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      This sermon was preached by Pastor Keith Cardwell at Swift Presbyterian Church.

      A Surprise Adoption
      Matthew 1:1825
      Dec. 18, 2016
       Fourth Sunday of Advent  

       W E HAVE NO BIBLICAL RECORD of the conversation between Mary and Joseph the day she broke the news, but we do have our imaginations. It’s not a stretch to think this conversation is not at all pleasant.

      Mary says, “Joseph, I have something I need to tell you. I’m afraid you won’t understand because I don’t really understand it.”

      “Mary, tell me. It can’t be that bad.”

      “Joseph, I don’t know how to tell you.”

      “Just say it.”

      “I’m pregnant.”

       † † † 

      THERE IS A LONG SILENCE. Lots of thoughts run through Joseph’s head. She is pregnant by another man. This woman has betrayed him. Their relationship is over. He knows the legal consequences. She can die for this. So can the other man. Finally, he musters up enough control to ask, “Who? Who’s the father?”

      “A divine messenger visited me and told me that this was going to happen. The Holy Spirit got me pregnant.”

      “Sure, Mary. Sure.”

       † † † 

      JOSEPH DOES NOT BELIEVE HER. What should he do in this nasty situation? What would you do?

      Joseph is a just man. That means that Joseph is a good man, a kind man, an honorable man. Joseph is a righteous man. Then we come to the line, Joseph “did not want to expose her to public disgrace.”

      That line says all we need to know about Joseph. Even with this betrayal, he doesn’t want to hurt Mary. He doesn’t want to destroy her. He’s not punitive. He’s not revengeful. Instead, Joseph resolves to divorce her quietly. This doesn’t mean that no one will know. That’s impossible — she’s going to have a baby. What that means is that he will not press charges against her. He will unbind her to the marriage commitment. Maybe then the real father will do the honorable thing and step forward to claim Mary and the child.

       † † † 

      BUT THE STORY CONTINUES. A divine messenger appears in a dream to Joseph, saying, “Mary is right. She’s pregnant by the Spirit of God. Marry her and name the child Jesus because he will save the people from their sins.” And so Joseph, because he believes the dream and the message of the angel, remains with Mary.

      Joseph is not the biological father of Jesus. Joseph is the legal father. Joseph is the adopted father. Joseph parents Mary’s boy — taking him into his household, raising him as his own, giving him bed, board, name, family identity, and a trade — caring for him as if he is his own child.

      On this night, an angel hovers near, whispering a message from God into Joseph’s sleeping ear. The angel interrupts the nightmare that loops in Joseph’s dreams. The angel replaces them with a manger scene and visions of a boy growing and becoming strong.

      The angel whispered, “Believe her unbelievable story. Marry her and become the father of God’s child.

       † † † 

      HE WILL NEED A FATHER to be accepted by others.

      He will need a father to nurture him and give him a name.

      “He will need a father to teach him to take risks like the one you are about to take, for he will be tempted not to take them.

      “He will need a father to teach him to withstand the disapproval of others, as you will soon have to withstand disapproval when people find out Mary’s going to have a baby.

      “He will need a father to teach him what to do in situations like this one, when all hope seems lost and only pain remains; to model how to believe the unbelievable good news and to walk ahead in faith.

       † † † 

      JOSEPH AWOKE FROM SLEEP and said, “Not my will, but thy will be done.”

      Jesus is not the only one who needs an example like Joseph. We struggle with tough situations and yearn for assurance from one who knows from experience that God’s unbelievable good news is true. If we prayerfully ponder the example of Joseph this Advent, surely God will work in us as God worked in him.

      Keith Cardwell    

      (A portion of this meditation appears in Novel Preaching: Tips from Top Writers for Crafting Creative Sermons by Alyce M. McKenzie.)

       Matthew 1:18–25
      New International Version

      Joseph Accepts Jesus as His Son
      18 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about [a]: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet[b] did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

      20 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. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus,[c] because he will save his people from their sins.”

      22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”[d] (which means “God with us”).

      24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.

      a. Matthew 1:18 Or The origin of Jesus the Messiah was like this
      b. Matthew 1:19 Or was a righteous man and
      c. Matthew 1:21 Jesus is the Greek form of Joshua, which means the Lord 
      c. Matthew 1:23 Isaiah 7:14

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      23208 Swift Church Road
      Foley, AL 36535
      Phone: (251) 943-8367


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