On Sunday afternoons, I lead worship at the Memory Care Center at Twin Lakes Lutheran Retirement Center in Burlington. Many different denominations worship together in this marvelous facility. In these weeks before the celebration of Jesus’ birth, we are considering people who played important roles in that awesome event. Last Sunday, we heard the Angel Gabriel make an astounding announcement to Mary that she had found favor with God. She learned she would have3 a baby in a most unusual way and the child would be called the Son of God.
When the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary, Mary was confused, joyful and astounded. She was a young woman, preparing to be married to Joseph. Marriages in those days were arranged by parents like a business transaction. There was the angel Gabriel, telling Mary she was the favored one and the Lord was with her. Being a religious young woman, Mary accepted the message of the Angel Gabriel.
Now she faced another challenge. Saint Matthew wrote 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. Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly.
Who was this Joseph who had already been announced to the whole village as the husband to be of Mary? Actually, the Bible does not say very much about Joseph. He is mentioned in this Bible text as the man who took Mary to be his wife, even though she was already pregnant by the Holy Spirit. Later on the Bible will tell how Joseph will take Mary to Bethlehem, where Jesus is born. They will flee the wicked king Herod by going to Egypt. A couple years later they will return to Nazareth.
Once, Joseph was mentioned as bringing young Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem. Years later, when Jesus was an adult teaching people in the synagogue in Nazareth, Matthew wrote the people were astounded and said “Where did Jesus get this wisdom and these deeds of power? Is not this the carpenter’s son?” Beyond these few references to Joseph we know only that, like Mary, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said “Joseph, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, for He will save his people from their sins.”
If Mary was astounded and puzzled by the appearance of the angel Gabriel, Joseph must have been just as puzzled by that dream. But when Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son, and he named him Jesus.
What makes Joseph so important is that God chose this ordinary carpenter to be the foster father and raise God’s Son, Jesus. Although Joseph is usually portrayed on Christmas cards as being an old man with a beard, we don’t know how old he was when he took Mary to be his wife. He may well have been an 18 year old who worked with his father planing wood and putting together doors and pieces of furniture made from wood that was so scarce in that part of the world.
Isn’t it wonderful how God chooses to show His love for us by permitting His own Son to grow up in a common, ordinary family! Over the centuries, men and women, the highest order of God’s creation had strayed from God. They disobeyed God and did not get along with each other. The world was awash in sin. That didn’t discourage God. God just went on loving us. Then, on God’s time, He chose to come to us as a special child in an ordinary family – Mary and Joseph.
Christmas is a time when so many people reflect upon their families. Everyone recognizes that he or she is not alone. Remember all those Christ cards you used to receive with family pictures? Whether you were married or had children there was a time when so many sent pictures of families at Christmas. We enjoyed sending and receiving them each year – we commented on those family pictures. “Look, they had a little girl! Their boy is playing basketball! A new puppy!” Families always seemed to be growing with children and pets. If we hadn’t heard from them since last Christmas, it was new news.
Today, with digital cameras and the internet, many families send pictures all year long. Also, as we grow older, families we know no longer are composed of dad, mom, children, and a couple of pets.
I don’t know how you feel, but there are times when I miss not having little children around. Last Sunday, we stood outside our courtyard at Twin Lakes and waved to the hundreds of cars that came out to see the Christmas lights. Several of us remarked how much fun it was to see little children, one to five years olds often hugging their pet dogs or stuffed animals, waving and smiling at us.
Now, this morning, for the most part, I doubt whether you live in a traditional family of mom, dad, children, and pets. Some of you may even live alone. But I am here to remind you you are still in a family – a special family. The family in which you live is right here, in this place. It is called the family of God where we worship together.
It has often been said “Blood is thicker than water: in other words some believe that all who matter are the people to whom you are related. But other groups of people are also like family, whether or not they are related.
God send His Son to be born into a real live family, to suffer, die, and rise again that our life might go on into eternity. You and I are now a part of a special family. We are the family of God. We are the family of God, as Joseph adopted Mary’s Son, so God has grafted us into His family. The Bible says 1 John 29:1– See what love the Father has given us; that we should be called Children of God. Because of God’s love, We are all in God’s loving family, now and forever! Amen.
Preached at St. Michael Lutheran on 12/10/17 by The Rev. John Weinbach, 3848 Wesley Court, Burlington, NC 27215 (email@example.com)