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Fourth Sunday in Advent

Matthew 1:18-25
The Moral Dilemma of Listening to God
Now, the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way…”
(Matt 1:18)

Matthew introduces the events of Jesus’ life in a very simple way.  Yet, soon the account moves from simple to a moral dilemma.  Joseph, a righteousness man, an honorable man found himself having to choose between his honor and his fiancée.  She was pregnant (Matthew adds “by the Holy Spirit.)  Joseph knew that he had not committed fornication, so he had a dilemma, a decision.  He could break off the engagement with Mary or go ahead with the marriage and be subject to the gossip and suspicion of his community.

To be moral in the eyes of his community Joseph would have sent away Mary.  She would be labeled as immoral, but he would be proclaimed moral.  Or he could believe her, accept her, love her, protect her and her child.  This would brand both of them as immoral, unrighteous, and dishonorable.

Joseph did not listen to the gossipy whispers of his neighbors, but he did listen to the voice of God by the angel and then bore the shame.  Matthew tells the story of Joseph as a strong, silent type man.  Joseph made bold decisions, brave decisions to protect his family.  Joseph is a great example of Christian manhood and fatherhood.

As we follow God in our lives, we will be called immoral by those that call themselves righteous.  We will be the object of much gossip by our neighbors.  For example. I have been ridiculed by our church’s welcome and acceptance of the LGBTQ community in the last few weeks.  They called the welcoming of all of God’s children “immoral.”  Joseph accepted Mary’s humanity and loved her no matter what.

The book of Hebrews 13 talks about Jesus bearing the shame outside the gate, outside of the accepted community.  Then we are given a choice to bear the shame of Christ and identify with him outside the gate.  We need to realize that identifying with God often involves bearing shame, ridicule, dishonor, and even being labeled as sinners.  So, during this celebration of the birth of the Christ child, let us not also forget the bravery we need to love the Christ child that is the Son of God.

Pastor Greg


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