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The Glory of Christmas // Joseph // Week 2

CityRise December 7, 2020 sermons, Crosspoint Church - Bellaire, Roger Patterson, The Glory of Christmas, West U Baptist,

The following is a manuscript of the sermon presented by Roger Patterson on Sunday December 6 at our West U Baptist Campus and in our Online Experience on youtube.com/cityriseorg. To view the sermon in full, please visit our YouTube page.

When you look back on 2020, what word will you use to describe it? 

2020 was…

  1. Awful
  2. Horrible
  3. Disruptive
  4. Catastrophic
  5. Unprecedented

Definition of Unprecedented: adj. never known or done before

Unprecedented: adj. never known or done before

We’ve never known a year like this year.  That doesn’t mean that there haven’t been tough years, hard seasons, or challenging days.

But this year, we’ve never known financial, relational, physical and emotional struggle as a nation, frankly, as the human race, on the scale and size that we have experienced this year. It’s fair to say that 2020 has been a year like no other.

I wonder if Joseph, that earthly father of Jesus would use the word UNPRECEDENTED to describe what happened that night that the angel of the Lord appeared to him.  Let’s look at this UNPRECEDENTED moment in Joseph’s life and then I’ll share with you our outline for today.

Matthew 1:18-25

18 Now the birth of Jesus Christtook place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:

23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
    and they shall call his name Immanuel”

(which means, God with us). 24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25 but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.

Can you imagine what Joseph was thinking?  He is already disappointed, heartbroken and fearful to take Mary as his wife, and then an angel of the Lord appears to him in a dream.  This is wild!  This is hard to fathom! This is UNPRECEDENTED!

Thesis: And what I want you to hear today is this… Joseph shows us how to walk when the Unprecedented occurs.

So, let me share my outline with you today.

When the Unprecedented occurs…

  1. We stand upon the foundation we have already been building
  2. We have a decision to make
  3. We should look for the next right step

Let’s look at this first one together.

When the Unprecedented occurs…

I. We stand upon the foundation we have already been building

Notice how Joseph’s character shines in this moment.

Matthew 1:18-20

18 Now the birth of Jesus Christtook place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.

Now, when this angel appears to Joseph, he already has knowledge that Mary has become pregnant.  He says to him, “Do not fear to take Mary as your wife…” Joseph already has gotten the news of her pregnancy.

Now, we don’t know how far along in that pregnancy this was, but if you see that Mary has gone to Elizabeth and stayed with her for approximately three months, as Luke tells us in Luke 1, it is likely that Mary is just passed her first trimester and it is obvious that she is pregnant.  

We don’t know how he has received the news, but clearly he has.  Maybe Mary showed up at Joseph’s home, where Joseph was building the wedding chamber onto his father’s home where they would consummate the marriage. And maybe as he is building onto that wedding chamber, as he is preparing it just right, just for her, he sees her walking up.  And he stops what he is doing, gets off his ladder and puts his tools down and watches her walk up. 

I can almost see him then and there shaking his head, shaking it in disgust…and he begins to ask the question… “Why? Why Mary?  Why would you ever be with another man?  What have you done?  Can you see what I’m building for you…for us?”

And Mary, this young teenage girl, says to him, “Joseph…Joseph…listen to me. This isn’t what you think.  I can explain!” 

And maybe as he turns his head, not wanting to look at her…and she blurts out the words, “God’s spirit has conceived in me, and I’m going to give birth to the Christ.  You have to believe me, Joseph.”  And she stands there, young…innocent…weeping…just praying that he would believe her.

But it’s unbelievable. It’s unthinkable. It’s UNPRECEDENTED. 

And to Joseph, I’m sure it just doesn’t add up.  Whether it was Mary who delivered the message herself, or her father…we don’t know.  But we know that Joseph’s world has been turned upside down. All the plans he had made…all the hopes and dreams he was building toward…this man who had paid the dowry to her father and entered into a covenant…it’s all going down the drain.

And he has to decide what to do. 

My friends, it’s when the unprecedented occurs, you will stand upon the foundation that you have been building.  That foundation is our character…whether we have been developing and cultivating it or not.  You see, it’s in the crisis…it’s in the crucible…it’s in the difficult moments we face where our character is exposed.

And what you have been building upon will be exposed.  Jesus teaches us this in his Sermon on the Mount. We didn’t study this portion, but it is the last section of the message.  He says…

Matthew 7:26

26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”

You can’t wait until the storm to start building your foundation. It’s in the storm that the foundation gets exposed.  It’s true with individuals, with marriages and relationships and with organizations. 

