Christmas Through the Eyes of a Man

Matthew 1:18-25

December 12, 2010 | Brian Bill

Years ago, Steve Johnson, a receiver for the Buffalo Bills, inexplicably dropped what would’ve been a game-winning 40-yard easy touchdown catch against the Pittsburgh Steelers in overtime.  After dropping it, he sat despondently in the back of the end zone before a teammate picked him up.  After the game, a teary-eyed Johnson talked about how he was feeling: “I’ll never get over it.  Ever.  It comes down to one play and you drop the ball.  You’re a receiver.  You don’t drop the ball.  I won’t get over it.”

However, Johnson wasn’t done venting.  A couple hours later, this is what he “tweeted” on Twitter: “I PRAISE YOU 24/7!!!!!!  AND THIS HOW YOU DO ME!!!!!  YOU EXPECT ME TO LEARN FROM THIS???  HOW???!!!  ILL NEVER FORGET THIS!!  EVER!!!  THX THO…”

This morning I want to suggest that we can be like Johnson and blame God or we can be like Joseph and believe God.  Last week we looked at Christmas through the eyes of Mary and discovered that while we can’t always control our immediate reaction, we can and must control our ultimate response.  We can do that because nothing is impossible with God.   And today we want to focus on how Joseph viewed Christmas.  By the way, much of this message will be directed to men but it will also apply to everyone in some way.

Are you aware that men and women are different?  Here are some advantages to being a man…

  • The garage is all yours
  • Wedding plans take care of themselves
  • Phone conversations are over in 30 seconds flat
  • The same hairstyle lasts for years, maybe decades
  • You only have to shave your face and neck
  • You can play with toys all your life
  • You can do Christmas shopping for 25 relatives on December 24th in 25 minutes or less

What We Know About Joe

While there are certainly some pluses to being a man, some men have a mess of problems as well.  Here are some things we know about Joe.

  • He was a carpenter/stone mason.
  • He was from Nazareth.  A disciple named Nathanael said these words in John 1:46: “Nazareth!  Can anything good come from there?”
  • He was poor.  
  • His lineage was under a curse.  While he was related to King David, one of his relatives really messed things up for him.  In Jeremiah 36 we read of a wicked king named Jehoiakim who when confronted with Scripture, decided to burn the scroll written by the prophet Jeremiah.  As a result, verse 30 states: “…He will have no one to sit on the throne of David.”  His name carried with it some shame.

Joseph had a lot of things going against him.  He could easily have blamed God for a job that didn’t generate much money, for living in a town that had a bad reputation, for being poor, and for coming from a family that had a fruitcake in it.

But he didn’t do that.  He accepted what he had and was OK with what he didn’t have.  Joseph was probably not too worried about his wedding plans to Mary because she was taking care of the details for that special day and he was building them a house.  They were in the middle of their engagement period.  Actually, it was called their betrothal, a one-year period of time that was as legally binding as marriage, though they didn’t live together.  The purpose of this extended engagement time was to make sure that they were both faithful to each other and pure before God.  Any sexual immorality would be severely punished and would be immediate grounds for divorce.  This was a happy time, filled with dreaming and planning and building.  

In verse 18, Joseph almost drops the ball as his plans bounce out of his hands and onto the ground: “This is how the birth of Jesus Christ 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.” How could this be?  Joseph knew he wasn’t the father so Mary must have been unfaithful to him.  Have you ever had your dream turn into a nightmare?

Joseph’s Reaction

Would you notice that Matthew 1:19 says that Joseph was a “righteous man”?   He was no doubt hurt and angry but even in his pain; he reacted in a godly way.  Actually, Joseph reacted to this news in a way that reflected his character and his growing relationship with God.

Last week in our small group we talked about how easy it is to react to bad news or difficulties in a way that is not appropriate.  We then discussed that as we mature in our walk with Christ our reactions can change and become more God glorifying as we grow.  This is certainly the case with Joseph.

