The Scandal of Christmas
“Joseph was chosen, too!”
Matthew 1:18-25 (NLT)
November 27, 2016
Pastor Jerry Ingalls
What a joy for us to tell the best story ever told for the next 5 Sundays—it is the Christmas Story! During Advent, a season of anticipation and preparation for the Coming of the Messiah, we will gather weekly to declare that Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ, is the Son of God, born of a virgin, crucified on a Roman Cross, raised from the dead on the 3rd day, and coming again soon to right every wrong. Come Lord Jesus!
But at the time of Jesus’ birth (2,016 years ago), God had been silent for 400 years (Can you comprehend how long 400 years is actually?). God’s last word through the prophet Malachi is, “Look, I am sending you the prophet Elijah before the great and dreadful day of the LORD arrives. 6 His preaching will turn the hearts of fathers to their children, and the hearts of children to their fathers. Otherwise I will come and strike the land with a curse” (Malachi 4:5, 6).
With this last word ingrained in their memory banks, as if the last words of a long lost lover, can you imagine the pent up anticipation the people of God must have been experiencing? They were waiting for God to explode on the scene at any time and to usher in the “great and dreadful Day of the LORD”! They were waiting for justice and blessing; an earthly kingdom that would exceed the golden era of Israel when David and Solomon had been kings of a prospering & united kingdom. A time before everything had gone so wrong…so long ago…they were waiting for their chance to get it right, once and for all!
When would God burst onto the scene? How would He do it? Can you for a moment empathize with their eagerness? And every year that went by, the imagination of the people got bigger and so did the disappointment of God’s silence…
Can you imagine being the great descendants of Abraham promised to be the people of God who will bless all other peoples, but instead of blessing others you are being oppressed and dominated by every world power that comes around? To name a few the Egyptians, Philistines, Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, and then through a very dark time of history, God is silent as the Greeks and Romans make a power play for the world, right through the fertile crescent where Israel was planted by God. You feel powerless to stand up against the next bully who arrives on the international scene and you quietly wondering if your God, the God you heard so many miraculous stories about—the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, David, Solomon, Elijah…is He really who these stories say He is…because He seems powerless, uncaring, distant…in a word you feel forsaken! And the people cried out for their Savior… Where is God? Why is He so silent and for so long? Can His promises still be trusted all these years later? What do I do with all my disappointment of living in such tyranny and injustice?
But God, you promised… A cry of desperation from a people doing everything they can to remember their own birth right and not sell it for a better life on earth.
In the midst of such questions, such silence, such anguish enters the Christmas story! Enter the Promised One…enter God, the main character of the show… After 400 years of silence, God breaks into history to tell His story of love and grace and truth and redemption…JUSTICE![PAUSE FOR A LONG SILENCE]
Did you see His entrance from stage left…? Or was it from stage right…? Or did He descend down from the crowds with trumpets blaring…? Or even better, did He just appear center stage demanding the attention of all people everywhere?
NO! God’s breaking in to the world was not a power play! When the Emperor of the Roman Empire, Caesar Augustus, was drawing attention to himself by ordering a census to count all his people, God was showing His love by emptying Himself of power and becoming one of His people!
Listen to the greatest story ever told, the story of the birth of Jesus the Messiah, from Matthew 1:18-25 (NLT), “This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. 19 Joseph, to whom she was engaged, was a righteous man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly. 20 As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. ‘Joseph, son of David,’ the angel said, ‘do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’ 22 All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet [Isaiah 7:14]: 23 ‘Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’’ 24 When Joseph woke up, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded and took Mary as his wife. 25 But he did not have sexual relations with her until her son was born. And Joseph named him Jesus.”
Show Skit Guys “Joseph” video. [*Thank you to skitguys.com for their “sermon helps” sheet for some great insights on Joseph and his point of view! You guys rock!]
How do we normally experience Joseph Christmas to Christmas?
* Joseph is just the guy behind Mary…
* Mary gets center stage with Jesus in the Nativity, Joseph is indistinguishable from the shepherds…
* Mary gets the Magnificat. Mary gets the adoration. Joseph rarely gets any good lines…
But who was Joseph really in the greatest story ever told?
* Joseph wasn’t behind Mary, he was chosen to be beside her as her husband providing “AAA service”!
Teenagers, I want to invite you for a second to understand the situation in real terms: “It’s been said the two most fragile things in the world are a man’s ego and a women’s reputation. Imagine gossip that could very well result in your death. And yet Joseph stepped up. God told him to take Mary as his wife and Joseph [against all odds and common sense!] did as he was told” (skitguys.com). The Christmas story is a scandal, was then and should still be today! Imagine if one of our faithful teenage girls came in to my office telling me she was pregnant, but had never been sexually active…and her boyfriend was sitting right next to her with his arms crossed looking betrayed… How would you react…parents, church?
* Joseph gets the center stage in Jesus’ life, no one has greater impact on a young boy’s life then the father! Joseph is chosen!
* Joseph got the privilege of being the step father to Jesus! God chose Joseph to be the husband to Mary and the father to the only incarnation of God the world will EVER see!
Joseph is the first and most important witness of the Virgin Birth; the greatest and most obvious scandal of Christmas that is so cleaned up for children’s ears and romanticized so we don’t even recognize the scandal of God’s chosen entry point to save His own creation—the womb of a teenage mother!
SCANDAL on SO many levels…
- Mary should have been stoned; not believed, except Joseph stayed by her side!
- Joseph should have abandoned her to her rightful punishment; except he received an angelic message that he believe and acted upon!
- The first Christmas appeared to be just another silent night for a dying world!
And we should still be in our sin and destined for Hell! BUT God, rich in mercy, did not remain silent nor did He remain distant. In the most scandalous and LOVING way possible, God entered center stage in a whisper. The God who was “away” and “out there” and “far away” was now the God who was “right here” and “close by”…the presence of God suddenly became present—“Immanuel which means ‘God is with us.’” (skitguys.com)
The ancient and widely appreciated Apostle’s Creed states, “I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary…”
And because of this virgin birth, Jesus Christ was both fully man and fully God, able to be the final living sacrifice (The “perfect Lamb of God”) taking on the full wrath of God for the sins of humanity. Without the virgin birth, Jesus could not have atoned for human sin—yours and mine!
Most importantly, listen to what the Bible says, “But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. 5 God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children” (Galatians 4:4-5).
You may not feel chosen… You may even know that the “Mary” over there is chosen; that is obvious, but not me. But you are chosen…you have been adopted as one of God’s very own children…
God broke into history to tell “His story”—of faith, hope, and love! He didn’t do it with a power play! He didn’t come and manifest His presence and plans of redemption in a place of reputation and power! He didn’t reveal Himself to a notable people or enter in a King’s Court where He could have access to the best technology, military prowess or political means of influence!
God broke into history with humility and love; not to win you with a show of power, but to woe you with His willingness to join with you in empathy, truly knowing what it is like to be human, and loving you as one who knows how hard it is to love, have faith, and put your hope in a God who seems to distant, silent, and at times powerless to make a difference in a dying world.
The Christmas story has come alive to me in a new way this year; God is breaking into my life afresh… quietly, in a whisper, personally and lovingly. He is whispering to me, “I have come near you and I will never leave you nor forsake you!” What is God whispering to you?
For additional and accessible research sources on this series and the Virgin Birth specifically, go to: