O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever (1 Chr 16:34). Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church - Winnipeg, MB
Meet Joseph: The human father of God
"Meet Joseph: The human father of God"
December 19, 2010
Before I begin the sermon, I have some startling news to report. The confirmation class here at Beautiful Savior has been making up words. What started as an engaging exercise, with the confirmation class choosing one word each week that the pastor had to somehow fit into his sermon, has now become a laboratory for inventing crazy, new words. And I can tell you, it is incredibly inconvenient for me. You may have seen their odd choice of word in the bulletin today. Their word is abogus. Abogus, how did they come up with such a word? Well initially, they wanted the word bogus, which means fake. But then they got crafty, and wanted to change the word to mean the opposite of fake. That is why they chose the word abogus because that 'a' at the beginning of the word switches the meaning to its opposite. Sort of like atrophy or apathy. So they chose the inconvenient fake word 'abogus' - which ironically means 'genuine.' When you hear me use the word abogus during the sermon, it means genuine.
P: Grace to you and peace, from God the Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God! (C: Amen.)
Dearly beloved, what does it mean to have Christ in your life? In our Gospel reading, we hear the perspective of Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus. Joseph certainly knew what it is like to have Jesus in his life. He experienced in his physical life what you and I experience in our spiritual lives. So if we can get to know Joseph, God can use him to teach us about what it means to have Christ in our lives.
So meet Joseph. He is a young, humble carpenter. He spends his days following the grains of wood with his hands. His hair is often decorated with wood chips and sawdust. He is very handy, a simple man with important skills. He makes tables and chairs for the local market in Nazareth and the towns that surround it. And recently, this lucky man has gotten engaged. He is brimming with life, and is looking forward to his whole future. As a successful day of work ends, he bounds through the sunny streets to visit his love, his betrothed. He has exciting news about some beautiful woodwork he is preparing for their wedding. He has also started building a new house for them to live in once are wed. He can barely hold his excitement when he enters the house of Mary's family.
Here his excitement is crushed. Mary tells him she is pregnant. His heart screams. His love has betrayed him. His plan for the future is ruined. He is afraid of what will happen to Mary, for she could be stoned for this. He is frustrated, upset and disappointed. He is even angry that God would let this happen. What has he done to deserve this? He lies down that night with all of his emotions and thoughts torturing him. It takes him hours to fall asleep, but when he can't fight the tiredness anymore, sleep takes him.
And there in his dream, an angel of the Lord appears to him and says, "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. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins."
It must have been incredibly inconvenient for Joseph to have Christ come into his life. It did not follow his plan. It was not what he asked for. It was not what he had always looked forward to when he younger. Having Christ in his life was inconvenient. It threw off all of his plans. We are brothers and sisters in Christ. That means that Christ has come into our lives and made us part of His family in Baptism. And sometimes it is incredibly inconvenient to be Christian. It is inconvenient to be part of Jesus family. Much like Joseph, His earthly father, whether you like or not, your whole life has been changed by Christ. It is inconvenient to hear Christ speak on Wednesday evenings during advent. It is inconvenient to receive His body and blood at His service on Christmas morning. It is inconvenient to pick up your Bible when you get home from work and spend time with the God who created you, made you part of His family and continues to protect you. It is inconvenient to be Christian, especially in a world that wants to pull you away from Christ and His Church. Christ was not convenient for Joseph, and He is not convenient for us - not here, not now.
