AN ANGELIC ADVENT ANNOUNCEMENT–TO JOSEPH
Foretelling a miracle child
Revealing a miracle faith
Text: Matthew 1:18-25
Note: This sermon is part of an Advent sermon series at St. Mark’s titled, “Angelic Advent Announcements.” The other sermons in this series include the angels’ announcements to Zechariah (Luke 1:5-25) and Mary (Luke 1:26-38). The series will conclude with the Christmas Eve sermon based on the angel’s Christmas announcement to the shepherds (Luke 2:8-14).
Chad and Lori weren’t quite sure how they were going to get through another Christmas. Lori was a stay-at-home mother of four. Her husband Chad held down a well-paying factory job until a month and a half before Christmas. That’s when company cutbacks terminated his position. He was a hard worker with good mechanical skills, but for the last four weeks he hadn’t had any luck finding a new job with decent benefits and a good salary. Suddenly the bills started coming in the mail. It was a cold winter that year, and the gas bill reflected just how expensive it was to heat their house in December. The credit card bills had all the charges for the kids’ Christmas presents on them. And of course, at the worst of all possible times, the family car broke down and needed some pricey repairs. They sat at the kitchen table one night, worried that everything they had worked so hard for was slipping away before their very eyes.
The next morning, everything changed. Chad’s great uncle, a successful businessman in his day, passed away at the ripe old age of 96. Chad hadn’t seen him in a while, but apparently his great uncle hadn’t forgotten about him. You see, Chad’s name was in his great uncle’s will, and Chad and Lori were about to inherit a small portion of a rather large estate. The money they received was enough to pay off all those threatening bills and treat the family to a Christmas they would have never imagined. My, how one little unexpected announcement, via a telephone call, changed their mood and their life!
My, how one not-so-little, very unexpected announcement from God, via his angle, changed Joseph’s mood and his life! Tonight we turn our attention to another angelic Advent announcement. Tonight we consider the miraculous Advent announcement to Joseph recorded in Matthew chapter one. There are two reasons why this announcement was so miraculous. The angelic Advent announcement to Joseph foretold a miracle child, and it revealed a miracle faith.
In our midweek Advent sermon series, we are considering the angelic Advent announcements that God gave to Zechariah, to Mary, and Joseph. Among these three, if there was any one who needed to hear his angelic advent announcement right away, it was Joseph. Zechariah heard a message from the angel that pertained to his future. So did Mary. But Joseph badly needed this announcement right at the time when he got it. Joseph learned that Mary was pregnant, and he knew that the baby wasn’t his. The only logical conclusion was that Mary had been unfaithful to him. Operating under this assumption, Joseph planned an action that was actually very noble. As quietly as possible, he planned to break off his marriage with Mary, without trying to publicly take her to task for what it appeared that she had done.
Joseph must have been devastated. From everything scripture tells us, he was an honorable and humble man. His heart must have been torn at the thought that Mary had been unfaithful to him. So to ease Joseph’s burdened soul, and more so to reveal God’s special plan, the Lord sent an angel to make a special announcement to the future stepfather of the Son of God. In a heavenly dream that God directed, the angel assured Joseph, “Do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” While Joseph’s sad burden must have been lifted from his heart, he must have been absolutely floored at this announcement. His wife was going to give birth to God! Joseph wasn’t going to be some passive observer in this process. The angel told him that after Mary gave birth to a son, he, Joseph, would name the child. Joseph was going to name God! Matthew immediately adds that all of this – from the miracle birth to the naming of the baby Jesus – all of this was part of God’s eternal plan, a plan God had revealed through the prophet Isaiah and through many other prophets of old as well.
Have these Advent days been a 100-percent, completely joy filled time of year for you? Have all your Christmases, past and present, been nothing but pure delight and pleasure? Probably not. Very few people are so blessed as to have a perfectly wonderful Christmas season. Perhaps you feel like Chad and Lori, the imaginary couple I mentioned at the beginning of this sermon, as they struggled to make end’s meat – except that you’re not on the receiving end of some gift or inheritance that will bail you out of your fiscal dilemma. Perhaps family troubles have dampened December joy in your household, as husband and wife or parent and child never seem to listen to what the other says or take into consideration the other’s needs. Maybe it’s your first Christmas alone, or maybe you’ve spent way too many Christmases alone already.