While he had every legal right to either follow Deuteronomy 22:23-24 and have her stoned for her immorality or he could bring her before a judge at the city gate and publicly humiliate her by filing for divorce.  I’m sure these options crossed his mind.  Proverbs 6:34 says, “For jealousy arouses a husband’s fury, and he will show no mercy when he takes revenge.”

But because of his love for her, and his love for God as a righteous man, he instead planned to do two things.

1. He wanted to cover Mary’s shame. 

Look again at verse 19: “…and did not want to expose her to public disgrace…”  Let’s face it guys.  If that was your fiancée, wouldn’t you want to make her pay in a public kind of way?  Instead, he was moved to give mercy.  Joseph was living out 1 Peter 4:8: “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” Men, one of our jobs is to protect those around us.  How are you doing in this regard?

2. He wanted to cut off his marriage to Mary. 

The last part of verse 19 reveals his thought process: “…he had in mind to divorce her quietly.”  He was certainly within his rights to do this but he wanted to do everything quickly and quietly because he was a compassionate man.

Joseph’s Response

Manly men provide loving leadership

Did you know that in the midst of all the rejoicing and shouting and singing in the Christmas story, there is one character that is silent?  That’s right.  There are no recorded words of Joseph in the Word of God.  While he was silent, this quiet man of character left behind something that speaks much louder than his words ever could.

Men, we need positive examples, don’t we?  I want to propose that though Joseph is a silent member of the Christmas cast his behavior can spur each of us on to become manly men.  We need to stop playing the blame game and man-up.  Here’s the deal, guys:  Manly men provide loving leadership.

Before we go much further, let me remind you that Joseph was the man God chose to raise His own son.  Why did he do that?  I think it had something to do with 2 Chronicles 16:9: “For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.” 

I see five responses from Joseph that men can model in order to provide loving leadership.

1. Become thoughtful. 

Don’t underestimate how challenging this situation was for Joseph.  I think of him when I hear these words to a country song: “My pain comes and goes.  It comes in the morning and it goes all night long.” Matthew 1:20 tells us that Joseph “considered this.”  This means that he pondered, planned, deliberated and meditated on his course of action.  He wasn’t just reacting to events; he was processing.  This is very similar to what Mary did when Luke 2:19 says that she “treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart…”  While he certainly pondered, I’m sure he wasn’t doing much treasuring.

Men, are you just meandering through life?  Are you going from games on TV to video games to head games in your home?  It’s time to slow down and think things through, which is something I’m better at when I’m in the office than when I am at home.

And so I say to us men: Don’t drop the ball; let’s provide loving leadership.

2. Become obedient. 

Let’s look now at all of verse 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.’”  Don’t miss the fact that once Joseph received some revelation from God through an angel, he obeyed.  Perhaps he had to think things through and process some of his emotions first.  Plus, he slept on things before taking any action.  That’s a good principle when you’re faced with a tough decision.  Psalm 27:14 says, “Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.”

And then everything changed when he received God’s Word because he was already prepared to ponder a word from above.  Men, are you diving into the Word on a daily basis so that you can both hear and then heed what it is that God is saying?  On four different occasions Joseph hears from an angel.  Let’s look at each angelic encounter and notice how he responded:

Matthew 1:24: “When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord commanded him…”

Matthew 2:14: “So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt.”

Matthew 2:21: “So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel.”

Matthew 2:23: “And he went and lived in a town called Nazareth…”

Obedience is always action-oriented and sometimes leads to embarrassment, innuendoes and inconvenience

He did.  He left.  He went.  He went.  Check this out. Every time Joseph had a dream he led his family in a different way.  With no questions asked, no quibbling about the details and no clarification needed.  Obedience is always action-oriented and sometimes leads to embarrassment, innuendoes and inconvenience.  Men, what is it that God is asking you to do?  Is there a step you need to take?  A decision you need to make?  When you know, it’s time to go!  1 Samuel 15:22: “To obey is better than sacrifice.”

