Hi, this is Bernie Dake. You're listening to The Salvation Army's Words of Life. For kids at The Salvation Army, a meal isn't just a meal. It's fuel for imagination, determination, and dreams. It's energy to be role models, change makers, and to just be kids. With your gift, a full meal means a full heart, a full night's sleep, and a future full of possibilities.
Call $25 a month to show local kids love beyond hunger at salvationarmyusa.org. Well welcome back to Words of Life and happy Christmas everybody. I'm Bernie Dake. And I'm Cheryl Gillum. We are in our third week of our Christmas series, Emmanuel. And throughout this series, each message was written by a different Salvation Army officer and is being read by our good friend Bethany Farrell. And this week's episode was written by Major Mark Satterley. What a perfect episode for him to write about, right? Mark's approached this series by studying Joseph's perspective throughout the birth of our Savior. Now, we try to personalize our series or our episodes so that our listeners can kind of get to know us. And certainly we've talked about the writers.
A couple weeks ago it was Major Ramer and then Sergeant Jennifer Dooley. This week, for all of you that want to know the perspective of an all-American male, this is Mark. He's a Florida Gator superfan from a football perspective. He is the guy that you think is walking around his home with a tool belt. He's just that guy. He is. And this is definitely...
He embodies the manly man. Exactly. This will definitely be the perspective of Joseph that we kind of alluded to last week. Yeah. That when I listen to the Christmas story or when I'm reading, writing on the Christmas events that happen annually, and we kind of focus or zero in in our worship communities, I often have to, because I'm a man, think of it from a perspective of Joseph.
Sure. And this story doesn't start out just sort of all prim and proper. There was not an engagement. And then the dating period and then a marriage, there was an engagement and then a pregnancy and then a birth.
And that could be scandalous, at least back when I was a kid. And at this day and age, this is a story for the world to hear and get excited about the birth of a savior who literally can offer salvation to the whosoever. And the thing about Joseph's character is you don't hear much about him in this. You hear certain things, which I know Mark will touch on, but he kind of is like in the background and I don't know, maybe some of our listeners sometimes feel like, I'm just invisible. I don't even know what my purpose is, or can God really use my story?
I just want to encourage you really hone in on this particular story of Joseph and how Mark touches on that his life and his part and his role was so crucial to God's plan, right? And that's all of us. So if any of you are feeling that way, I pray you're encouraged by this particular episode.
Yeah. Be encouraged. Know that we see you, the Lord more importantly sees you and he does have a plan and a purpose for your life. We hope that you'll be encouraged by this week's message. Today we're going to start with a reading from Matthew chapter one, verses 18 through 25. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, Joseph, son of David, 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.
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet. The Virgin will conceive and give birth to a son and they will call him Emmanuel, which means God with us. When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife, but he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son and he gave him the name Jesus.
Now it's pretty common for first time fathers to feel a bit useless when a baby is due. All the attention is on the mother and the baby to be born and rightly so. And yet poor Joseph, in the entirety of the Christmas story, he almost feels like an add on. In the Christmas story, Mary and the baby are honored. In Christmas plays around the world, kids clamor to be kings or shepherds.
In the musicals, even the angels and heavenly choirs get top billing. And then there's Joseph. Mary brings forth a baby. Three kings bring forth worship.
Angels bring forth an incredible light show and the good news which will be to all people. And Joseph? Well, he's just there, probably somewhere in the background. The guy doesn't even get a single word recorded in all of scripture. During the actual birth, a Judean woman would be surrounded by women from the local village or neighborhood to help with the birth. And in the biblical account, it was just Joseph and Mary. Undoubtedly, Joseph did what he could to comfort Mary through that long hard night.
But there are some things a man simply can't help with, which I'm sure just added to his sense of uselessness. But friends, let's be careful that we don't overlook men like Joseph and people like him. For in so doing, we would miss out on the precious gifts they bring. So what did Joseph bring to that first Christmas?
Let's look at three things. First, Joseph brought his rightness. In verse 19, it says, Joseph, her husband, was a righteous man. The word righteous has many translations.
It can mean just, upright, noble, or considerate. But the root word of righteous is, of course, right. Joseph was righteous because he was in a right relationship with God. He came to God on God's terms, not his own. His relationship with God wasn't based on a standoff, nor was it based on his own good behavior and adherence to a religious code.
