The living letter of God's love - Matthew 1:18-25 / Pr. Lucas Andre Albrecht / Sunday December 18th, 2022 / Mount Olive Lutheran Church
Text: Matthew 1:18-25
Theme: “The living letter of God’s love”
Intr – Do you receive questionable mail? Or perhaps emails, text messages, and the like? (pulls out the cell phone)Well, here is a letter, a message in my phone that I have for you in hands. It is titled: “You were chosen for an incredible opportunity!”
How does that subject line sound to you? A little fishy, right? Like those messages you get saying “you have a refund from the CRA, please click on the link to claim it”. Or “it is still time to redeem your gift card!”, and many others. However, some of them can be a little challenging because, depending on the circumstances, you feel you could be losing an actual great opportunity. For example, the other day, we got a message through our website of a widow offering her late husband’s baby grand piano for donation. It was in mint condition (according to the pictures she sent). Well, it was through our website, it looked somehow legit at first. We responded saying we would be interested in that -- either us our Pastor Brum from New Beginnings --, and we engaged in the conversation.
Strange, “crazy” messages. What to do?
1 – What is the source?
I think first question to asked would be: “Where does this letter come from, who wrote it?”
Joseph, the father of Jesus, received a kind of “strange” letter too. An Angel appears to him in a dream to confirm that his bride was pregnant by the Holy Spirit. He should accept that his bride got pregnant even though she was still a virgin, and that this child would be the Savior of his people... and many other “strange” details. Where does this message come from? How to believe it?
There have been attempts of answers to “strange” fact like this one and they go from the most plausible to the most bizarre. Too bad that, sometimes, the answers are wrong, and confuse more than the fact itself. Even misguided explanations of what Christmas is and who Jesus is. So it becomes important to repeat the question: Who sent that message?
In the past God addressed men via messages too. The prophets of antiquity recorded these letters in what we know today as the Old Testament. They recorded God’s promises in writing. However, these letters of joy, certainty and hope, over time, ended up being distorted, or misinterpreted by many ecclesiastical leaders. If it weren't for the biblical prophets, who remained faithful to the original message, they might even have been lost. So much so that, when the most important one came, brought by the Son of God himself, Jesus, it was not well accepted by a large part of them. It was rejected by many, considered a scandal and madness, even more so brought by such a humble and modest messenger – that carpenter’s son from Nazareth.
Joseph was inserted into that Cultural ambient and it might had weighed in his evaluation of the whole event. “Did I actually talk to an angel?” Perhaps he had had a little too much wine, or maybe he was not with all his marbles in a row. The way many religious leaders taught the hope of the Messiah in his day didn’t match what was happening, so he might be influenced by the muddy waters of culture and be tempted to dismiss that message as a scam.
In our own time, while we tend to be clever when it comes to scam letters and we reject them right away, it is not always so with the culture around us. Culture is constantly shifting, and it sometimes sends letters which we might slowly come to accept, with it alternative morals, ideas or ideologies. Also, with promises of quick fixes, shortcuts, and of better days with or without your faith. “It doesn’t matter. What’s more important is that you got to be true to yourself.” We are tempted to discredit the source.
2 – What is the evidence?
Then the next question about a “strange” message could be: what is the evidence, proof this is a legit letter?
The Gospel today says “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken through the prophet.” There is biblical evidence, proof that the letter Joseph received is true. There is a direct answer to Mary too who also needed a good explanation for all that was happening to her. The Scriptures, centuries before had already foreseen and announced. “This will happen. Trust! Hold on to God's hand!” This is a letter, a message from a reliable source.
Joseph was no illiterate Jew, he knew the Scriptures. Therefore, he trusted the angel. He didn’t fall for the culture, but trusted in what he had learned. He trusted even that an angel could bring God’s message to begin with. Even though we know it was certainly not easy for him, humanly speaking, but he gave credit to that “strange” letter, and so did his wife Mary.
