What Child is this–through Joseph’s Eyes

sermon based on Matthew 1:18-25 & Galatians 4:4-7

Greeting—Grace, mercy and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.  May God bless our reception and consideration of His Word for us and our world.  Amen.

“What Child is This?”  Written in 1865 by an Englishman named William Chatterton Dix.  It is one of my favorite Christmas carols, and sung to the tune of Greensleeves, a wonderful melody.  The main characters in the story the song tells us:

Mary and the baby—baby Jesus, the child sleeping on Mary’s lap

The angels are mentioned, as are the shepherds.

Even animals—the ox and ass are mentioned

Calvary and the cross are mentioned, and by inference—all those involved with Jesus’ crucifixion; Pontius Pilate, the soldiers, the chief priests, Pharisees, and temple guards, etc. even us as believers—in the phrase, “nails, spear shall pierce Him through, the cross be born for me, for you.”

And the Magi, the noble wisemen from the East are referenced through the gifts they brought, “incense, gold and myrrh.”

All are mentioned.  Except one main character.  Who is missing?

Joseph, Jesus’ earthly father.

There is no mention of the man who helped raise “the Son of Mary.”  Mark’s Gospel completely skips any mention of Joseph.  The other Gospels barely mention him.

Yet Joseph is there.  Quietly present before the manager, at the manger and after the manger.

Joseph is present when Jesus “gets lost” in the Temple at Jerusalem.  Mary scolds the twelve year old Jesus who is talking with the educated scribes and Pharisees by saying in effect, “Your father and I have been worried sick about you!”

Do you remember Jesus’ response?  “Didn’t you know I had to be about My Father’s business!”  Meaning of course, His heavenly Father.  You can find that in Luke 2.

Talk about being overlooked!  Unimportant!  Dismissed!  Did Joseph feel invisible?

You might remember Neal Diamond’s song, “I Am” where he sings:

“I am I said

To no one there

And no one heard at all

Not even the chair

“I am”… I cried

“I am”… said I

And I am lost and I can’t

Even say why

Leavin’ me lonely still…”

What do we know about Joseph?

He is a good man.  He cares for Mary.  He is gentle and kind.  His sense of propriety didn’t demand justice in the sense of punishing Mary who mysteriously was with child—not Joseph’s.

Ultimately, with the help of a dream, Joseph comes to believe Mary’s incredulous story and takes her as his wife.

He’s poor.  But he’s a hard worker and a good provider.  He’s a carpenter, a builder and repairer of broken things.  He’s creative and handy with his hands.  He’s dependable.

And, he adopts Jesus as his own son.  Think of that!  Raising whose Son?  God’s!  How do you do that!

I remember being a new dad and being terrified.

For those of us who have raised children, or are still raising them, you know how unqualified we are and how scary it is!  But God gives us children as little ones so we can learn and grow with them.  We parents learn from raising our children as much as we teach and raise them!  And none of us do it without mistakes and growing pains!

Joseph as raising not just anybody’s boy—He was raising God’s Son!  Yikes!  Jesus was his adopted son!  He was Jesus’ adoptive father.

Adopted children.  Adoptive parents.  That’s a challenge!  There is always a natural, normal part of us that wants to know where we came from.  It helps us to understand who we are.  I believe Jesus knew He was adopted and knew His “birth dad,” i.e. His being God’s only begotten Son.  He knew where He was from and why He was born.

Reba and I have two adopted grandsons and we love them dearly.  They are chosen and loved and secure.

Adopted parents choose their adopted kids.  Adopted kids end up choosing their adoptive parents as well.  Both choose.  Deliberately.  Intentionally.  It is a two way relationship!

The Jewish Middle East custom was for a father to take a new born child and lay it across his knees claiming that child as his own.  It was a way of saying, “yes, this child is legitimate and mine.  I am his father.  He is my son.”

Joseph, doing that with Jesus, is making a public statement for all to see. He is claiming Jesus as his own son.  When Jesus is circumcised Joseph held Jesus and gave Him the name Jesus, just as the angel  had commanded.

The Christmas carol “What Child is This?” doesn’t dismiss Joseph, but deliberately focuses on Jesus dual nature.  Jesus is both “the Son of Mary” and God’s only begotten Son.  Both human and divine.  This carol helps us to see why Jesus was born—His purpose in life.

Jesus—born as a little baby boy.  Jesus was born into a broken and torn world.  Jesus was born to go to the cross “for me, for you!”  Jesus was born to die so we could live!

Jesus was adopted by Joseph so you and I could be adopted by God.

We were God’s kids originally.  God made us.  But sin messed with God’s plan.  You and are all effected by sin.  We are all spiritually broken.  We all need healing and forgiveness.  The message of the Bible is Jesus takes on our brokenness.  Jesus took on our frail human flesh.  Jesus became a part of our fallen humanity so that He could bring us back into God’s plan—God’s family.

Thank God for Jesus!  Thank God for Mary!  Thank God for Joseph!  Thank God for this incredible truth that is way more than just a heart warming story.  Jesus has entered history, and because He did He has changed history—for me and for you and for our world.

In Jesus’ name.  Amen!

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