ridicule from his neighbors for the decision to go through with his marriage to Mary and be a provider for someone else’s child. On the other hand, delivering Mary to be stoned to death would have evoked lots of sympathy from his neighbors.

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The most important lesson that we can take from Joseph’s life is that instead of appearance of faith our goal is to strive to live our faith BECAUSE when we live our faith with every fiber of our body our lives become testimonies to what we believe, and we become effective witnesses to the presence of God in our lives. That is when we live the words of Hosea: “[for God desires] mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings” (Hos 6:6). That is when we become the examples of what God can do in our lives and through our lives.

 

God’s faithfulness must be met with the faithfulness of His people SO THAT God’s faithfulness can be enacted in the World that we live in. Joseph is an example of how God uses our faithfulness to bring changes into the world.

 

The question that I want to leave with you today is this: How is God’s faithfulness evident in your life? How does your faithfulness to God is evident in your witness?

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