There can be all sorts of things that take Christmastime joy away from us, but all of these things are only symptoms of a greater problem. When you boil it down to the heart of the matter, the reason that there is sadness, sickness, trouble and turmoil in our lives is because of the presence of sin in this world. That is not to suggest that whenever something sad or bad happens to us, God must be punishing for something we’ve done. But the fact that not all our Christmases are merry and bright does remind us that we are experiencing the due results of sin in our lives – both the sin we inherited from our parents, and the sins we commit every time we fail to follow God’s will. When you boil it down to the heart of the matter, our own shameful, sinful lives do not simply put us into difficult situations now; they put us into an eternal predicament that we could never solve on our own: the predicament of falling into the hands of a just God who punishes sin.
And so the angelic Advent announcement that reaches our ears also touches our hearts. Joseph’s angelic Advent announcement foretold a miracle child then, and that same announcement points us back to that same miracle child. We need the message of the coming Savior’s birth as much as Joseph needed to hear it. This Advent announcement gives us a joy that surpasses all sadness, and a secure faith that trumps all doubts and despairs. No matter what life throws at you, the announcement of the coming Savior points you to everything you and your faith needs this season. What more joyous news could you and I hear than that the little, innocent baby Jesus would grow up to become the innocent Lamb of God who took away our sins? What more joyous news could you and I hear than that the seemingly helpless infant child would one day be conqueror over sin and death and hell? We need this angelic Advent announcement just as much as Joseph did, because it points us to our hope, our salvation, and our Savior, Jesus Christ.
The angel’s message to Joseph certainly had a profound effect. That message not only allowed Joseph to understand the miracle child that was about to be born of Mary, but the angel’s announcement also revealed a miracle faith in Joseph. Notice Joseph’s simple, quiet response to the angel’s message. “When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him.” The angel said it; Joseph did it. It was that simple. The angel’s gospel message produced a miracle faith in Joseph: a faith that led him to trust God’s message and then follow God’s will down to the last detail, by naming the baby boy Jesus, the name the angel had given him.
The angel’s message also revealed a miracle faith in Joseph by what he did not do. St. Matthew says, “[Joseph] had no union with her until she gave birth to a son.” More often than not, we simply gloss over that statement. But think about the tremendous service that Joseph did for the entire Christian Church of all places and times by this simple action. In an age when even some Lutherans deny the miracle of the virgin birth, Joseph’s actions make it clear for us today that Mary’s child was not just an ordinary human being. Mary’s child was a miracle child: he was and still is 100 percent fully God and 100 percent fully man, all in one person.
Joseph strikes me as a very simple, humble man. The Bible never even records a word he spoke. Joseph may not have spoken many words, but his faith spoke volumes. His faith reveals a simple, quiet trust in the Lord’s words and promises. This angelic Advent announcement revealed a miracle faith in Joseph, and to this day the message of the gospel continues to produces miracle faith in the hearts of those who hear it.
What would possess a Christian to watch a stewardship presentation and then consider how he can assist the church’s work by planning generous offerings for the coming year? What would possess a member of this church to take a Saturday morning during the busiest shopping season of the year to help spread the Word about our upcoming Christmas services that will spread the Word about Jesus? What would possess you to double your church attendance during the pre-Christmas hustle and bustle? What possesses Christians to do things like these? The Holy Spirit possesses them! The Holy Spirit works through the message of the gospel and creates a miracle faith. This faith is a miracle not only because of the godly actions it produces, but this faith is a miracle in itself. God takes us, people who are his worst enemies by nature, and through the message of the coming Savior’s gospel he miraculously turns us into his dearest friends. He turns the unwilling into the willing. He turns former partners of Satan into sharers of eternal blessings that Jesus’ death and resurrection have secured for us. The message of the angels – really, the message about Jesus – creates a miracle faith that produces miraculous results.
The chances of any of us receiving a miraculous message from an angel are next to zilch, but announcement that Joseph received over 2000 years ago still brings about miracles today. The message of Jesus, the miracle child, continues to produce a miracle faith in all who trust in his love and forgiveness. May the message of the miracle child continue to bring you true peace and joy, and may it continue to reveal a miracle faith that shines brightly to the rest of the world and points them to Jesus Christ, the Light of the world. Amen.