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Dec 7 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

December 2, 2018 – Matthew 18-24

The Christmas Story Is Your Story

Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly. But when he had considered this, behold; an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”
Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which translated means, “God with us.”
And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife. Matthew 1:18-24

Intro: Every year I struggle with preparing Christmas messages

I have read the birth stories of Jesus a hundred times or more
– what can I say that hasn’t been said?
• still, I feel the need to keep with the spirit of Christmas
◦ it’s a season of warm emotions evoked by the scene around the manger
◦ or our own scenes around Christmas trees and dinner tables
• it’s also a time of nostalgia, loneliness and coping with loss
– I know it’s important for me to provide perspective for this season
• something to help us keep our hearts in the right place
◦ and not fall victim to the typical ways we overdo Christmas:
◦ too much spending, too many dinners, too many sweets
• these days, it’s not that the secular holiday is a distraction from the biblical story
◦ but the story seems like a distraction from all the stuff we have to do
◦ is there any way we can hear the story as if for the first time?

I decided to begin with this passage,
– even though it just sat there not speaking to me
• it seemed old and worn out – so long ago, so far away
◦ the culture and clothing of ancient Palestine shout its irrelevance
• all you have to do is imagine Joseph with a smart phone
◦ posting photos of the baby on his home page
◦ you can see how it doesn’t work
– besides the historical disconnect, I was preoccupied with other concerns
• Friday I received disturbing news from a close friend
◦ I wasn’t able to shake the emotional effect it had on me
◦ last night I woke up around 1:00 am and couldn’t get back to sleep
• and that is when I realized how this old story is our story

Joseph is not one of the main characters in Jesus’ story

He never says a word, and after Jesus’ childhood, he disappears
– he is, in fact, an “average Joe”
• we know that he was a carpenter; most likely a stone mason
◦ it’s fair to assume he was looking forward to marriage
◦ and we also assume he was shocked and wounded when he heard she was pregnant
• Joseph was a good man – he consistently chose to do what was right
◦ this becomes evident as the story goes on
– to say the least, Mary’s pregnancy ruined his plans
• whatever his dream had been–
◦ life with Mary; raising and training a son, preparing him to carry on the family name–
◦ and whatever else he had been looking forward to, died
• now, instead of fulfilling his dreams,
◦ this turn of events created new and difficult problems to solve

Regardless of what Joseph may have felt, he was still thoughtful and caring
– he came up with a ‘Plan B’ – a private and quiet divorce
• but he could not let go of the painful thoughts,
◦ the complications of his situation,
◦ and what moving on might look like

But when he had considered this . . . .

• “considered,” in this form, appears only three times in New Testament
◦ it can mean to take something to heart or to ruminate
◦ but there is also a strong emotional element to this word
– it is not surprising that the angel appeared to Joseph in a dream
• I doubt that he was sleeping well
◦ a lot of his thinking could’ve begun when his head hit the pillow
◦ and not pleasant thoughts, either
• frequently in scripture God waits for people to sleep to speak to them
◦ they were too much like us
◦ during the day, all he gets is a busy signal

God presented Joseph with a ‘Plan C’

The message was, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife
– this is what keeps us awake at night – all those fears
• “How can I fix this mess?” “How can I get out of this?”
◦ even those of us who say we have no imagination,
◦ can create hundreds of “What if” disaster scenarios
• so God first calms Joseph, so that he can listen
– the situation with Mary was not what he assumed
• ending the relationship was not the answer
◦ he needed to stay with her through this
• what will come from this is a child with a destiny:

◦ “Jesus,” for He will save His people from their sins
◦ “Emmanuel,” which translated means, “God with us”

Transition and changes are facts of life

Everyone encounters unwanted and unexpected changes
– things happen that we did not plan,
• and are not prepared to handle
– a sudden change can occur at any time in life
• unpleasant changes are sure to hit us the older we get
• and every change demands some kind of adjustment

This last week Barb and I watched a couple episodes of “The Kominsky Method”–a Netflix Original series. Michael Douglas plays Sandy Kominisky, an acting coach. Norman (played by Alan Arkin) is probably Sandy’s closest friend. Normans wife of forty-six years had just died. Sandy, who has deeply loved Norman and his wife, uses the fact of her loss as an example of how our real life emotions can help actors bring authentic feeling into the characters they play. Norman walks into the studio at this point in Sandy’s lecture and Norman explodes, because it seems callous that Sandy would use his wife’s death in this way. Sandy explains that he was helping his acting students explore how it feels to be human.
Turning to the class, his eyes brimming with passion, Norman says,
“You know what it’s like to be human? Is that something you wanna know? Fine, I’ll tell you. It hurts to be human. It hurts like hell. And all the exploring in the world doesn’t make that hurt go away. Because being human and being hurt are the same damn thing.”

– personally, I would not argue with that statement
• of course, being human is more than hurt,
◦ but it certainly does include hurt
◦ and sometimes the hurt is enough to choke on

Even changes that hurt are not all bad

I know there are certain changes I need to make in my life,
– but if they don’t reach the level of emergency, I can put them off
• if we go without change for awhile, it’s easy to become complacent

Moab has been at ease since his youth;
He has also been undisturbed, like wine on its dregs,
And he has not been emptied from vessel to vessel,
Nor has he gone into exile.
Therefore he retains his flavor
And his aroma has not changed (Jer. 48:11)

• also, Psalm 55:19 (although this may not be the most accurate translation)

Because they have no changes, therefore they fear not God (KJV)

– unwanted changes force movement in a new direction
• they may also carry a transforming potential
◦ it depends a lot on what direction we decide to take
• like Joseph, we may come up with our own ‘Plan B,’
◦ then discover God has a better plan
– meanwhile, things that used to be so important to us no longer are
• and things we have put off, take center stage of our lives

Conclusion: Working my way through these thoughts,

It seemed like the right thing to do at this point would be to suggest an inventory
– I was going to leave you with a few questions, like:
• Are you able to encourage yourself in the Lord (1 Sa. 30:6)
• Do you have healthy ways to calm your fears?
• Can you see unexpected change as your next adventure?
◦ (adventures always involve facing the unknown and risk)
– but that’s not where Matthew takes us
• and Christmas is more than sorting out our emotional resources

God has given us Jesus, for He will save his people from their sins
– if we did not need saving, God would not have given us a Savior
• we can’t make ourselves Christians
◦ you were never meant to do this life in Christ on your own
• look to Jesus to save you
◦ when your heart breaks, turn to Jesus
◦ then, when you get anxious, turn to him again
◦ then, when confused, turn to him again
◦ turn as many times as you have to turn
until your soul finds its rest in him
– Jesus is our Savior
• and he is God with us
◦ God with us in flesh and blood – human like us
◦ and that means he knows that “it hurts to be human”
• Jesus knows and Jesus heals
◦ and those he doesn’t heal, he comforts

I can’t tell you not to fear unwanted change
but I can tell you, take that fear to Jesus
It’s why he came

It is not those who are healthy who need a physician,
but those who are sick.
I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners
Mark 2:17

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