Let’s not drop the ball and let’s make sure we are providing loving leadership.

3. Become courageous. 

Joseph led his family and they became fugitives from Herod and refugees in Egypt.  He may have felt alone and uncertain, was perhaps out of work and according to tradition, died as a young man.  Here’s what I think.  Joseph wanted God’s will more than He wanted anything else.  He’d rather obey and have difficulties than to take the easy way and miss out on what God had in store for him.

A Sunday School was putting on a Christmas pageant, which included the story of Mary and Joseph coming to the inn.  One boy really wanted to be Joseph, but when the parts were handed out, he was assigned to be the innkeeper instead.  He couldn’t stand the guy who got to be Joseph but he kept quiet about everything.  Inside he was secretly plotting how to get back at his rival.

On the night of the performance, Mary and Joseph came walking across the stage and knocked on the door of the inn. The innkeeper opened the door and asked them gruffly what they wanted.  Joseph answered, “We’d like to have a room for the night.”  Suddenly the innkeeper threw the door open wide and smiled even wider, “Great, come on in and I’ll give you the best room in the house!”

For a few seconds poor little Joseph didn’t know what to do.  Thinking quickly on his feet, he looked inside the door past the innkeeper and then said, “No wife of mine is going to stay in a dump like this.  Come on, Mary, let’s go to the barn.” In all the Christmas pageants performed, Joseph doesn’t get a starring role, but his part is so important.  The real Joseph was courageous and tried to think quickly on his feet when he thought the lines were messed up.  With the insight from the angel, he knew that Mary was about to give birth and he sacrificed his comfort and reputation and traveled to Bethlehem and then to the barn (or cave) where the miraculous birth took place.

I love the scene in the Nativity Story when Joseph is leading Mary on the long journey to Bethlehem.  They are almost out of food and Joseph gives what he has left to Mary and then to the donkey.  He is both protector and provider, making sure that Mary is cared for.  That’s what a man of courage does.  I think of Joseph when I read 1 Corinthians 16:13-14: “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong.  Do everything in love.” 

Become thoughtful.  Become obedient.  Become courageous.  Don’t drop the ball and provide loving leadership.  There’s a fourth quality in Joseph’s character that men must model.

4. Become respectful. 

Notice that Joseph thought so much of Mary and of his role in becoming the foster father of Jesus that according to Matthew 1:25 he practiced self-control: “He had no union with her until she gave birth to a son…”  Would you notice that Mary was not a “perpetual virgin” as wrongly taught by some?  Listen to Mark 3:31: “Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived.  Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him.”

I jotted down some ways that men can be respectful in their homes:

  • No sarcasm toward your wife
  • No disparaging words to your daughters sons
  • Don’t exasperate your children
  • No flirting with other women
  • Be sensitive to your wife’s needs
  • Always speak well of your family to others
  • Look for ways to serve

Let’s continue in Matthew 1:25: “And he gave him the name Jesus.”  As the adoptive parent he had the privilege of giving Jesus His name, a right conferred upon the father.  Some of you men are leading a blended family and perhaps you’re parenting a child that is not biologically yours.  Can I encourage you, in light of Joseph’s example, to stay involved with all the children you have, whether they are living in your ex’s home or in your own?  Work at not playing favorites and be a partner with your child’s other parent or parents.

Don’t drop the ball; provide loving leadership.

5. Become spiritual. 

Can you imagine how challenging it must have been for Joseph to take the spiritual lead in his home?  Really, how do you become the spiritual pacesetter for the Virgin Mary?  But men, that is our job.  No matter how politically incorrect this may sound, men are to lovingly lead their families so that faith grows in the home.  In my experience, most men would say that their wife is more spiritually intimate with the Lord than they are.  While that might be true, that doesn’t mean you and I can drop the ball.  Many wives that I talk to long for their husband to take the spiritual lead and lament that he doesn’t.

