Second Sunday in Advent December 6, 1998
55, 58, 66, 428
The birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily. But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife. Here ends our text.
In the name of our Savior King, the Child of Bethlehem, Dear Fellow-Redeemed,
During the pre-Christmas season this year, we are considering several of the ways that our Lord invites us to take part in the true joy that underlies this holiday. God’s message to us this Christmas is not a daunting and intimidating one. After all, what were the first words the angels spoke to the shepherds? “Fear not…for behold I bring you Good Tidings of great joy.” No, the invitations that are extended to us by the Babe of Bethlehem are meant solely to comfort and reassure us with the Christmas Gospel. Last week we received an invitation to WATCH. Today we’ll unlock a new dimension of Christmas with different key. Our theme this morning is…
A man was walking through an apple orchard one day with his small son. The boy ran ahead and climbed up almost to the top of one old tree. As the father approached, he saw that his son was in trouble. The limbs were rotten, and beginning to break under the boy’s weight. He stepped onto others, and they too gave way. The man yelled, “Jump, son, and I’ll catch you! Trust me!” The boy hesitated for a moment and cried, “Daddy, I can’t let go!” But the next second he jumped, and found himself safe in the arms of his father.
The process of coming to trust in God is often called “the leap of faith.” That’s because there’s a huge jump involved when a person disregards everything his mind and his senses tell him, and believes solely in the Word of God. Today let’s send ourselves back in history about 2000 years. Put yourself in Joseph’s shoes. I’d like you to think about what he was called upon, by God, to believe. Was that ever a leap of faith! It must have been like jumping off the Empire State Building!
The events of our text probably occurred after Mary had returned from her visit to her cousin Elizabeth. For three months she had stayed with Elizabeth, who was pregnant with John the Baptist. When she got back, her fiancée, Joseph, received quite a shock! For it was obvious that Mary, too, was pregnant. Our text says, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. Now the angel of God had already appeared to Mary, so she knew the explanation of the miracle. She knew that what was taking place in her body was the work of the Holy Spirit. But think of Joseph!
Poor Joseph! What a confusion of thoughts must have been running through his mind. How could this have happened? How could he have misjudged so badly this mild girl who had solemnly promised to become his wife? All the evidence indicated that he had been a fool to become engaged to Mary. All his plans for his marriage and starting a family were ruined. Everything had been so clear before, and now it was all a mess! What a scandal!
It was a scandal. And in that day and age, a very serious one, too. Jewish law dictated that a betrothed woman, if she was found pregnant by another man, could be stoned to death for her sin. Joseph didn’t want that. But he had to do something. He certainly wasn’t going to go ahead with the wedding! Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily. Yes…that’s what he’d do. Just call it off! She’d go her way, and he’d go his. It was really rather merciful of Joseph. It was about the kindest thing he could do in the face of such a scandal.
But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. God was calling on Joseph to trust Him, in spite of everything. It would be lonely sort of trust, because he couldn’t expect any of his neighbors to believe that Mary was the first virgin in the history of the world to conceive a child. Would you have believed it? How could Joseph believe it? How could he take this great leap and trust God? The angel didn’t give him any miraculous sign to prove that what he said was true. No budding staff, no rock that gushed water. All Joseph had to trust in was the Lord’s promise. The promise that this child would be the Son of God—the Savior of the world. And it was that gospel promise, itself, that did the trick. Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife. The gospel that the angel preached to Joseph—the good news of a Savior from sin—that gospel, itself, put faith in Joseph’s heart and enabled him to trust. It gave him the faith…to jump!
Well, today it’s our turn to jump! To trust the incredible message that, 2000 years ago, a Baby was born to a virgin. And that that Baby is our Redeemer! Will you trust this incredible message?
You know, today the Gospel is just as much a scandal as it ever was. What Paul said to the Corinthians is still true today, “We preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness.” I Cor 1:23. Would you like to learn some Greek? In Greek, the word for “stumbling block” is skandalon, or “scandal”! Almost everyone in this world of ours, Jews and gentiles alike, considers the Gospel of Jesus scandalous and foolish. Well, the very idea! —That the Son of God came to earth and was born of a virgin, lived a perfectly sinless life, died on a cross, and rose from the dead after three days? “What nonsense!” they say. Today even so-called “Christians” including many liberal “Lutherans” are denying the fact of Jesus’ virgin birth. They don’t trust the Bible that far. It’s a little too big a jump for them to make.
It is, indeed, a very big jump to make. But God asks us to jump, nevertheless. He asks us to trust His Word. To believe the Christmas message of a Savior born of a virgin. To let go of everything else, and trust only in Him for our salvation! We couldn’t make that leap on our own. As confirmation students, we memorized the explanation of the Third Article of the Apostle’s Creed, which says, “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ my Lord, nor come to Him…” Do you remember how it goes on? “…But that the Holy Ghost has called me by the Gospel!” That’s the beautiful thing about this incredible Christmas message—it carries, within itself, the power to make us believe it. Paul said, “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Romans 10:17. When you read God’s Word, or come here to listen to it preached, the Holy Ghost is working faith in your heart. The Gospel itself is enabling you believe the Gospel!
The word is “TRUST”. During this Advent Season, God is inviting you to trust, just like He invited Joseph to trust. No signs, no miracles, just…trust. But He also enables you to trust, through His Word, just like He enabled Joseph. You can trust God’s Word. You can trust that every word of the Christmas story is true. Above all, you can trust in that Savior, who was born in a stable and died on a cross. Trust Him! He forgives every sin you commit. He will welcome you into heaven at the end of time. So settle back and enjoy the coming of your Savior. You are among the truly blessed, just as Jesus said, “Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed!” In His name, AMEN.
Ministry by Mail is a weekly publication of the Church of the Lutheran Confession. Subscription and staff information may be found online at www.clclutheran.org/ministrybymail.
All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.