Christmas with a Cross

Sermon for Christmas Eve based on Matthew 1:18-25

Dear people who celebrate Christmas and yet carry a cross: grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

God put Joseph into a predicament. Joseph didn’t really have any good options. His betrothed wife, Mary, was with child, and it wasn’t his. The virgin Mary was pregnant by the Holy Spirit.

Joseph concluded what everyone would conclude today: that Mary had been unfaithful to him. Joseph was a just man. Even though it was obvious to him that Mary had cheated on him, he still did not want to expose her to public shaming. Being a just man, he resolved to divorce her quietly, to minimize the damage to her reputation.

The angel’s appearance to Joseph in a dream, telling him that that which is conceived in Mary is from the Holy Spirit, not from another man, certainly must have been a great comfort and relief to him. He then knew that Mary had not been unfaithful to him. Mary’s virginity, her loyalty, and her love for Joseph remained pure.

The predicament, however, remained. People would talk. They always do. Gossip never cares for the truth. Gossips are always liars. They embellish their tales even when they know that they are false. Joseph would face shame even though he had done nothing wrong. And God is to blame.

Also, let’s not ignore the fact that God had quite simply taken Joseph’s wife from him and impregnated her. God didn’t ask Joseph first. The Son born to Mary was not Joseph’s.

Being a just man, Joseph submitted to God’s will. He took guardianship of both Mary and the baby Jesus. Joseph trusted what God was doing, even if it brought a cross that he would have to bear.

Is that not what is most difficult to bear – the cross that God sends? If we suffer because of our own sins, if we’re honest with ourselves, we will say that we deserve it. But if God sends us a cross to bear for no reason we can figure out, then we become exasperated. We want to know why God is doing what He’s doing, but He won’t tell us.

Such is a time to learn from Joseph, and trust that God knows what He is doing; trust that God is good; trust that what God does is good, even if He doesn’t tell you what He’s doing.

We can certainly see the good in what God did in Joseph’s situation. God brought forth the Saviour into the world.

As foretold by the prophets, the Christ would be born of a virgin. Christ is the eternal God, begotten of the Father before all ages, but is also true man, born for us men and our salvation from the virgin Mary.

As the colt on which Jesus rode to enter Jerusalem on Palm Sunday never had anyone sit on it before, and as no one had been laid in the tomb in which He was buried, so also Jesus’ mother had to a virgin, set apart for a holy purpose.

Since children need a father, God did not impregnate a single woman, but one who was betrothed; one who was promised by oath to a man. Thus, God provided an earthly father for Jesus.

God planned and executed the coming of Jesus in the perfect way, but it meant carrying a cross for Joseph. He couldn’t escape the shame of the gossip, or the cross of God taking his wife for His holy purpose. Again came the cross when Joseph’s friends and family in his hometown of Bethlehem did not make room for him and his family. Soon afterward, Joseph had to flee to Egypt with his family as Herod sought to murder the baby under his guardianship. Mary was not alone in bearing a cross because of Jesus, Joseph also bore a cross.

From the cross, however, comes good. From the cross that Joseph and Mary bore came the Saviour of the world – the Saviour who went to the cross on Calvary to die for the sins of the world.

From Christ’s cross comes good. From His cross comes life and salvation for mankind, because Mary’s baby went on to buy us evil men out of captivity with His death. The good from the cross is given to us in Baptism where God washes us clean from sin and claims us as His own. The good from the cross is given into our mouths when we receive the body and blood of Jesus that gives us forgiveness and nourishes our faith. The good from the cross is given to us when we hear that since Jesus rose from the dead, we too will rise from the dead on the Last Day.

We see from Joseph, that following Jesus comes with a cross. With the cross, however, comes good. God may not tell us what that good is. We may not know until He takes us home to be with Him. But we trust that God knows what He is doing. We trust that God is good. And we trust that what God does is good, even if He doesn’t tell us what He’s doing. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

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