Dec 24, 2016 – Christmas Eve – Good Parents.
Billy Graham, Martin Luther, Moses, Jesus, Mary and Joseph; let me tell you something all these people share in common with you and I. None of them, with one notable exception, had any idea when they were little children what they would accomplish when they grew up.
It’s hard for us to imagine, for instance, a little Martin Luther running around talking to his friends about ‘justification by grace through faith alone’. I’m quite sure he didn’t do that.
And what about Billy Graham? As a child I doubt he played with radio microphones, preaching to his neighborhood friends, and saying things like ‘I see that hand and that hand’.
And then there’s Moses, he grew up in Pharaoh’s household. Sent “up river” as a baby he wasn’t raised in a Hebrew home throughout his childhood. But when he grew up he would lead a nation to the river Jordan, which he himself would never cross.
The point is that none of these as children knew what would happen to them as they grew up. Except of course the Baby whose birth we come together to celebrate tonight… Jesus knew. Jesus as a boy of 12, as the story we are told says, He knew that to be in the temple was to… ‘be in His father’s house’. He knew who He was and what He was sent to accomplish.
But the other people we mentioned, Mary and Joseph, as children, I’m sure they didn’t know what would happen to them. But what God had planned for them was to be, faithful parents. I can only imagine that God used their parents to teach them how to be good parents since God would give the job to Mary and Joseph to parent His only child while on earth.
(By the way, some people talk about surrogate parenting as though it were a new thing, its not. Surrogate parents were God’s invention! That’s what Mary and Joseph were!) But, getting back to the point.
I’m sure that the little girl, Mary, who would grow to become Jesus mother, had no earthly idea of what God had planned for her. In fact in her song, the Magnificat, she makes it clear that she did not see herself as worthy of such an honor. And the boy Joseph had no thought of growing up to be anything other than a carpenter, like his father probably was.
And not only does he become a carpenter, but the most famous carpenter of all because of whom He raised as his own son. As one song has said, Jesus is the son of Joseph’s love. Jesus is the Boy whose birth we come together tonight to celebrate.
These two, Mary and Joseph would be used to bring up Jesus as good boy – I can’t imagine what that must have been like. But think of what Mary and Joseph went through, and worried about, what must they have thought.
I’ve got a book I like written by Max Lucado called, God Came Near, and in it is a chapter called “25 questions for Mary”. Let me share with you a few of my favorites. These are questions that will be interesting to ask her one-day in heaven about what it was like to raise Jesus. Here are a few: How did He act at funerals? Did He ever come home with a black eye? Did He have any friends named Judas? Did He ever have to ask a question about scripture?
What did He and his cousin John talk about as kids? And finally…
Did you ever think, that’s God eating my soup?
Faithful parents – that’s what God called Joseph and Mary to be. Jesus was raised by faithful earthly parents, so were most of the others we mentioned at the start. Along with Mary and Joseph, Billy Graham and Martin Luther, didn’t know what God would accomplish through them. But in the gospel lesson tonight we see Joseph and Mary in the process of accomplishing God’s calling for them.
Jesus as we said knew what He was sent to accomplish. He was sent to earth as the infant who was also God. And who grew to be the man who was also God. He came to live among us, teach us of God and His mercy love and grace, and then to die on the cross and rise again from the dead to life everlasting. He knew this about Himself as a child and as He grew. He knew that only in His coming and crucifixion and resurrection would we all receive, by grace through faith, the hope and assurance of eternal life. All this He knew.
And He accomplished that, just as Mary and Joseph accomplished their roles in all this; as did Moses and Luther and as you will do also. You are part of the story of this Baby, Jesus. You know Him and who He is and what He came and what He accomplished. You are in possession of that hope, the hope that we celebrate this night as being born in Bethlehem. That hope is yours because He came to us and because of what He accomplished from the cross and the grave.
And as you go home tonight, you go holding that hope in your heart and life. You’ll see it reflected in the gifts you share and the tree you’ve decorated. In fact I’ll bet there’s a special ornament on that tree to remind you of what Jesus accomplished in coming to earth. It may be a little nativity ornament or a little cross or a star.
When I worked in Christian retailing for all those years one of the things we used to sell was an ornament that was a spike hung from a red ribbon. It was a reminder that this Baby’s birth… led to this same Man’s death and resurrection. It’s a good ornament to have. But I’d like to ask you to think about something to help you remember the hope we celebrate tonight of God coming among us of God breaking into earth and taking on human flesh.
Tonight we celebrate that Jesus has come and He is now among us. But throughout the rest of the year we tend to forget about this truth and the hope it brings. So, as I’ve done before what I’d like you to think about doing is… as you un-decorate the tree this year don’t pack away all the ornaments. Pick one ornament that reminds you of the birth of Jesus, of God coming to us and breaking into our world. Take that ornament and set it aside as you box up everything else.
Then put that ornament up someplace where you’ll see it everyday. Put it in the living room, or den or kitchen. And let that ornament serve to remind you that God has come near… to you. God has chosen to accomplish what He did so you can live by faith in what He’s done for you. Use that ornament all year long as reminder of the Boy that Joseph and Mary raised, whose birth we rejoice in tonight.
In Jesus name, amen.
Sermon #862 Rev. Thomas A. Rhodes, Pastor – Zion Lutheran Church, Bolivar, MO
First Reading Isaiah 7:10-14
10 Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, 11 “Ask the Lord your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights.” 12 But Ahaz said, “I will not ask; I will not put the Lord to the test.” 13 Then Isaiah said, “Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of humans?
Will you try the patience of my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.
Epistle 1 John 4:7-16
7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
13 This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. 16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.
Holy Gospel Matthew 1:18-25
18 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man, and yet 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, 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”- 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 had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.