If you have your Bibles turn to Matthew 1 or you can follow on the outline provided for you. We are in a series of lessons called A Whoville Christmas. We are looking at who some of the key people are and what God is teaching us through them.
- Our youth pastor, started the series by looking at the first who, and that was you and what kind of person does God want you to be this Christmas.
- Last week we answered the question, “Who are the angels?” We learned that the angels remind us of the supernatural aspect of the Christmas story and were reminded through them to be messengers of God’s good news and to glorify God in all we do.
- Today, we answer the question, “Who are Mary & Joseph?” What is God telling us through them? What are some practical lessons we can learn from them?
When I think of Mary and Joseph, I think of three words that describe them. Three character traits that God wants you to have this Christmas and throughout the year.
The first trait is goodness. This is demonstrating kindness in some way. When the Bible talks about doing good or goodness (agathosune) it is referring to doing what’s right for the benefit of others in attitude and action. It is a moral quality characterized by interest in the welfare of others. Goodness wants to bless, protect, and help in some way.
- Goodness is protecting someone’s reputation. This means you are not going to slander their name when you think they have done you wrong or something wrong.
- Goodness is protecting yourself and others morally. Goodness says, “I’m going to wait until after I’m married to have sex because it honors God, me, and the person I love.”
You see these types of acts of goodness in Mary and Joseph.
For Mary we see this in Matthew 1:18 which says, “But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit” (NLT). The Bible tells us “she was still a virgin.” Her act of goodness was to wait until after she was married. Because of her commitment to God she had decided to honor God, herself, and the man she loved by waiting. That was an act of goodness.
For Joseph we see his goodness in Matthew 1:19 which says, “Joseph, to whom she was engaged, was a righteous man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly” (NLT). Doing good is doing what’s right. We are told Joseph was a righteous man and because of this he wanted to honor Mary and not disgrace her by breaking their engagement quietly. From Joseph’s perspective Mary cheated on him. He thought Mary had been unfaithful and I’m going to assume he thought she was lying to him. Think about it. Let’s think about this conversation.
- Mary comes to Joseph and says, “Honey, you know I love you right? You know I wouldn’t do anything to hurt you? I’ve saved myself for the man that would be my husband and that’s going to be you. But God supernaturally has given me a baby and I’m pregnant, but you have to believe me I have not been with a man. I’m still a virgin.”
- Joseph might have said, “What? Are you telling me that you are pregnant, God somehow miraculously gave you a baby, but you are still a virgin? Now Mary, I’ve heard some good explanations before, but this is a new one. Now come on Mary, who is the other man?”
From Joseph’s perspective Mary had two timed him, went by his back, cheated on him with another man. Joseph could have gotten mad and spread to all his friends and family what she had done, could have tried to get even, and ruin her reputation as much as possible. However, Joseph was a “righteous man.” He was a good man. He was going to do what’s right. He decided to “break the engagement quietly.” In the midst of his broken heart, his pain, his anger, his grief, and the feeling of betrayal by Mary he was going to honor God, honor himself, and honor Mary in how they would end this relationship. He was not going to try to get even, get revenge, or to hurt her in any way. His goodness was shining through.
What about you? Did you know you were created and designed to do good things? Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago” (NLT). Those good things include saving yourself for marriage, treating people who you think have hurt you with respect, helping those who need help, encouraging those who are discouraged, and deciding to honor God and others wherever you go.
So, who are Mary & Joseph? They were not perfect people, but they were good people that God decided to use in an incredible way. God used them to bless each other and to bless other lives. God wants you to do the same.
The second trait is trust. This is demonstrating your faith in God. You don’t need to understand it all to believe it all. Both Mary and Joseph decided to trust God even though they didn’t understand everything that was going on. They demonstrated faith in God’s word. The word trust refers to a bold and confident reliance on God’s word and character.
