Christmas is getting closer every day! This week, as we continue our Advent series, Christmas in the Gospels, we’re taking a close look at Matthew’s Gospel to see what he has to say about Jesus’ arrival. Matthew focuses his attention on three key areas - Jesus’ genealogy, Joseph’s dilemma and the Wise Men’s journey. In this article, I’ll cover the lesson God has for us in Joseph’s story, but I encourage you to click on the link at the end to listen to the other two lessons covered in the message.
Advent Lesson from Joseph’s Story: We can conquer our fears! (Matthew 1:18-25)
After Matthew carefully lays out Jesus’ genealogy, he shares how the birth of Jesus came about. He cuts straight to the dilemma Joseph faced. Joseph is pledged to wed Mary when he finds out she’s pregnant. Now what can he do? Can you imagine his confusion and heartbreak when he gets that news? He considers his options and decides the best idea is to divorce Mary quietly. (Divorce was required, even with a pledge.) Then in a dream, an angel of the Lord tells him: 20 …do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. Matthew 1:20
God knew exactly what would keep Joseph from obeying Him - taking Mary as his wife. It is the same barrier to obedience we all face in life… fear. There was a lot Joseph might fear, not the least of which was rejection, ridicule, and shame. The truth is fear can paralyze us. In fact, fear can keep us from obeying God and disobedience can keep us from experiencing God’s promises!
God’s Word is filled with literally thousands of promises; but many of those promises are tied to obedience. Fellow Pastor Rick Warren says God’s promises are often tied to premisses. God essentially says again and again, “I will do this, if you will do that…. if you obey.” Check out these scriptures and note the premisses and promises: Isaiah 40:29-31; Proverbs 3:5-6; Philippians 4:6-7; John 3:16. There are many more promises in God’s Word.
Do you know what the antidote to fear is? Faith is the antidote to fear. Faith and fear don’t coexist. Check out what happens with Peter when he gets a chance to “walk on water” in Matthew 14. He was actually walking on water until fear of the wind and waves around him caused him to take his eyes off Jesus. When Peter reached out to Jesus as he began to sink, 31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” Matthew 14:31
Peter doubted Jesus. He let fear overwhelm his faith in Jesus. We face the same choice everyday. Fear or faith? Which will win in your life? God knew Joseph would face the same choice, so he sent his angel to say, “Don’t be afraid.” Joseph had a choice here. Buckle under the pressure; give into his fears; or faithfully trust God. We face that same choice all the time in life. You may even be facing it today.
Matthew goes on to remind us why we don’t need to be afraid. 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”). Matthew 1:22-23
Sometimes when we feel alone, we get afraid. You may feel alone right now. In fact, sometimes the Christmas season can be a lonely time if you have lost someone close to you. With Christ, you are never alone. He is Immanuel… God with you.”
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. Matthew 1:24-25.
Joseph didn’t let fear win. He didn’t let fear keep him from obeying God! How about you? Is there any area of your life where you are afraid? Is that fear keeping you from obeying God? With Christ, we can conquer our fears. We can live obedient, God-honoring lives and experience His amazing promises!
For much more, including two more life-changing Advent lessons from Matthew’s Gospel, click here to listen to: Advent: Christmas in the Gospels - Part 2 - Matthew.