God Came To Us In This Way
Sermon by Rev. Steven McClelland on Matthew 1: 18 – 25. Focus on the critical role that Joseph played in God’s plan to become one of us.
He never speaks a word. Most everyone from Catholic to Protestant alike ignores him. There are no great symphonies or books written about his contribution to the events surrounding Christmas and beyond, but without him none of what we celebrate would have happened.
Oh I almost forgot. His name is Joseph and what happened to him according to Matthew’s text is as much a miracle as what happened on Christmas day. For on the night in question Joseph became a father for the Son of God. In his sleepy state, Joseph allowed God to speak to the depths of his heart and to offer a resolution to the dilemma that his human reason could not fathom.
His girlfriend had become pregnant by another. On this night, every bit as miraculous a night as Christmas Eve, an angel came near and whispered a message from God into Joseph’s sleeping ear. The angel interrupted the nightmare visions of accusation and estrangement that played in the theatre of Joseph’s mind. The angel replaced thoughts of stoning and disgrace with a manger scene and visions of a boy growing and becoming strong.
“Here,” whispered the angel, “here is the key that unlocks your dilemma. Believe Mary’s unbelievable story. Marry her and become the father of God’s child. He will need a father to be accepted by others as he grows into manhood. He will need, not just any father, but a father like you, capable of nurturing him, and giving him a name. ‘Emmanuel – God with us.’”
“He will need a father like you to teach him to take risks like the one you are about to take, for he will be tempted not to take them.”
“He will need a father like you to teach him to withstand the disapproval of others, as you will soon have to withstand from family and community alike.”
“He will need a father like you to teach him what to do in situations like this one, when all hope seems lost and only pain and betrayal seem to be your options. To model how to believe the unbelievable news that in this way God came into the world.
In this way, I imagine the father of our Lord was born that night. And when Joseph awoke from his sleep. He said, “not my will, but thine be done.”
It’s truly unbelievable as Paul so accurately put it: this claim, that God came to be with us as one of us, well it’s just folly to the Gentiles and a stumbling block to the Jews,” but yet here we are 2000 thousand years later. Saying with our ancestor’s a child was born who, beyond the power of anyone to account for, was the high and lofty One made low and helpless. The One who inhabits eternity has come to dwell in our time. The One who none can look upon and live is delivered in a stable under the gaze of indifferent animals. The Father of all mercies puts himself at our mercy. That’s what Joseph represents.
That’s God’s gamble was not in vain. That God was willing to trust the likes of us is amazing to me and can either be fact or fiction but nothing in between. And to all those, especially my friends who do not believe I would simply point out that you date your letters and checks and income tax forms with a number representing how many years have gone by since what happened, happened.
The world of A.D. is one world, and the world of B.C., is another. It’s clear that God came to Joseph and Mary, but the truth is God still comes to ordinary people, people just like Joseph, who will never have carols sung about their dreams, but who like Joseph have made that incredible leap of faith and have come to believe the unreasonable, illogical mystery of the incarnation.
You see God still comes to a hurting world that is high on cynicism and low on hope. God still comes to the woman living on a fixed income, who gives of her time and money as if there was an endless supply of both. God still comes to the nameless man who scrubs the floors at the local hospital.
And the step from God was with Mary and Joseph to – Emmanuel – God with us, might not be as great as it first seems. What keeps the wild hope of Christmas alive year after year in a world notorious for dashing hopes is the haunting dream that this child who was born in the city of David, may yet be born again even in us. Amen