Malankara World

Sermons Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church

Revelation to Joseph

Sermon / Homily on St. Matthew 1: 18-25

Sermon – Matthew 1:18-25

by Rev. Jeffrey T. Howard

Scripture: St. Matthew 1: 18-25

During the period of Advent we have been like the wise men from the east. We knew that a messiah was coming, but wondered what did this mean? So we searched the ancient Hebrew scripture and found the Book of Samuel, which told us about David who was anointed by God to be king of all of Israel and God’s promise to David that his descendants would sit on his throne forever. Tonight we are on our way to Bethlehem to see for ourselves the newly born Messiah.

Will you pray with me? "Glory to you, almighty God, for you sent your only begotten Son, that we might have new life. Glory to you, Lord Jesus Christ, for you became flesh and dwelt among us that we might become your people. Glory to you, Holy Spirit, for you direct and rule our lives. Glory to you, almighty God, and to your Son, Jesus Christ, and to the Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen."

Matthew 1:18-25:

18 Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. 20 But just when he had resolved to do 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 as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins." 22 All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: 23 "Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel," which means, "God is with us." 24 When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, 25 but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.

Christmas is a joyous time. It is a time for visits with family and friends, gift giving and all the preparation for food, tree and presents. In Washington, DC I used to spend Christmas day in the car. I would drive to Middletown, MD to bring gifts to my nieces and nephews, the children of my brother Keith. Then I would get back in the car and see my parents. We would then go to my sister Jamie’s house in Lorton VA where I had another group of nephews and nieces. Christmas is a wonderful time for a single uncle to spend with children. And Christmas is a time when we celebrate new life as we come together to celebrate the birth of our Messiah, Jesus.

Christmas is a wonderful time, unless, of course, you really need a messiah. I know many of you are facing difficulties in your lives. You have been diagnosed with a debilitating disease. Your mortgage payment is due and you have no money in the bank. You are facing the loss of your independence. At times like these, celebrations seem inappropriate. You need a messiah to save you. Others of you are dealing with the effects of sin. The abuse of drugs and alcohol has taken its toll. Words you wish you had never said destroyed a relationship. You are ashamed of your behavior. You need a messiah to forgive you. And some of you are experiencing grief this time of year because a loved one is not here to share the holiday with you. You need a messiah to comfort you during this time of grief and loss.

There was a man named Joseph who really needed a messiah. Joseph was a good man. He listened to the rabbi carefully when scripture was taught. He kept the Sabbath. He went to Jerusalem to worship in the temple. He always tried to do the right thing. But one day his life came crashing down around him when he found out that his finance was pregnant with someone else’s baby. We can only imagine the emotional trauma he experienced and the intensity of his feeling of anger and grief. He was afraid of the great shame that would cover himself and his family. When he was finally reconciled to the fact that the relationship was over, exhausted, he finally went to sleep.

Matthew tells us that while Joseph was sleeping he dreamed about a messenger from God. This angel reminded Joseph that he was a descendant of David. But he should not fear to take Mary as his wife because the child she was carrying was not from another man but from God, the Holy Spirit. The child Mary was carrying was the messiah. But this messiah was not the child of Joseph, the descendant of David. Our expectation was that the messiah would be descended from David. Now when the messiah is born he is not from David’s line at all. Later, Saint Luke will show that Mary too was a descendant of David, but this is beside the point here. In Matthew, Joseph is the son of David, but he is not the Christ, and the Christ is not the son of Joseph, son of David.

The prophets of the Old Testament were all very clear on this. As Samuel had said many years before Israel did not need a king because God was their king. Isaiah made this very clear when he called the coming messiah Wonder Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. We have been expecting a messiah from the Davidic dynasty. But the real messiah was God himself, born as a small baby.

No earthly messiah could come to heal us when we are sick, repair our broken relationships, find us when we are lost, save us when we are in trouble, bind up our wounds, battle the giants facing us, forgive our sins, and comfort us as we grieve. No child of David could bring about a kingdom of justice and righteousness so that the world could live a peace. Only God can do these things. And the good news of Christmas is that God has come.

When the angel spoke to Joseph he announced that the child to be born on Christmas was not the son of Joseph, the son of David, but this child would be the son of God. So what we celebrate on Christmas is not the coming of a messiah, a king, but the coming of God into the world. We are celebrating the birth of Immanuel, God with us. This is really good news because it means that God is neither distant nor uncaring. Rather God loves us so much that God wanted to be with us and to experience what we experience, to feel what we feel. God wanted to die for us so that our sins would be forgiven. Yahweh, the LORD God of Israel saves us from our sins. Yahweh saves us. Yahweh saves us. Yahweh shua. Yahweh shua. Ya shua. Ya shua. Ja shua, Jesus, Jesus. The child that is born tonight is Yahweh who saves us from our sins, Jesus.

So the anointed one, the messiah, the Christ that we have been waiting for has come, but not in the way we expected. We thought that the messiah would be a descendant of David and would rule as king. Instead we find that the Christ is really God Incarnate, God in the flesh, a human being, like you and I. Our wait is over and we can rejoice because the messiah has come and is named Jesus.

When Joseph woke up from the dream he knew exactly what he had to do. As always, he was obedient to God. He married Mary and named their son Jesus. He protected Jesus from King Herod by hiding his family in Egypt. And he brought the young Jesus back to Nazareth when he would grow and prepare himself for ministry. So Joseph fulfilled his role in the biblical drama. We don’t know what happened to him after that. All we know was that he was a carpenter and had a large family. From all accounts he was just an ordinary person who had an extraordinary encounter with God.

That is what happens at Christmas, ordinary people have extraordinary encounters with God. You should expect tonight that your encounter with Jesus will have extraordinary effects on you. Whatever problems are facing you, Christ has come to help. Whatever evil you have done in the past, Christ has come to forgive you and restore you to proper relationship with God. And if you are grieving over the loss of loved one, or a job, or health, of something else, Christ has come to comfort you. This is the good news and the great gift from God at Christmas.

"God of mystery and might, we praise and worship you, for you came in silence, while all lay sleeping, to enter our world as a child of humble birth. We thank you for your Son, Jesus Christ, born of your handmaid Mary. In his face we behold your glory, for in his life as in his death is your gift of salvation. By your Spirit, make our hearts burn with thanksgiving, that we may give as we have received. Let our whole lives be gifts of praise to you, God of love and peace, in the gracious name of Jesus Christ, your Son, by the power of your Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen"

See Also:

Sermons, Bible Commentaries and Bible Analyses for the Sunday of the Revelation to Joseph

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