We too, I'm sure, get some “strange” message in our life. Messages from God that is sometimes difficult to understand and accept; difficult even to bear. Sometimes it may even seem that God has forgotten us, or turned His back on us. But believe me. He is someone who, through faith, has his life in the palm of his hand. Illustration: Child on the first day of school.
God Communicated His love to the World in Christ. He is the living letter from the Father who came to Redeem the World. In Him we find forgiveness, hope and life eternal. God with us. Emmanuel. Jesus. He never forgets or turns His back on us. And this message from God is for our daily life – like emails, letters and text messages are too. Some of His messages have a good aspect, some of them, not so much. We call them Law and Gospel. In His Law, God shows our imperfection to us. In His Gospel, He communicates His Grace and everything we need most for our faith and life. This message is present in our moments of joy, sending us in gratitude to the giver of Joy, Christ - God’s living letter of Love. It is part of moments of sadness and pain, referring us to the one who suffered all the pain in our place for love of us! Most importantly, God’s message us that in Christ, the living letter of the Father, we are accepted and loved by Him! We have the Sure Hope of His love for us! WE ARE HIS! A place where nothing and no one can take us away from!
Each Christmas, we can continue to trust God's living letter of Love Jesus, and His message to our heart. It has reliable source, content and evidence. It is the Word of God himself showing us that the child who was born in Bethlehem, the baby Jesus, is the Son of God, the promised one. The one who comes to fill our lives with principles that do not change and that sustain us even in the most “strange” situations: forgiveness, hope, joy, Love! 
Cc –God gives us His letter of Love with Safe, reliable, and loving content. By the way, here is what this letter titled: “You were chosen for an incredible opportunity!” says (pulls the phone out again and read): “Dear child of God: you belong to Christ, You were reached by the Gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning his Son. He was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord. You were called to belong to Jesus Christ. You are loved by God and you were called to be saints: a person who by faith in Jesus belongs to the family of God. Now you will have Grace and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ all the days of your life. You were chosen for this incredible opportunity of an amazing gift. You don’t want to be left you! Signed: Jesus”. Believe me: This letter you can trust with your whole heart.
 In times when you think your Father is not hearing you, remember this:
Parents who have had the experience of taking their child to the first day of school or daycare know that it can be a challenging and difficult experience for the kid. It is the moment when they move away from family safety to a place we might call, looking through the child's eyes, both lonely and hostile.
From an adult's point of view it doesn't seem like much right? They leave drop child off early in the morning, and at some point in the afternoon they are there to pick the child up. How much that would be, 6 or 7 hours? A day runs so fast away, that’s not that much ... But what about the kid’s perspective? I think we remember rather well that when we are children, the notion of time is different. Everything seems to take longer. For the child that day seems to have no end. There may be doubt, anxiety, fear; cry. “Where is my father, my mother? Why did they turn their back to me, did they forget about me?” When will this all end?
After what seems like forever, the moment comes when they are there to pick us up. Then comes relief, peace; the comforting assurance of their presence.
We can remember this illustration in the hardest, most lonely moments of our existence, when the feeling is that Father has dropped us somewhere and turned His back on us; that He has forgotten His children. Remember, our notion of time is different, and that’s the source of many a distress, insecurity, and fear.
But the Father never forgot us. He never ever forgets us. In Christ He never stops looking after us, not even for a second. He was always there and always will be, all the time. And in His time He will bring relief, security and peace. And the Lord’s Prayer is there for you for everyday life to remind you and assure you of His presence. Doesn’t matter how the people of the World prays it. As you make part of the People of the Word, you may share in faith your joyful hope you have from your Father. Our Father. In Heaven and here, on earth, close to our hearts.
 By the way, on the contact of the lady about the piano for our congregation, our office conducted the “who sent it/ what’s the evidence” approach. And, sure enough, it ended up being another scam attempt.
 From Romans 1:1-7