Of course, this isn't the only thing that Joseph faced when Christ came into his life and family. Before Mary conceived Jesus by the Holy Spirit, Joseph was a respectable man. He was a man of honor in his community. The Scriptures tell us that he was considering saving Mary the shame of adultery by leaving her in private. But what happened after he obeyed the word of God and Jesus came into his life? He became that man who got his fiancÚ pregnant. He became that shameful man in his community who got married because he knocked up his girlfriend. Joseph, the respectable man of honor had become a man of shame. Like a true husband, Joseph made the sacrifice for his family. Like a true servant of God, Joseph took the shame that he did not deserve. This same effect has been happening to the Church and Christians for the last century. The Church has always been the honorable voice in the community. The Church would privately pronounce the forgiveness of sins to those caught in sin in order that they would not receive shame. And now it seems, that much like Joseph, we Christians bear shame we do not deserve. Our Western culture sees us as that 'shameful man who got his fiancÚ pregnant.' We are those Christians. And it usually means that we forfeit being rich or popular or having a strong sense of pride in our personal accomplishments. Christ did not make Joseph popular or respected in his day, and He is not a source of popularity for us either - not here, not now.
Now, if the inconvenience and shame of having Jesus in his life were not enough for Joseph, imagine what it would have been like to be the human father of God. Joseph knew his baby boy was the Creator of the universe. His baby boy knew every evil thought, every fleshy desire and every little failure that Joseph would ever have. His son, the one he was supposed to help raise into a godly young man, would know when he had failed as his father. He would know when he was unfaithful in his mind to his mother. He would know when he had moments of resentment that Jesus had come into his life. Imagine having a family member like that! Brothers and sisters in Christ, Jesus knows these things about you too. God has made Christ our brother in Holy Baptism, and He knows every thought of resentment that we have towards His family. He knows how many times we have purposefully put His Holy Family and its needs as secondary to our own. He knows how we neglect coming home for family dinner, or how we may feel like we do not belong in His family. Having Christ in your life, means that much like Joseph, you acknowledge your shortcomings, certain that Christ has already seen them and shed His blood to forgive you of them. The reason this Christ is in your life is not to tell you that you are a good person, but in order to die that you may be a forgiven sinner.
For of all the difficulties that Joseph faced, this is the most blatant one. Joseph knew his son was born to die. Joseph was to raise his son Jesus knowing that He would save His people from their sins. Jesus would never be the son to which Joseph could give his inheritance. He would never provide him grandchildren. No, Jesus would provide his father Joseph with something far better. Jesus would save his father Joseph. And Joseph knew this. Joseph knew that Christ is the one who has truly been inconvenienced, made shameful, and punished for failure - not him. It is the heavenly Father that has had to watch His Son suffer and die - our heavenly Father that has had to watch His Only Son absorb our uncleanness so that He could punish Him in our place - Christ was cast out of the family by His Father so that you now truly belong here. He died inconveniently on the cross to bring you the convenience of everlasting life. He died shamefully before the whole world to give meaning to your shame, and to promise you a reward in heaven. He took on your failures and made the ultimate sacrifice for His bride the Church, so that you could be one with Him, the closest part of His family. He did all of this - so that like young Joseph, that excited, brimming life that He created in you could last forever. So that it would not grow old and come to an end one day, but will continue forever in a growing joy of anticipation and fulfillment with God in heaven. In Holy Baptism, you received all of this and your baptism is a permanent washing - it means that you are a child of your heavenly Father regardless of how much you may mistreat His family. He is your heavenly Father, and His heavenly Son was born to an earthly father and died as an earthly son for you - so that you may be a heavenly son with Him forever.
Joseph, through great inconvenience, great shame and inevitable failure as a father, does not run away from the message he hears. He does not hide from these three enemies, but grasps hold of the word this angel delivers, trusting in the almighty power of his freshly conceived baby boy. (big pause) Joseph has a genuine faith. He is abogus. He knows he can count on the promise of a faithful God. He humbles himself before the Word of the Lord, and takes Mary to be his wife. He is not afraid of the inconvenience or the shame or his obvious failures, for his son will save him from it all.
Even today, the angel of the Lord says to you, As he said to Joseph, son of David, 'do not fear to have Christ in your life, for with Him you receive the Holy Spirit. And you will call your Lord Jesus, for He will save you from your sins.' In His precious name, Amen.
Rev. Cameron Schnarr