An Unwanted Gift? Joseph's Change of Mind / Christmas Eve Sermon Dec 24th 2013 Matthew Chapter 1:18-25
Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Rev. Ted A. Giese / Christmas Eve December 24th 2013 / Matthew 1:18-25
Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:
“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall call His name Immanuel”
(which means, God with us). When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called His name Jesus.
Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord. Amen.
Grace peace and mercy to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Good Christian Friends. An unexpected gift, an unwanted gift, the sort of gift you try to return or send back, perhaps a gift that could be re-gifted, yes that's it re-gifted, quietly so as no one will know. Because no one wants to have to explain this gift to anyone. No one would understand it, this gift, I don't understand it Joseph thought, I'd never have dreamt in a thousand years that Mary would be with child before our wedding?
I'd never have dreamt it. Perhaps I'll sleep on it. The Gospel of Matthew tells us that "as [Joseph] considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” Not your average dream and not your average child, this gift, this unwanted gift, this gift that required an angel to come from heaven to convince Joseph to receive the child as his own, to love and care for this Jesus and make the child his own when the world will hate it, when the world would despise Jesus and work to kill Him and Mary His mother. Yes not your average dream, not your average night. But that's Joseph, and even though the world tells me that I'm exceptional and awesome, I know that I am actually average, I don't receive angels in my sleep to help me to make up my mind about things whether they are small things or big things.
Is what you think important? Are the words you say important? Are the things you do important? ... Joseph's thoughts, words and deeds were very important. He had thought to "resolved to divorce [Mary] quietly," because he didn't want to talk about it? Didn't know what to say? Didn't have the courage to face death over it? He didn't want anyone to think that he had not waited till marriage? They very well could have though that he had been the biological father, this would have meant death for him and her and the baby. It doesn't need to be a miracle conception, like the conception of Jesus from the Holy Spirit for a million thoughts to run through your head. A growing baby in the womb of its mother brings on thoughts, a baby brings on contemplation: What kind of father will I be? Will I be like my father? What will I do? How will I act? Add to this a million more questions when you know the child isn't biologically yours.
Joseph thought he had his solution, he likely had it all worked out what he'd say, he had a plan to do what he would do, then because God intervened with this angel Joseph changed his mind. The Greek language, the language of the New Testament, has a word for this, a word for changing your mind about something, that word is Metanoia. It pops up all over the place in the New Testament. John the Baptizer, who made ready the way of the Lord Jesus taught a baptism of Metanoia, a baptism of changing your mind. Jesus once He was grown, once He started to preach to people called people to Metanoia, He said that people should change their minds because the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Saint Paul in the Book of Acts while preaching to the non-believers in Athens says that God "commands all people (that would include non-believers and believers of other religions) everywhere to [change their minds]" and why? They are to do this on account of Jesus, this same baby conceived from the Holy Spirit, Born of the Virgin Marry who would suffer and be crucified and would die under Pontius Pilate. It was very important that Joseph should change his mind about what to do with Mary and the baby she carried. It was important for Mary, it was important for Jesus and it was important for you. God would not leave this to chance, He sent His messenger, His angel to intervene.
Before we can have a Christmas Eve Services, before we can sing together Silent Night, Joseph had to have his own silent night, a night of sleep with a dream visited by an angel. Someone once said "people who remember their dreams in the morning are probably having very disturbed sleep at night." Matthew doesn't use the Greek word Metanoia as he records that night and Matthew doesn't tell us how Joseph slept that night either but in the morning Joseph's mind was changed. And he looked at Marry as something different, she and her baby were no longer unwanted, she and Jesus would not be let loose into the world, they would not be destroyed, they would be cared for and protected, and just as the angel said, they would "call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins." Even from the sin of being a coward in the face of responsibility, for the sin of putting your life before the life of others, for the sin of lacking love for the needy and the unwanted, for the sin of avoiding danger when others were in so much danger, for the sin of putting selfish personal dreams before the desperate needs of the weakest and the most vulnerable.
Is what you think important? Are the words you say important? Are the things you do important? ... How does God intervene in your life? How does God work to change your mind? My mind? Yes your mind. How might God want to change your mind. Change your mind about coming to church every Sunday; change your mind about yelling at your kids; change your mind about hating your co-workers; Change your mind about your wife, change your mind about your husband! Change your mind about helping those in need! Change your mind about your money or lack there of. Change your mind about your dreams and desires! Change my mind: I can't change my mind. I'm stuck in my ways, don't you know an old dog can't learn new tricks? I can't change my mind. Joseph can change his mind all day long, and I'm glad for it, really I am, but change my mind? It's impossible, I'd need an angel!
Jesus said "with God all things are possible.” It would have been impossible for Joseph to do the right thing without his change of mind, God is at work in any change of mind. God loves you too much to leave you stuck in your ways. Your mind may not change overnight, but it will change. It may not change in a dream, but it will change. It may not change because an angel came to you in the darkness of your trouble, but it will change. Your mind will change because of Jesus. Jesus was at the heart of Joseph's change of mind and Jesus is at the heart of your change of mind. Jesus is the gift of God which makes your change of mind possible.
Your heavenly Father didn't leave this to chance, "when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son [Jesus], born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons." God helped Joseph change his mind about adopting Jesus as his own son, so that God would provide an opportunity for you to be adopted as God the Father's own dear child in Christ Jesus. God doesn't send you an angel to tell you this, yet God does put messengers in your path to change your mind, He puts His Word in your path, the Word that teaches you of Jesus; He puts preachers in your path, that preach to you of what Jesus did to save you from yourself and from the world and from the clutches of evil. He puts family in your path to drag you to church, to encourage you when no one else will, to love you when you feel unwanted by the world, God puts your fellow Christians in your path to share in your troubles and struggles in life and to point you to Jesus and His gifts for you. Most importantly God the Father puts this baby Jesus in your path and this Jesus did the thing that no one expected, three days after His brutal death upon the cross, that first Easter morning Jesus was raised from the dead and walked out of the tomb and His resurrection changed everything! His resurrection has been changing minds ever since, because Jesus' resurrection bring hope in the face of death, His resurrection bring life everlasting: Jesus who started out as an unwanted gift became the gift that just keeps on giving, the precious gift that brings life everlasting and change to your heart.
While there is truly nothing new under the Sun, paradoxically every day things in this world change, things in your life change, babies are born, loved ones die, disasters of a personal nature strike, there are ice storms that knock out the power at Christmas and typhoons that wash away towns and villages, every day the Holy Spirit points out things in your life which require your attention, things that require a change of mind. In Christ Jesus such a change is possible. Jesus changes everything, Jesus changes you, in Him you are changed, in Him you receive the forgiveness of sin, because He is God with you and He has come to save you. Amen.
Let us pray:
Lord have mercy on us, Christ have mercy on us, Lord have mercy on us, “take our minds and think through them, take our lips and speak through them, take our hearts and set them on fire; for the sake of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.
 In John 15:18 Jesus said “If the world hates you, know that it has hated Me before it hated you."
 Revelation 12
 Mark 1:4
 Matthew 4:17
 Acts 17:30
 "Quotations For The Fast Lane" Compiled by Richard W. Pound, McGill-Queen's University Press, pg 150.
 Matthew 19:26
 Galatians 4:4-5
 Ecclesiastes 1:9