Now, notice this with me in this passage.  In verse 19, Matthew describes him as a “just man.”  Don’t just fly past this description of his character.  He was a just man.  This means that his character conformed to the standard, will, or character of God. 

What does it mean to have a character that is conformed to the standard, will or character of God?  It means that you fear what God thinks of you and your actions. It means that you know God will hold you accountable for your decisions. It means that you look at God’s character and you want to emulate it. 

And when that’s your character, you don’t act hastily.  No, you fear God and you want to make decisions with which God will be pleased.  And we see evidence of God’s character in Joseph when we read the words that he was, “Unwilling to put her to shame…”

At some point, Joseph decides it is best to divorce her…but he wants to do it quietly.  There is no need for any further drama to unfold.

To put to shame means – to damage someone’s reputation by exposing an illicit action to public scrutiny.

In Joseph didn’t want to put her to shame… Joseph wasn’t out for revenge.  He wasn’t out to cause any more pain than what had already been caused.  He wanted to put this behind him and move on. 

Further, we see that even after he made his decision to divorce her quietly, he was still considering it.

It says in verse 20, “But as he considered these things…”

This means that he was deeply reflecting on this still.  He was pondering, thinking deeply and reflecting upon what had happened.

Can I tell you what I have found to be true in my life?  When I stop and think about things when they don’t go my way, instead of just reacting to them, I respond better.  It’s when I simply react that I have regret.  When I let the frustration of the situation get to me, I say things that I regret…I hurt others and I lose my way.

I don’t know if that is true of you or not, but it is of me.

And one other thing that I want to point out before we move to the next point.  Joseph is about to play this huge leading role in the birth of Jesus.  God is at work at this really high level doing what He has purposed to do, where in the fullness of time, he brings forth a son from the woman to bear the sins of the world.  Cosmically, this is vast.  Jesus, the one who will, “save his people from their sins,” is about to be born.

All of this is about to play out…and the Scripture focuses here on what Joseph could control…his response…his reaction…his next steps.

I say that to say that you and I are living in what seem to be unprecedented times for our lifetime. We’ve not seen this before.  It seems life-altering on so many fronts.  But we can’t fret over that which we can’t control. We have the opportunity to continue to build on the foundation of Jesus in our lives and stand on a solid foundation, no matter what comes our way.  This is what Joseph had done and what he does in this moment.  He stands on the foundation of a character that is like God. 

The second thing that Joseph shows us when the Unprecedented occurs is that…

We have a decision to make.

When the Unprecedented occurs…

  1. We stand upon the foundation we have already been building
  2. We have a decision to make
  3. We should look for the next right step

When the Unprecedented occurs…

II. We have a decision to make

Notice verses 20-25.

Matthew 1:20-25

20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:

23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
    and they shall call his name Immanuel”

(which means, God with us). 24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25 but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.

I want you to notice two things here and they are very simple. Those two things are fear and faith. 

Fear…notice the challenge to not be afraid to move forward in his plans to take Mary as his wife.  It says in verse 20…

Matthew 1:20b

“Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.

You see, when you experience the unprecedented, your first and most natural reaction is fear.  Fear isn’t always bad, either.  Fear can be a great warning sign of caution to us. 

Joseph is naturally afraid of taking Mary to be his wife when clearly he hasn’t been the one to cause her pregnancy.  I’m sure that…

  • Joseph is afraid of what others will think.
  • Joseph is afraid of the shame culture of the near east, and how this will be a mark on his name.
  • Joseph is afraid that he won’t be able to love this child.
  • Joseph is afraid that if he ever finds out who did this to her he will kill the man. 

I’m sure that Joseph had a great deal of fears of various kinds. 

When the unprecedented rears its head, it creates fear.

Application: How much fear have you had to deal with this year?  Are you still afraid? Maybe you have just gotten a confirmation that you have the Corona Virus. Maybe you have just lost a job.

I love the angel’s first words… Joseph, son of David…”

I’m sure Joseph is like, “How do you know my name?  How do you know that I am of the house and line of David?”

And the angel is like, “Joseph, son of David, don’t be afraid…”

Each of these phrases is pregnant with such meaning…pun intended there!!!

You see, when you are anchored in your identity in Jesus Christ, you don’t have to be afraid.  I want you to hear some encouragement today. 

I have this great little book in my library called, God’s Promises for Your Every Need. It was a gift from a good friend. I have found it to be extremely helpful to my life and when I am trying to share encouragement to others. 

