First I want to say that the thoughts and message contained in this post are in partnership with LifeHouse East, Hedgesville’s parent church. As a Network of LifeHouse Churches, we look to share resources and ideas because God blesses us through our unity.
Here we are once again to commemorate God’s Invitation to us to join Him at His banquet. A banquet we don’t deserve to attend, but never-the-less have been invited to for one sole purpose: God desires relationship and wants us there.
Now, as I shared in the opening message of this series, an invitation deserves an RSVP – a yes or a no. There is no in between. We must decide and we must understand that this invitation is personal, meaning I cannot attend on the response of someone else.
Yet despite God’s great effort to write out the invitation, to address it to you and me, to seal it, and then to bring it personally to us, we often put the invitation and its reply on a shelf; off to the side as we will “come back to it later.”
But you know, sometimes in the busyness of life, the desire to get ahead and pursue entertainment and success, we forget about the Invitation and its deadline until it’s too late. And so we hope that if we send our RSVP in a little late, it will still be accepted and we will be counted as part of the guest list.
The reality of this invitation is that we’ve got a lifetime to get the RSVP returned and counted. So the longer we wait to RSVP, the more chance there will be that we will forget to send it back. And if we don’t RSVP on time with a “yes,” we will not be permitted to attend the banquet.
God sent us an invitation some 2000 years ago. The invitation didn’t come in an envelope or with return postage. But rather, it came in the form of a human being, a baby. And as we’ve studied from scripture, this was God’s Son, not created of human conception, but rather through the overshadowing of a virgin named Mary by the Holy Spirit.
And so the story picks up with the earthly step-father of Jesus, Joseph the carpenter.
There’s very little that the scripture tells us about Joseph other than he was: a carpenter, a righteous man, betrothed to Mary (which meant married, but not yet living together in the same home), and not the father of Jesus.
Yet, though little is written about him, there is great application we can take from what is.
In Matthew 1: 18-25 we see this part of the story that describes to us the role Joseph played in bringing The Invitation into this world. We see a man who one day was betrothed to a young teenage virgin girl and the next, has his world rocked and turned upside down when his bride-to-be tells him of the news that she is pregnant.
In his mind he’s got to be thinking, “This is not how it is supposed to be. How could she have cheated on me? She and I were to have a life together. So who is the father? Is it one of my friends? This hurts bad. What do I do? At some point the people of this community are going to know and see that she’s pregnant. I could publicly divorce her and disgrace her for her adulterous promiscuity, but this means she could be stoned to death. But I don’t want that. I love and respect her too much to do that. I guess I’ll just divorce her quietly to give her a chance at life. Maybe then she can marry the father of the baby and no one will know any better.”
But then God steps in by sending an angel to speak to Joseph in a dream. And when Joseph wakes up, he follows through on what the angel commanded him to do – to take Mary home as his wife.
So what can we take from this story? What example did Joseph give us to follow?
Well God’s Big Idea is this: Faith obeys when reality makes no sense.
Joseph is a great example of someone, who when trying to discern what to do in his own mind, was willing to make his life much easier by divorcing Mary and moving on in another direction. Yet Joseph, when listening to the voice and reason of God, sacrificed his will to do what he thought was best, to do what God said was best.
When the angel made clear that he was to take Mary home as his wife, he followed through – he obeyed.
It took faith to believe that what he had dreamed was not merely the result of some “bad pizza” he had eaten that night. It took faith to act on what he heard said to him in the dream. It took extreme faith to obey when he knew the child was not his and he would be responsible for the care and well-being of this child.
It’s through his obedience we see the character of this man – he was God-fearing, sensitive, empathetic, caring, and loving.
Joseph was not some male chauvinist who saw women as property to be kept when they satisfied him and discarded through divorce when they didn’t. Instead, he loved Mary enough to take her home as his wife and to care for the child that was not his.
Honestly, he’s much the opposite of most men today who run from their responsibilities; who won’t marry, let alone stick around to care for the babies that are theirs.
So why? Why would he be so responsible to follow through on what he heard in his dream? He did it simply because God asked him to: “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. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
Now keep in mind that what he is hearing in his dream were the same words that Mary had shared with him when she told him the news of her pregnancy. What he heard reinforced that Mary was telling him the truth.
And so Faith obeys when reality makes no sense.
Now the story itself doesn’t make a lot of sense. It goes against everything we see in nature. And really if you don’t believe the Bible is truly the inspired Word of God given to us throughout the ages, then this story is a fable (a mere super-hero story where the good guy wins and saves the day). But the proof that the writer, Matthew, gives for the literal truth of this narrative is in quoting OT prophecy (Isaiah 7:14) “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel – which means ‘God with us,’” which was prophesied some 700 years before Jesus was born.
Faith obeys, it trusts, it hopes, and it perseveres. Faith requires a mere step in the direction of the unknown and uncertain in order to see what God wants you to see. For if you can see it and touch it now, then no faith is required.
So how can I have faith? I can have faith by trusting in something and someone far greater than myself. I can have faith by letting my guard down and acceptingsome ideas as truth.
Now, not all things are relevant. Not all things are truth. But one thing that is for certain for me is the hope that I have of eternal life in this baby child, named Jesus, Immanuel – “God with us.”
Jesus – The Invitation, The Gift – always invites us to respond to the banquet His Father will one day throw on behalf of those who RSVP on time with a “yes”. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to take a chance of leaving it on a shelf where I will come back to it later. Too many have done this over the ages, and never returned their response.
But this season – this Christmas Season – is our opportunity to open and accept the most magnificent gift that anyone could ever give – the gift of abundant life now and eternal life later. And this gift is rather simple to open. All we have to do is have faith to believe that this baby Jesus would one day grow up and sacrifice himself for the sins of humankind – would sacrifice himself for the sins of me.
Remember, Faith obeys when reality makes no sense.