For Mary, we see her faith and trust in Luke 1. Just listen for a few seconds, I’m going to start reading in verse 38. The Bible says,
God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, 27 to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David. 28 Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!” 29 Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean. 30 “Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God! 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David.33 And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!” 34 Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.” 35 The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God. 36 What’s more, your relative Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age! People used to say she was barren, but she has conceived a son and is now in her sixth month.37 For the word of God will never fail.” 38 Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” And then the angel left her (vs. 26-38).
Do you think Mary understood all that? No. Do you think Mary had some questions she would have liked to ask about this process after the angel left? Yes. Was this confusing and disturbing to her? Yes. But none of that mattered because she completely trusted God and responded in faith by saying, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.”
For Joseph, we see his faith and trust in Luke 1 as well. The Bible says beginning in verse 20,
“An angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet: 23 “Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’” 24 When Joseph woke up, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded and took Mary as his wife (20-24, NLT).
Do you think Joseph understood all that? No. Do you think he had some questions for God about this throughout the process? Yes. Do you think Joseph knew that people would assume some things about Him and Mary that were not true? Yes. But that didn’t matter because of his faith and trust in God. We see Joseph’s faith in the fact that when he woke up, “he did as the angel of the Lord commanded and took Mary as his wife.” That’s faith. That’s trusting God.
What about you? Are you trusting God? Are you demonstrating your faith in God? Proverbs 3:5 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take” (vs. 5-6, NLT). Are you trusting God with all your heart when it comes to your finances? Your marriage? Your kids? Your health? Your future? Your career? Faith is not knowing how it will happen, but knowing that it will. If God says, “Do this thing.” Then you can have faith and confidence that God will work it out. Will it be easy, probably not. Will everyone understand, no. Will it make sense to you how God is bringing it about? No. So, let me say this again, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.” This is faith. This is trust. This is what God is teaching you today.
The third trait is obedience. This is demonstrating your love for God. When you look at Mary and Joseph and the Christmas story you can summarize their actions with the word obedience. They are trusting and obeying through this entire event. It’s amazing when you begin to think about it. Obedience refers to your commitment to believe and do what God says.
For Mary, we see her obedience in Luke 1:38 which says, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” Servants obey. Servants do what the master says. Servants submit themselves to another. This is what Mary is doing. She is submitting herself the Lord’s will. She is obeying even though it does not make complete sense to her. She’s obeying even though she knows there will be consequences for her. Her obedience demonstrated her love for God.
For Joseph, we see his obedience in Luke 1:24 when he woke up and “did as the angel of the Lord commanded and took Mary as his wife.” He got up and did it. No hesitation. No complaints. Pure obedience that comes from goodness and faith combined. His obedience demonstrated his love for God.
For you, your obedience demonstrates your love for God. 1 John 5:3 puts it this way, “Loving God means keeping his commandments….” It’s one thing to say, “I love God,” it’s another thing to show you love God. The way you show your love for God is doing what He says. Your obedience demonstrates your love for God.
- When you manage your money based on how God says to manage it, you are demonstrating your love for God.
- When you treat your spouse with respect, love, and understanding you are demonstrating your love for God.
- When you forgive and love your enemy, you are demonstrating your love for God.
- When you faithfully pray for someone, you are demonstrating your love for God.
Loving God means keeping His commandments.
Sense this is a series called A Whoville Christmas, let me quote Dr. Seuss from The Grinch Who Stole Christmas. Right before the Grinch’s heart grew, and he was hearing the Whose in Whoville singing in town even though he had stolen all their presents, decorations and the town tree… The Grinch had a thought that he had never thought before. “Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas perhaps, means a little bit more.”
So let’s ask ourselves some questions that help us to experience that “little bit more” of Christmas.
- Who needs you to treat them with goodness? Who do you need to show more honor toward? More respect for?
- What is God asking you to trust Him with? Faith can move mountains, but doubt can create them. God wants you to trust Him, believe in what He says, and have confidence in Him.
- What has God told you to do? Be His servant this Christmas. Follow Him with your life, attitude, and actions.