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Decorating Our Hearts (I) - Joseph's Righteousness

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작성자 최고관리자 작성일15-11-27 15:58 조회864회 댓글0건

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Matthew 1: 18-25

A small boy, son of missionary parents, was in the United States studying at a boarding school. As the first Christmas away from his parents approached, the head master of the school dropped by his room to pay him a visit and said to the little boy, “What would you most like for Christmas?” The boy, looking at a framed picture of his father, on a desk beside him, said, “Sir, I would like my father to step forth from that frame.” That little boy echoes the cry of humanity, doesn’t he? How we wish our heavenly Father would step forth from the frame of the universe and come to us and embrace us, be with us and save us. We are here this morning as believer in Jesus Christ because we know that our heavenly Father has done just that through Christ Jesus.

 

 

That is what Advent is; that is what Christmas is all about. Advent refers to the four-week period that precedes Christmas. It is a season to eagerly await the arrival of baby Jesus with holiest and cleanest of hearts. As Advent begins streets get filled with Christmas spirit. Eye-catching spectacles that coincide with Advent are the countless numbers of beautiful decorations and light that adorn buildings, trees, and streets. Therefore, referring to the Advent as the ‘decoration season’ is not an overstatement. Not only do these decorations adorn and beautify shopping malls and other public places, they could be seen on private homes and churches. However, we must remember two things about the decorations.

 

 

First, no matter how beautiful the decorations may be, they are only temporary. We can have the decoration up no more than two months out of a given year the tinsels and ornaments that hang from trees and the lights that embellish our homes eventually gets taken down after the holiday season. Second, no matter how beautiful the decoration may be, we must remember that decorations are merely exterior decorations. These decorations cannot adorn and embellish our inner hearts, our inner souls. A careful glance at the decoration gives us the sense that decorations are far apart from the true Christmas spirit. They are too commercialized, often driven by the desire to boost commerce and sales. Too many decorations are centered on the theme of ‘spending during the holiday season,’ to capitalize on the biggest spending season of the year. It is good to decorate and await the arrival of Christ during the Advent. Yet, if we only concentrate on decorating the exteriors trees, house, streets, etc. while being caught up in the secular euphoria of the season, then that could become a distraction, a pollution, in maintaining our faith. Our decorations must represent and symbolize our faith and holiness.

 

 

Therefore, we must decorate our inner selves before we start hanging lights from trees. We must decorate our hearts. Reminding ourselves of the profound meaning of Christmas the day that Jesus came to this earth we must decorate our hearts beautifully and effervescently. Then how must we decorate our hearts? What materials will be needed? During Advent, I would like to organize my sermons into a series. The topic will be ‘Decorating Our Inner Hearts,’ divided into 4 parts. During the upcoming 4 weeks, I would like to recommend 4 materials to decorate your hearts with. This week, I would like to recommend the decoration called ‘The Righteousness of Joseph.’ Next week, the recommended decoration will be ‘The Faith of Mary,’ and the third week’s recommended decoration will be ‘The Marvel and Happiness of the Shepherds.’ The last week of Advent will conclude with ‘The Service of the Three Wise Men.’ Do you wish to decorate your hearts while waiting for Christmas? Then decorate your hearts with the righteousness that Joseph had in his heart.

 

 

This Christmas will become a much more meaningful and blessed season for you. What is the righteousness of Joseph? Let’s look at today’s scripture. In verse 18, it is stated that Joseph was betrothed to Virgin Mary. By betrothed, it means that they were engaged to be married. It is similar to marriage engagements of today. According to the Hebrew customs, once a couple is betrothed, the couple became de-facto husband and wife: not a formal husband and wife in a legal sense, but still bound by the inherent responsibility of taking care and looking after one another as a couple. Therefore, in verse 20, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife.” In the Hebrew society, an engaged couple was still considered as same as a married couple. The issue is that Mary and Joseph had a child before they were together. The conception of Virgin Mary, of course, was done through the Holy Spirit. But for both Mary and Joseph, conceiving a child without physical contact was probably a shocking event. Conceiving a child was a significant event for both Joseph and Virgin Mary; yet, there are some differences in the account of this Immaculate Conception in the two gospels of Luke and Matthew.

 

 

In chapters 1 and 2 of Luke, the central character in the birth of Christ is Virgin Mary. Joseph is mentioned, briefly, as a side character. Virgin Mary, in Luke, is the only central character involved in the conception of Christ. In the contrary, chapter 2 of Matthew portrays Joseph, not Virgin Mary, as the main character. The angels appear thrice in Joseph’s dreams to instruct and guide him on what to do. And Joseph is delineated as a man of obedience who follows those instructions given in three installments to the letter. Today, let’s focus on Joseph, just as the Book of Matthew intended. To find out that his fiancee was pregnant, before they even lived together was probably a very disturbing and confusing thing for Joseph. In fact, Joseph could have been suspicious and enraged at the fact that his fiancee was pregnant with another man’s child. But what was Joseph’s response? Look at verse 19. “Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly.” What does it mean by Joseph being just and putting his bride-to-be away secretly? Great anger could have entered the heart of Joseph when he considered the fact that his fiancee bore another man’s child.

