Welcome to Church on the Hill, Glenavon, Sask, Canada

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Joseph: The Unsung Hero

Scripture: Rev 3:20, Luke 2:15-18, Matt 2:1-3, Luke 2:25-32, Matt 1:21-21,

On Sun, Jan 4th I did not attend church due to illness, so I don’t have the message for you, but I do have it from Sun Dec 28:

Pastor Lorne thanked everyone who took part in the Christmas program in whatever way they helped whether in the performance or behind the scenes making the set, decorating, food prep, cleanup, etc.

Pastor Lorne said we had a treat coming as Maurice would bring the message to us and he appreciated him doing it. He said if anyone feels the Lord is speaking to them and they want to share it, just let him know. Pastor Lorne said he jealously guards the pulpit towards doctrine that might not be right or good for everybody but when someone has the word of God within them, he’s willing to share. He said we can’t all be preachers, then qualified that by saying well, we could but...

He said some are preachers, some lead worship, some teach Sunday School, others do other things that maybe aren’t up front and we don’t see but they’re done and are needed. And he believes when we stand before the Lord we will all be rewarded for what we do.

Pastor Lorne said he was just thinking...he then looked over at Maurice and said he wasn’t taking anything from him and would be done in a minute (chuckles in the congregation)...he continued by saying he believes God rewards people for their faithfulness in whatever you do. Whatever you feel your place or position and feel God has called you to do that, and some of you don’t even realize that you are doing things that help the church, help other people but God has a reward waiting for you and he said we thank you for your willingness to do that.

Pastor Lorne then asked Maurice to come up and share the word of God with us.

Maurice started by thanking Pastor Lorne and saying his words tied in with the message and that’s always the work of the Holy Spirit. He said being that we’re still in the Christmas season (Ukrainian Christmas isn’t until Jan 7th) and the story of Jesus born in Bethlehem in the account of Luke, he was going to speak about a bunch of metaphors which tie in with the Christmas story. He said he loves metaphors because they make a comparison or bring an illustration where you can really see or absorb it.

Maurice said everyone in the Christmas story represents one of us. He said Mary entered Bethlehem carrying Jesus. In a sense, she was carrying the good news of the gospel. The first place Mary knew to go is to a hotel or in this case, the innkeeper. And we know the story well where the innkeeper says, ‘sorry, we have no room’.

How many people in this day and age say they have no room for Jesus in their life? The picture that comes to my mind is in Rev 3:20 where John writes, ‘I stand at the door and knock...’ Let me in and I’ll come sup with you.

So, when they’re at the inn, they knock on the door and the innkeepers says, ‘Sorry, I have no room.’ You would think in the condition Mary was in, he would have gone out of his way to accommodate her since she was about to give birth. But in the end, all he could offer was the stable which was out of the way of the travelers of the day.

The shepherds showed up after the angel had announced what was taking place in Bethlehem just a little ways away. In Luke 2:15-18 says, ‘When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about." So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.’ So that tells us Jesus was making a big impression even as a small infant. The shepherds were telling everyone what had taken place. In essence, they were evangelizing way before anyone else was.

Then we have the 3 wise kings...it’s always 3 but we’re really not sure of the number of kings...only that there 3 gifts. There could’ve been 2 or 22 kings for all we know. There is also nothing to indicate how much time passed between the shepherds and the magi. In Matt 2:1-3 ‘After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, "Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him." When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.’

So, we have these magi who show up and need a bit of direction where to go. The guiding star brought them part ways and by asking directions, they were able to pinpoint exactly where he was. So if you were to ask them if Jesus was hard to find, they’d probably say, in essence, no, Jesus was not that hard to find, which kind of reflects back on us.

Was Jesus hard to find? No, not when they went looking for Him. But Maurice said in his own life, he was an innkeeper for many years where he had no room for Jesus in his life. But Jesus wasn’t hard to find.

Maurice said we just read where they (the magi) went to Herod for directions and in his hypocrisy, he gave directions and asked them to report back so he could go and worship Him. That was pretty mean-spirited because he had an ulterior motive in mind where he wanted to destroy Jesus and even kill all boys 2 yrs of age and under so that Jesus wouldn’t have a chance.
That too reflects certain people in real life. People go out of their way to kill the gospel so the gospel will never be preached again – to snuff out the Good News.

Then if we go to Luke 2:25-32: ‘Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord's Christ. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: "Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel."’ So here, Jesus is just an infant, and yet he’s making an impact on Simeon. This was probably during the time when Jesus was brought to the temple for circumcision and it would be the equivalent to a baby dedication. But here Simeon was, a devout believer, just waiting for something to happen. And once he saw Jesus, he said Lord, now you’re letting your servant depart in peace. He was ready to die because he had seen Jesus close up.

