Sunday, December 12, 2010

Finding Christmas Peace

A sermon based on Matthew 1:18-21, 24-25 developed by Dr. Terry W. Dorsett and preached on December 5, 2010 at Washington Baptist Church, Washington, VT and on December 12, 2010 at Faith Community Church, Barre, VT.

Verse 18 - The birth of Jesus Christ came about this way: After His mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, it was discovered before they came together that she was pregnant by the Holy Spirit.
• Mary and Joseph were engaged and she comes up pregnant before the wedding.
• That may be acceptable in our modern era, but in those days it was a terrible shame to be pregnant before marriage.
• Joseph knew the baby was NOT his, so imagine how he must have felt.
• This was a very tense situation that had the potential to destroy both Mary and Joseph’s lives.
• We often tell the Christmas story in a way that makes the whole experience seem calm and peaceful, but it was far from it.
• If we think about it, our own Christmas experiences are sometimes more stressful than we wish they were.
• At this time of the year, when we should be celebrating and enjoying the season, instead we are often burdened down with extra stress and anxiety.
• We are anxious about how we will pay for all the gifts our families want.
• We are anxious about how we will relate to the in-laws, ex-relatives and office parties with people we only talk to once or twice a year.
• Sometimes painful memories from our past dampen the Christmas peace we had hoped to feel.
• For many people, Christmas is one of the most difficult times of the year to get through.
• Though the world may struggle with finding the peace of Christmas, we Christians should be the ones setting the example.
• What can we do to make sure our own Christmas is filled with peace?

Verse 19 - So her husband Joseph, being a righteous man, and not wanting to disgrace her publicly, decided to divorce her secretly.
• At first Joseph thought Mary had been with someone else and gotten pregnant.
• We could have easily understood if Joseph had been angry and exposed Mary to public ridicule, which was the common response to unmarried pregnant women in that time period.
• In those days, engaged couples were legally bound to be married therefore if one party decided not to go through with the marriage, they had to file for divorce.
• Joseph wants out and plans to file for divorce in order to end the engagement.
• Imagine being divorced before we were even married!
• Anyone who has been through a divorce knows that the word “peace” seldom comes up before, during or after a painful divorce! Divorce hurts. Divorce impacts Christmas peace more than we think.
• Joseph decided to keep the divorce private because he was a righteous man.
• This would have caused some people to suspect that Joseph really was the father and just did not want to admit it.
• Joseph was in essence willing to take some of the blame, which was clearly NOT his to take, simply because of his deep faith.
• Joseph was more interested in DOING right than in BEING right.
• Christians must focus on doing what is right even if we “lose” in the process.
• How much stress would we remove from our own lives if we took this approach to dealing with difficult situations in our lives?

Verse 20 - But after he had considered these things, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared to him in a dream . . . .
• Note that Joseph did consider all his options, but did not take action until AFTER he had heard from the Lord.
• Far too often we allow our emotions to control us and we take action before we have sought direction from the Lord.
• When we allow our emotions to guide us instead of the Holy Spirit, it will always create a bigger mess.
• Waiting on God ALWAYS leads to peace.

Verse 20 - . . . . Joseph, son of David, don't be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because what has been conceived in her is by the Holy Spirit.
• An angel shows up and tells Joseph that Mary is pregnant by the Holy Spirit.
• Let’s be honest, if our fiancĂ©’ came up pregnant and an angel said God did it, would we believe that?
• The Christmas angel gave Joseph a message that must have been hard to believe.
• The Christmas angel said that the Holy Spirit had somehow suspended the natural laws of the universe and caused Mary to become pregnant without a man involved.
• We must remember that God created the universe and can alter its laws at any time.
• Nothing is too hard for God to do.
• Christmas miracles are always impossible, and yet they happen all the time.
• When we look at situations in our lives and think that they are impossible to fix, we must remember the miracle power of God can change impossible situations.
• When the Lord begins to tell us how to handle stress in life, His answers do not always make sense to us at first.

Verse 21 - She will give birth to a son, and you are to name Him Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.
• The Christmas angel goes on to say that the child Mary carried will not be an ordinary child.
• He will be the long awaited Messiah who would save the people from their sins.
• Jesus would be the answer that generations of people had looked for.
• Jesus is still the answer to our problems.
• Our marriages would be better if we would treat our spouse as Jesus taught us.
• Our children would be happier if we were the kind of parents Jesus told us to be.
• Our finances would be more balanced if we would handle our money as Jesus said.
• Our workplaces would be more enjoyable if we had Jesus-like integrity.
• Our politicians would be more effective if they acted more like Jesus & less like Satan!
• Jesus has always been the answer, Jesus is the answer now and Jesus will always be the answer!

Verse 24 - When Joseph got up from sleeping, he did as the Lord's angel had commanded him. He married her.
• Joseph chose to obey the message from the Christmas angel and married Mary.
• Deciding to continue the relationship with Mary may have cost him some pride and maybe even some social standing in his community, but once Joseph knew it was God’s plan, he embraced it.
• Once Joseph got a clear word from God on how he was to proceed in this difficult situation, he immediately did what God told him to do.
• Imagine the great peace that Joseph must have felt knowing he was doing exactly what he was supposed to do.
• We often fail to find the peace we need in life because we keep trying to do things our way instead of doing it God’s way.
• Too many of us try to convince God that He really does not know what He is doing and that our plan will work better than His.
• Doing it our way instead of God’s, always leads to more pain and less peace.
• At some point we must stop thinking that we are smarter than God and start living our lives the way God wants us to.
• It may cost us something socially. It may strip away some of our prideful thinking. But it will give us the peace that we need in this anxiety ridden world.

Conclusion:
• Christmas should be a time of peace but too often it simply adds to our stress.
• Christians should set an example of peace in our stress filled world.
• One way to rediscover peace is to focus more on DOING right than BEING right.
• Another way to rediscover peace is to wait for the Lord to guide us in difficult situations.
• Once we know what God wants us to do in difficult situations, then we must obey immediately in order to find peace.

7 comments:

  1. When parents decide that they must separate, their children are often left in the middle of the situation. Even in families where both parents have the best interests of the children at heart, figuring out where they will live and who will be responsible for the various parts of raising them is not always easy. Child custody laws in each state help the family courts determine which parent should have custody of the children, where the children should live, and how and when they will communicate with the other parent.

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  2. Jazzie,
    Thanks for your comment. Divorce has a much bigger impact on children than most of us realize, especiallly around Christmas time. Keep sticking up for kids, they need more advocates like you.

    Dr. T

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  3. Never be afraid to say the hard things.

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