 

 

He could have disclosed his fiancee’s perceived infidelity and embarrassed her publicly. Yet, Joseph decides not to spread the news of his fiancee’s pregnancy, and decides to end the relationship surreptitiously. These actions are attributable to Joseph’s righteousness; then what type of righteousness did Joseph possess? Joseph decides to end his relationship with Mary not out of some human anger or disappointment. The decision was based on Joseph’s religious convictions. Take a look at Dueteronomy 22, verses 23 and 24. “If a young woman who is a virgin is betrothed to a husband, and a man finds her in the city and lies with her, then you shall bring them both out to the gate of that city, and you shall stone them to death with stones, the young woman because she did not cry out in the city, and the man because he humbled his neighbor’s wife; so you shall put away the evil person from among you.”

 

 

According to the customs and laws of the Old Testament, Mary should have been stoned to death. This prevented Joseph from wedding Mary, no matter how much he loved her. According to the laws of the Old Testament, Joseph had no right, or authority, to forgive or not forgive Mary. The righteousness of Joseph, to abide by the law, is further embossed and highlighted by the phrase “not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly.” According to the law, Joseph had to have the Virgin Mary stoned to death. Yet Joseph refused to blindly follow the austere provisions of the law; rather, he chose to follow the path of mercy. Hiding the fact that Mary was pregnant with a child, he decided to secretly null their vows of marriage. The righteousness of Joseph can be summed as such: Being a man of deep faith and conviction, Joseph loved God over Mary. To prove and demonstrate his greater love for God, he had to part ways with Virgin Mary. But not wanting to subject Mary to greater humiliation, social stigma, and associated pains and tortures, he decided to null their engagement in secret.

 

 

Through his actions, we can see that Joseph’s righteousness is represented in two ways: Through his love and loyalty to God and through his generosity and mercy towards another human being. Strict interpretation of the law, however, also makes Joseph a violator of the laws of the Old Testament. He violated the provision of the law that required the Virgin Mary to stand trial, be subject to great humiliation, and be stoned to death. There is one thing we must remember from today: Following the law does not always guarantee righteousness. Throughout history, there are many people whose actions are considered righteous even though those actions violated some law at the time. For example, many people violated Nazi laws and conducted many heroic and righteous acts to save lives during the Hitler and Nazi rule of Germany. Joseph’s righteousness contained something above what was mandated by laws generosity and mercy.

 

 

How did Joseph deal with Virgin Mary eventually? God’s angel appeared in Joseph’s dream to disclose the secret to him; therefore, Joseph eventually came to understand the secret behind the Immaculate Conception. He heard from the angels that the baby inside the Virgin Mary is the Messiah, conceived by the Holy Spirit, who will deliver all His people from sins. In verse 22 of today’s scripture, Joseph, after waking from his dreams, brings Mary in as his wife.

 

 

All misunderstandings were cast aside. Because of the righteousness of Joseph, God’s Son, Jesus, was able to come into this world. Should Joseph have been not righteous, the birth of Jesus, through Virgin Mary, may have been impossible. Not only would Mary’s reputation and character be in danger, her life would have been in danger as well. Because one man Joseph was righteous, the miracle of God’s only Son being conceived inside the body of a Virgin could have taken place. A poor, hungry man was walking down a street in a village of medieval Turkey. He had only a piece of bread in his hands.

 

 

He came to a restaurant where he saw some meatballs being grilled. The grilling meat was so close to him that the smell of meat was unbearable. The man held his piece of bread over the meat to flavor his bread with some of its delicious aroma. As he started to eat the bread, the angry restaurant owner seized him and took him away to stand in front of a judge, who happened to be Hodja. “This man was stealing the aroma of my meat without asking for permission,” said the restaurant owner. “I want you to make him pay me.” Hodja thought for a minute, then held his purse in front of the owner and shook it. “What are you doing?” asked the owner. Hodja replied, “I am paying you. The sound of money is a fair payment for the smell of the food.” Above is a famous and humorous anecdote about a famous judge, Nasreddin Hodja.

 

 

There are greedy and unrighteous people in this world who would attempt to charge someone for smelling food. Aren’t there countless numbers of people who would stop at nothing and resort to any means available to gain money? In the midst of such cold and harsh world, what are your dispositions? How will you greet Jesus as He comes into this world? Is it through righteousness? Make your choice. Before we decorate our roofs and our garden, let’s decorate our hearts. With what ornaments? Decorate your hearts with the righteousness of Joseph. God will be happy. And this Christmas will be a truly meaningful, joyous, and merry Christmas.

Amen.

 

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