by Alan Carr
Scripture: St. Matthew 1: 18-25
Every year during this season, we hear much about the various characters of Christmas. People like Mary, the shepherds, the wise men (Who didn't even show up until a couple of years later! Go figure!), even the sheep, donkeys and turtle doves are portrayed and the event is reenacted year after year. (Ill. I won't even mention all the modern additions we have made to the Christmas story, some of whom are more real to our children that Jesus Himself!) One fellow, namely Joseph, is treated merely as an extra. He shows up in the Christmas program, but he brings no gifts, he sings no songs and he makes no speeches. He just stands there in his sandals and his robes, watching the scene unfold around him.
Well, tonight, I want to set the record straight! As I read the Christmas story, I am convinced that Joseph possessed certain elements in his life that make him stand out as The Unsung Hero Of Christmas. The characteristics we see evidenced in this man's life teach us how we should go about the business of serving God, even if it is an unsung hero of the faith.
Let's look in on this scene from Joseph's life and see what it is that makes this man stand out as a hero in this story. By the way, those elements that were active in the life of Joseph can make us useful to the Lord too, if they are found in our lives!
I. V. 18-19 JOSEPH'S CHARACTER
A. He Was A Consecrated Man - The Bible tells us that Joseph was A "just" man. This means that he was a man who lived for God. As far as the Law was concerned, Joseph was blameless. As far as his heart was concerned, he walked by faith in the Lord. He was a righteous man!
B. He Was A Compassionate Man - For just a moment, try to put yourself in Joseph's place. You are betrothed to Mary, which is the same as a legal marriage, except there is to be no physical intimacy. All of a sudden, you discover that this woman is pregnant. Of course, you would think the worse. Yet, when Joseph hears all these things, instead of reacting in anger, he responds in love and compassion toward Mary. He seeks a way to sever their relationship without publicly humiliating Mary. (Ill. What he could have done - Deut. 22:13-21. The Law afforded Joseph the opportunity to have Mary put to death. At the least, a public divorce would have left her destitute financially, and because of the baby, no man would have wanted to marry her.) Joseph just wanted to do what was right by Mary!
(Illustration: Imagine how the Christmas story would have been altered had Joseph reacted differently!)
(Illustration: By the way, how we respond in a crisis reveals a lot about our character. When things are going smoothly we are able to hide a lot of things that become evident in a time of crisis.)
(Illustration: These two truths concerning Joseph's character is a lesson for all those who want to be used by God. You see, God uses those who are clean and He uses those who are tender hearted. Of course, these were traits found in the life of the Lord Jesus Himself. Jesus was God, but as a boy, He saw godly behavior modeled by his surrogate father Joseph.)
I. Joseph's Character
II. V. 20-23 JOSEPH'S CALL
(Illustration: As Joseph deliberated the entire situation he found himself in, the Lord spoke to him and placed a call on his life, like he had with Mary. This great call to service was, spiritually speaking, a great call and one that would have honored any man. However, from a purely human standpoint, it was a call that placed a great weight on this man's shoulders and it was a call to bear a great weight of shame. His was a call that involved three elements.)
A. V. 20 The Revelation Of A Person - The Lord's call to Joseph was designed to help him deal with his hurts and fears. The angel of the Lord told him plainly that this child growing in Mary's womb was the Son of God. The Lord was calling Joseph to be the surrogate father to the Messiah!
B. V. 21 The Revelation Of A Purpose - This verse tells us the child's gender, the child's name and the child's purpose in life. Joseph is told that this child will be THE One Who will provide salvation from sin.
C. V. 22-23 The Revelation Of A Plan - Then, Joseph is told that God is working out His eternal purpose in the lives of Mary and Joseph. God is going to bring to pass all the prophecies concerning the Messiah and He is going to use Joseph to be a part of it!
(Illustration: In all of this, Joseph is an example to other believers. When a crisis arose in his life, he sought the Lord's face. Instead of reacting harshly and abruptly, Joseph reacted in faith waiting on the Lord for guidance and direction, and he was helped by God!)
(Illustration: Joseph's call is also an encouragement to people like you and me. When we consider that Joseph was a humble character and that he was basically a nobody, it gives hope to you and me! In my opinion, to be called to be part of God's plan is an honor beyond compare, and it is an honor shared by every child of God! (Ill. Paul's assessment of the call to minister - 1 Tim. 1:12-16.)
I. Joseph's Character
II. Joseph's Call
III. V. 24-25 JOSEPH'S CONDUCT
(Illustration: When Joseph received his call from God, he altered all of his plans and put away all of his considerations and simply went and did what the Lord said to do. Notice what the Bible says about Joseph's conduct.)
A. He Was Submissive - Very simply, Joseph did what the Lord told him to do!
1. His Humility - According to history, there were three theories surrounding Mary's pregnancy. They are:
A. The baby was Joseph's.
B. The baby belonged to Mary's secret lover.
C. Mary had been raped by a Roman soldier.
(Illustration: Any of these situations would have produced a situation that would bring shame on both Mary and Joseph. Yet, when Joseph went ahead and married Mary, most people probably assumed that she and Joseph had not been willing to wait until the appropriate time to consummate their marriage. Of course, there were some in that day who continued to call Jesus' birth into question throughout His ministry - John 6:42; John 8:37-41.)
(Illustration: Of course, all of this brought shame to the life of Joseph, but just like his adopted Son, he despised the shame and because of the joy that was set before him, he endured the cross!)
(Illustration: In this, Joseph is a lesson for every person who wants to serve the Lord this evening. Our duty before the Lord is to humbles ourselves under God's mighty hand, 1 Pet. 5:6; James 4:6. Regardless of the call God places on our lives, there will be times when the world, the flesh and the devil will try to make us ashamed of who we are what we stand for. Yet, we should submit ourselves to the will of God and bear His shame regardless of what is may involve!)
2. His Obedience - Without quibbling or hesitation, Joseph did that which he had been commanded to do. What a lesson for the children of God! Often the voice of God will come to us and we will debate with God and with ourselves and hesitate instead of responding in swift obedience. Let us learn the truth that obedience to the Lord is far more blessed than anything else we can do for Him. "And Samuel said, Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee from being king.", 1 Samuel 15:22-23.
Obedience is what He desires and is one thing we can always deliver!
B. He Was Surrendered - Verse 25 tells us that Joseph was a man who was willing to place the will of the Lord ahead of his own rights. He respected Mary's virginity until after Jesus had been born! Even when it was inconvenient, Joseph willingly laid aside his own rights so that he could honor the Lord! What an example for you and me!
(Illustration: There are times when doing God's will is not the easiest thing to do. There are times when doing His will is not the most convenient thing to do. However, doing His will is always the RIGHT thing to do! We must come to the place where we lose our will to the will of God! Let is be said that we are surrendered to the plan of God without reservation and without compromise!)
Eventually, Mary delivered her baby. On that great night, Joseph did as he had been commanded when he took his Creator into his arms and called his name JESUS. Now, this year in Christmas plays and programs all around the world Joseph will take a backseat to shepherds, wise men, animals and other characters. However, to me, this man stands out as the real hero of Christmas, because of the lessons he teaches us about obedience to God and surrender to God. Let's take these lessons from the life of Joseph and make sure the same characteristics are found in us, not just at Christmas, but every day of the year!
Copyright 2003 by Alan Carr. Used with permission
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