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12-22-19 Sermon

The circumstance that Joseph faces in today’s Gospel is universal for all humanity. Husbands and wives in every culture know how they would feel if they thought their spouses had been unfaithful.

Joseph and Mary were promised to be married. In our cultural context we think of it as engaged. The promise made by Joseph and Mary, however was as binding as a marriage covenant. They were not living together nor were they intimate, but Mary was pregnant-- and Joseph was NOT the father. We can imagine the conversation Mary had with Joseph. Mary explained that the baby was of the HOLY SPIRIT and would be the fulfillment of the prophesied Messiah. What would you have done if you were Joseph? How would you have responded?

The law of Moses in Deut. 22 stated: “bring them both—the virgin and the perpetrator-- out to the city gate and stone them to death, the woman did not cry for help, and the man violated his neighbor’s wife. Purge the evil from your midst. Joseph had the right to force Mary to name the father of the child and have them both stoned.

Instead, Joseph was unwilling to put her to shame much less—have her killed. He resolved to divorce her quietly. Joseph still loved Mary, but realized the 2 of them would need to go their separate ways. Joseph chose not to expose the sins of Mary. Luther says in his explanation to the commandment: you shall not bear false witness, means we should never lie, but we should also explain our neighbors behavior in the kindest way. When we discuss the misdeeds of others, we bring condemnation upon ourselves.

Joseph was going to deal with Mary in the kindest possible way. Then an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream that Mary was not crazy or lying. The child she carried was of the HOLY SPIRIT—in fact, the promised Messiah. The angel even told Joseph to name the child Jesus … a name that means the LORD saves.

Old Testament prophecy was fulfilled and did as the angel told him. The virgin birth of the CHRIST child that we hold dear, was a hardship for everyone involved. It is still a stumbling block for many to believe. The community accused both Mary and of all kinds of sin. Growing up many believed Jesus was illegitimate. 30 years later Jesus’ opponents tried to discredit His ministry because of the virgin birth. Yet this dual nature of CHRIST is essential for our salvation. CHRIST had to be true man in order to take our place under the law. CHRIST had to be true God to fulfill the law to perfection. Jesus is the only one who is qualified as our savior. So it was necessary for Jesus, Mary, and Joseph to bear the burden of the unjust condemnation to change the course of history—and the lives of billions of people forever.

The birth of Jesus the CHRIST is certainly a one-time event. But at the same time, the way that the HOLY SPIRIT moves through Mary and Joseph is characteristic of how God transforms lives to spread the Kingdom of God

The birth of Jesus is a one-time event, never to be repeated. Our lives are never going to be repeated either. How are you spending your life? HOLY SPIRIT inspires people to reach other people for His kingdom. Bible is an account of how God has used people for the propagation of the Gospel --people like you and me. Lives around the world will be different because God uses us to bring CHRIST to the nations.

Mary and Joseph paid a high price to be used by God.

• Mary’s reputation was destroyed by her pregnancy out of wedlock.

• Joseph faced the ridicule because his wife was damaged goods, and Jesus was not his own son. • Mary and Joseph were separated from their families, and were forced into exile.

• Mary was forced to endure the pain of watching her son crucified.

As faithful disciples of Jesus, we are called to live sacramental lives when there is no material reward; when we are called to stand up for God’s truth, at the expense of our own needs. We may be rejected by family and friends, or forced to give up safety and security. But when the people of God are joined together with the HOLY SPIRIT, the world is able to experience the truth of “Jesus,” God saves.

When the people of God-- joined together with the HOLY SPIRIT enables the world to celebrate the coming of “Emmanuel,” God with us.

When the people of God are joined together with the HOLY SPIRIT people are reached and lives are changed.

Mary and Joseph loved God so much that they allowed him to use them to bring salvation to a world in need. The world is still in need of people living sacramental lives. Amen