In the table of contents section, it lays out the contents like this…

What to do when you are…

Experiencing Fear………122

Mentally Disturbed…….127

In Need of Courage…….131

In Need of Patience…….139

So, I’ll just flip on over and look at scripture verse upon scripture verse.  And when you are experiencing fear, you need to remember who you are.  You are a son or daughter of the most-high. 

And you need to receive the word. That’s what Joseph did.  He received the word given to him by the messenger of the Lord. 

And when we receive the word, we are acting in faith.  That’s the second thing I wanted you to see in this section.  Remember, we have a decision to make.  When fear rears it’s head, we have to hear the word and respond in faith.

What is it that the angel said to him?

Matthew 1:20b-21

“Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 

The word of the Lord came to Joseph that he could move ahead with his covenant with Mary because what has happened to her is from God. 

The word of the Lord came to Joseph to help him see the bigger picture of what was taking place…that Mary was chosen to give birth to the one who will save his people from their sins. 

The word of the Lord came to Joseph to help him not fear…but to step out in faith because God was at work.

And that’s what I want you to experience today.  Are you afraid?

Hear the word of the Lord today!

2 Timothy 1:7

for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

Psalm 91:1

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.

Romans 8:15

 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”

We don’t have to fall into fear.  Receive the word of the Lord and walk in faith.

This is what Joseph did again and again.  Notice for a moment something with me. Notice that in Joseph’s life, the Unprecedented is going to become the Common.

Here is the third thing that I want you to see today…

When the Unprecedented occurs…

  1. We stand upon the foundation we have already been building
  2. We have a decision to make
  3. We should look for the next right step

When the Unprecedented occurs…

III. We should look for the next right step

Look again at verses 24-25.

Matthew 1:24-25

When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25 but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.

His next right step was to act in faith on the word that was given to him.  So, what did he do?  He did as the angel of the Lord commanded him.

Now, notice this.  This UNPRECEDENTED encounter becomes a COMMON encounter for Joseph.

Look with me at chapter 2 of Matthew’s Gospel.

Matthew 2:13-15

 Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” 14 And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt 15 and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

What do we see here?  An angel appears to him in a dream.  And then we see the words, “And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt…”

In the unprecedented season, Joseph is looking for the right next step.  And it says in verse 15…

Matthew 2:15

And remained there until the death of Herod.

Now that the threat was over, he was ready to head back to his homeland. The threat of Herod is what got him there in the first place.  And until that threat was abated, Joseph’s job was to make the most of the season that they were in.

But notice this as we keep reading…what was once UNPRECEDENTED is becoming more and more common for Joseph.

Matthew 2:19-21

But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, 20 saying, “Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.” 21 And he rose and took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel.

What was unprecedented? This angel appearing to him. 

Well now, this is the third time it happens.  He is showing him his next best step.  Let’s leave Egypt and head into Israel.

And once more…

Matthew 2:22-23

 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there, and being warned in a dream he withdrew to the district of Galilee. 23 And he went and lived in a city called Nazareth, so that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled, that he would be called a Nazarene.

This was the 4th time that Joseph is warned in a dream by the angel of the Lord.  The 4th time that he was directed on his next step.  The word came and he acted upon it.  The word came and he acted on it.  The word came and he acted on it.

I was on a call with my pastor’s group.  We have about 14 guys who will be a part of this zoom call once a week. It’s a great group of men from churches all over the greater Houston area.  These guys are becoming dear friends to me. 

As we were discussing 2021, one of the pastors mentioned how he likes to set the table in January for the entirety of the year.  But he said, “I think that initiatives that lasted a year in years past will last for about 3 months.  I can’t see much farther than three months down the road right now.”

I think that sums up the land we are in and the time we are in.  What once was clear has become cloudy. What once was mundane has become unprecedented.

Joseph focused on what was next…and then he raised his family in Nazareth.

My friends, in the birth of Jesus Christ, God was doing a new thing and he used Joseph’s life and leadership to accomplish that.  I believe that God is doing a new thing and we need not focus on what it used to be like, but instead look to what He is doing now.

Isaiah 43:18-19

“Remember not the former things,
    
nor consider the things of old.
19 Behold, I am doing a new thing;
    
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
    
and rivers in the desert.

May we be a people who have a strong foundation in Jesus Christ…who aren’t captured by fear, but move forward in faith, and who seek to hear his voice so we know what is our right, next step.

May our Lord bless you and keep you!

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