Sermon Text: Joe's Christmas
When a child is born, the father and mother each tell the story differently.
My wife and I became parents in 1980. At the birth of our firstborn son, one of us was in pain, screaming, and getting meds from the nurses.
On the other hand, my wife was very quiet and brave.
The birth of Jesus is told two different ways. In Luke’s Gospel, the story is told from Mary’s perspective. It’s the one with the shepherds and the manger and the angels. In Matthew’s Gospel, the story is told from Joseph’s point of view. Maybe because I was once a new dad, I’m glad Joseph’s story was remembered.
Joesph had his struggles. He realized the coming Child was not his own. But he also realized that if he deserted Mary, she would be in real danger. In that time and culture, she would have nothing. She would be shunned. She might even be executed for adultery.
Joseph was a really good man. He decided to deal with the situation very, very quietly. But then he had a dream. In the Book of Genesis there was a Joseph who had special dreams. That was the Joseph who had the coat of many colors. In Matthew’s Gospel, this Joseph of Nazareth has a dream.
And like Mary, Joseph says “yes” to God. It will cost him, but Joseph submits to God.
I like Joseph a lot, and I wish I could be more like him. He does not say a lot, and he does not do a lot. But he is there. He strikes me as a good listener. He has a quiet strength about him.
I feel like I’m more like the apostle Peter — loud, desperate, and given to panic. Joseph, on the other hand, is cool. Like all new dads, Joseph will find out that when the kid arrives, it changes everything. But Joseph stays cool.
In the stories of the Bible, people are invited to say “yes” to God. Mary was invited by the angel Gabriel to say yes. Joesph was invited by the angel in his dream to say yes. The adult Jesus will teach us to say “Thy will be done.”
And it all starts right here, in the Christmas story. It’s such a beautiful story — a story about a baby, and a family, and angels, and the hope for peace on earth. It’s a story about miracles. And it’s a story about love.
We tell the story over and over again, because in the telling it happens again. The gift comes to us. Emmanuel comes to us. God comes to be with us....again.
But when the Child comes, it changes everything.
Especially human hearts. It seems to me that what God is up to, at least according to the Christmas story, is softening the hard human heart.
When we see a little baby, most of us feel a little tug in our hearts. This little, fragile, sweet life is so precious and important. There is a tenderness most people feel when they see a new baby.
At the first Christmas, God became a new baby. And God hopes we will feel that little tug in our hearts. God became a baby, and then a suffering man on a cross, so that we would feel that tug in our hearts. God hopes, I think, that we see every baby as someone for whom we feel that tug in our hearts. God hopes that we see every human being as someone for whom we feel that tug in our hearts.
God is hidden in a child. The hope is that our hearts will be tender enough to treat every single person on this planet the way we would treat the baby Jesus.
You see, as any new parent will tell you, when the Child arrives,
everything — everything — changes.