So many today claim that God is on their side. And what Joseph shows us is the importance of our being on God's side. It's from that rightness, based on God's perspective of what is right, that Joseph acts in a gracious way towards Mary. Let's just imagine how Joseph must have felt when he found out the woman he intended to marry was pregnant, knowing he wasn't the father. Heartbroken, maybe, shocked for sure.
But as we all know when the shock wears off, emotions can sometimes lead to anger. For all Joseph knew, what Mary had done was worthy of stoning. It would have been his right to make a public example of her and her complete disrespect for him and the Jewish law.
The quote-unquote right thing by society's standard would be to condemn, humiliate, punish, shame and embarrass her. But Joseph chose not to make decisions based on his perceived reality, but based on his relationship with God. In determining to quietly and mercifully handle the matter with Mary, purposefully saving her from disgrace, Joseph reflected the character of God.
And we are so thankful he did. The second thing Joseph brought that first Christmas was his honor. Verses 24 to 25 say, he took Mary home as his wife, but had no union with her. This passage happened during the Jewish Kaddishin. It was a time when a man and woman were considered legally married, yet they lived with their own families. It was like an engagement meant as a testing period to see if both would be chaste and faithful to each other.
It was only after the chuppah that the man and woman were legally married and lived together. It was during the Kaddishin that Joseph found out about Mary's pregnancy. It has been said that we are made honorable when given opportunities to act dishonorably. Joseph is an honorable man because of what he did and didn't do when he realized Mary's condition. What he didn't do, in verse 19, was expose Mary. What he did do, in verse 24 after the angel's visit, was take Mary home to be his wife.
What he didn't do, in verse 25, was have any sexual relations with her until after the birth. How honorable are you on a typical day? Do you follow through on your vows? Do you keep your promises? Stand by your commitments?
Do you show integrity? The third thing Joseph brought was his obedience. Verse 24 says, he did what the angel of the Lord commanded him. I wonder if Joseph developed insomnia during this time, because it seems like every time the guy tried to go to sleep, he would have another one of those dreams with an angel delivering a message. In Matthew 1-20, an angel tells him to take Mary as his wife. In chapter 2, verse 13, an angel tells him to gather up his family and move them to Egypt. Later in that chapter, an angel tells him to gather up his family and move them back to Israel. And again, in verse 22, an angel tells him that he better change directions towards Nazareth and Galilee rather than where he was headed.
And despite each of these, we read verses like this that follow immediately after the angelic visits. Joseph did what the angel commanded. Joseph got up that night and left. Joseph got up and went to the land of Israel. Joseph went and lived in Nazareth. Everyone else in the Christmas story got visits or signs. Mary got a visit from the angel Gabriel. The shepherds got a visit from an angelic chorus. Even the magi got a star to lead them. Joseph had to rely on dreams.
How many of us would change the trajectory of our lives based on a dream we had? Was Joseph questioning if it was God's leading or something he ate at dinner that night? His obedience to God's direction was a remarkable statement of his personal faith and trust. His obedience was immediate. I'm sure Joseph had questions, but there's not a hint of him second-guessing God. His obedience was courageous. Remember, all this time the Holy Family was being hunted down by King Herod. He obeyed, even though he may not have understood at the time, but somehow he knew—from experience, I think—that God's timing was always perfect. God had never failed him in the past. Why would he fail him now? Perhaps Joseph learned something early in life that all of us would do well to know.
It's not difficult to obey when you fully trust the one giving the directions. Would it be wrong for us to pray, Make me like Joseph? I'm sure Joseph had his share of bad days. Certainly the life of a carpenter then could not be much different from the life of most carpenters today. Working with wood or stone was hard.
There were probably harsh customers and people to be worked with. Slivers and busted knuckles have no regard of whether we're Christians or not. But we can see the resemblance between Joseph and his Father in heaven, can't we? And we can see Jesus in Joseph, too. I would hope that would be the prayer of all of us.
Lord, let Jesus be seen in me. The Salvation Army's mission, Doing the Most Good, means helping people with material and spiritual needs. You become a part of this mission every time you give to the Salvation Army. Visit salvationarmyusa.org to offer your support. And we'd love to hear from you. Call 1-800-229-9965 or visit salvationarmyradio.org to connect.
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