Maurice said another metaphor he found was the stable itself. He said we probably thought he was digging deep here but, God wanted to make it very clear He came to save each one of us. He comes to the slimey, dark corners of our existence complete with cobwebs and dust. He comes to unswept barns and cold nights of despair, just as we are, so He can start the clean-up process.

One other individual who Maurice said is often overlooked in the Christmas pageants is Joseph himself. He’s really the unsung hero.

Joseph walked with his fiancĂ©e Mary for several days to get to Bethlehem in time for the census to take place. And several weeks later, Joseph, Mary and the infant moved again – this time to Egypt – to escape Herod and the death sentence that had been imposed on Jesus.

There are Christmas carols connected to everything to do with Christmas: angels, shepherds, trees, drummer boys, reindeer, kings bearing gifts, Mary herself, but there are no Christmas carols about Joseph.

In all the Christmas pageants and plays held across the country year after year, the person who plays Joseph stands in the stable beside angels, shepherds, kings, camels, sheep and the occasional dog. Joseph never has more than a line or two to say. From this it would seem as if Joseph doesn’t have a very big role to play in this story but in reality, he’s the glue that holds it all together, and keeps it together.

Matt 1:18-19 says ‘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. 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.’

Here’s were we get a glimpse into Joseph’s heart. Joseph could’ve left Mary to fend for herself. He could’ve gone public and exposed her to ridicule and shame and in those days, that wasn’t something that went over well. It would’ve been a full scandal and Mary’s life herself would probably have been in danger.

When Joseph was asked to go forward with the task of being the earthly father of Jesus, he chose to protect Mary at whatever the cost or sacrifice to himself. And, he chose to keep her pregnancy a secret for the time being. Joseph’s tenderness and concern for Mary is a good example of God’s grace in action.

We talk about defining moments – in Joseph’s case, it would have been the result of the dream he has in Matt 1:20-21 ‘...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. 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."

That was the central theme of that first Christmas 2000 yrs ago and it’s still the central theme in 2008. The secular world of commercialism that’s attached to Christmas nowadays can leave a person wondering what Christmas is all about. But, the theme and the message has not changed nor is it about to change.

If we go back to Joseph and his dream, he awakes and does as an angel instructed him and took Mary for his wife. He became her shield and guardian even though it seemed the child had little to do with him. He accepted his role with willing obedience. None of this is attributable to Joseph in a thousand nativity scenes. You would think someone would have picked up on the significance of Joseph’s role to the new born Saviour and talked about it and written a hymn or Christmas carol about him. And yet the fact that Joseph isn’t celebrated today is strangely appropriate for this man who reacted to his trial with grace and humility.

And maybe there’s another metaphor here if you look back at Joseph’s life and what he did. As Jesus himself later taught in his ministry, those who are first will be last, and the last, first. So Joseph, being one of the first, soon took a back seat in the story of Jesus. His obscurity results from his blending into the background so early in the story. It’s his commitment to guide Mary and Jesus to safety that earned him the reputation of protector and guardian. After that, the gospel falls silent on him and like Mary, he doesn’t appear again until the crucifixion.

In all of Jesus teachings and parables, we don’t hear anything else about Joseph – at least nothing that could’ve been recorded in the gospel. And yet, in this one story we learn of his character, his tender heart, his willingness to serve and his willingness to obey. But it’s in the light of the circumstances that he was put in that we are able to see these things about him. And maybe, that’s the challenge for all of us:
Do we remain committed and faithful in the face of adversity? Do we rely on the Holy Spirit to give us the strength to carry us through?

The lessons of Joseph’s life in this Christmas story should strike a chord in all of us.
Pastor Lorne thanked Maurice and said it’s just great how God uses people in different ways. And yet, everyone is so important. He said if it hadn’t been for Joseph, as Maurice had mentioned, how he took Mary and Jesus to Egypt – looked after them, protected them, provided for them – for all those years.

Pastor Lorne mentioned again that we were very important with God and that whatever God’s called you to do whether it’s just to shake hands with people and give them a smile, bless them, encourage, them...whatever it is, remember what you do is needed and valuable in the kingdom of God.

He said the message really helps us to take heart. It lays a path for us in the new year. He said in the new year, you always reconsider your life and how you’re going to do new things. This lays a path or foundation in the coming months to do whatever we can do and that we are important in the kingdom of God.

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