One of the things that Joseph does is to make sure that his family goes to the Temple after Jesus is born in order to consecrate him and “to present Him to the Lord.” (See Luke 2:22).  Luke 2:24 says that they offered a sacrifice of “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.”  This tells us that they were poor and couldn’t afford a lamb or other animal but they didn’t let anything stop them from doing what they needed to do.  It’s while they are in the Temple that they encounter Simeon and Anna.  If they had not gone, they would not have had these two life-changing experiences.  

Luke 2:39 says that Joseph and Mary did “everything required by the Law of the Lord…”  They didn’t leave anything out.  And verse 41 tells us that they went to Jerusalem for the Feast of Passover “every year.”  Dads, do you think your kids don’t notice when you allow other things to come before spiritual matters like going to church every week?  Men, it’s your job to get your family to church every week!  It’s our task to set the spiritual temperature in our homes.  Let’s show them that Jesus matters more than traveling sports teams or sleeping in or football pregame shows or NASCAR.  Why?  Because you are the primary pastor in your home!  

Your kids will be gone before you realize it.  You’ll blink and they’ll be out of the house.  I know because I’ve blinked twice and now two are gone.  Men, the way your children respond to God depends largely on what kind of father you are.  You teach them something about God every day – just by the way you live in front of them.

And so, I repeat: “Don’t drop the ball; provide loving leadership.”  We’ll learn to lead with love when we…

  • Become thoughtful
  • Become obedient
  • Become courageous
  • Become respectful
  • Become spiritual

Joseph Needed Redemption

One of the best Christmas ad campaigns I’m aware of has been produced by some British Christians called, “He’s on the Way.”  Their hope is that millions will see these ads and be reminded that Jesus came for them.  It shows a picture of a baby in the womb, made to look like Jesus.  It’s a subtle pro-life proclamation but the main message appears on the tagline: “Christmas Starts with Christ.” 

When Joseph had his first encounter with the angel he was told to give the baby the name “Jesus.”  Why?  Because that name means “Savior” for He will save people from their sins.  And “Immanuel” means “God with us.”  We need both.  We need a Savior because we are sinners.  But the only way God could save us was for Jesus to “be on the way.”  He left heaven in order to live among us.

Be Like Joe

1. Strive to be both tough and tender. 

Here are some questions to ponder:

  • Are you thoughtful, taking your time to make important decisions?
  • Are you obedient, doing whatever God tells you to do?
  • Are you courageous, determined to do what is right no matter what?
  • Are you respectful, considerate of your wife’s special needs?  How about with your children and stepchildren?
  • Are you spiritual, making time to be in the Word and lovingly leading the church that meets in your home?

2. Your righteousness will never be enough to satisfy a righteous God. 

Even though Joseph was known as a just or righteous man, compared to the righteousness of God, he fell way short, as we all do.  Romans 3:10: “There is no one righteous, not even one.”  Joseph’s good works were never good enough.  He needed the Savior’s righteousness applied to his account and so do you.  That happens when we believe and receive Him by faith and trust in Him. Here’s a question for you.  If Joseph was righteous and needed a Redeemer, don’t you think you do too?  As good as Joe was, he needed Jesus.  As righteous as he was, he needed redemption.

3. You can have a room in the Father’s house. 

Here’s a cool thought.  Joseph provided for Jesus and gave Him an earthly home and now Jesus has provided salvation for us and will guide us to our heavenly home.  When Jesus left his home here, he went to Heaven to get your home ready.  He’s adding on to His father’s home but the only way you can get there is by being born again here.

4. Believe and receive Jesus Christ. 

We’ve all dropped the ball spiritually and we need Jesus to pick us up!  Reach out to Him and receive Him into your life.

What will it be?  Will you be like Joe and believe or be like Johnson and blame?  Men, it’s time for us to man-up and lovingly lead our families.  We must lead with strong hands and never leave.  This is a catch we cannot drop.

Do you have any thoughts or questions about this post?