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During the Advent/Christmas/Epiphany season which just ended we heard and read the Bible stories about the birth of Jesus. Of course, Jesus is the focus of the stories as told in the gospels of Luke and Matthew. But we also hear quite a bit about Mary in these stories. Of course, the angels, shepherds and wise men also get quite a lot of coverage in those stories. What they all hear, say, and do has provided a number of messages for us down through the ages.
I thank God for inspiring the gospel writers to use their words and actions as recorded in these stories to inspire us as we go through life. However, I also observe that there is one person who I think should have been given equal time in these stories – but he wasn’t. You know who I’m talking about, don’t you? Yes, I mean Joseph. Think about it. Compared to all the others in those stories, it’s as if Joseph was something of an afterthought. In fact, except for what we read in Chapters one and two of the Gospel of Matthew, as you continue to read through all of the gospels, there is not one word from or about him, except for that one comment from someone who refers to the adult Jesus as “the carpenter’s son”. We know that the carpenter he refers to is Joseph.
The fact is, that in my 21 years as a pastor, I don’t think I ever had anything much to say about Joseph. In fact, I can’t remember hearing even one sermon about Joseph from pastors who could do a much better job of preaching than I ever could. Until a few weeks ago. My son Ray sent Joan (my wife) and me a CD of a sermon he had recently preached. He also sent us a printed excerpt of the basic message, which I am showing below. My son is not a pastor, although he frequently preaches in his and other churches. He is a leader in the Oakfield Baptist Church in Maine. He has also been taking courses which might be credited toward a seminary education, should he discern that God is calling him to serve as a pastor. I also should mention, so there will be no confusion, that my son and I have the same first and last names, but different middle initials. He is Ray A. and I am Ray H.
Here is what he has been inspired to say about the little we hear about Joseph in the Gospel of Matthew, and how this applies to our lives.
Excerpt from sermon by Ray A. Gough
“…As an infant, Jesus was vulnerable and required protection. It seemed that the odds were stacked against him.But there was hope. God called Joseph to protect the innocent baby Jesus. Through an angel of the Lord, God directed Joseph. Joseph, being a righteous and faithful man, listened to and obeyed God’s direction. What if he hadn’t? King Herod might have killed Jesus. Our gift of salvation might have been lost. Our future destination of eternal life in Heaven might have been in question. But there was hope. Joseph listened to and obeyed God’s direction. He acted in a way that was pleasing to God. Jesus was allowed to continue His mission to save humanity and restore our relationship with our great and loving God.”
“You see, there is hope for our future. We must actively listen to and obey God’s Word. Yes, it is true that we are saved by grace through faith alone. But when we have true faith, it naturally causes us to actively listen and to actively obey. To act in a way that is pleasing to God and continue the works of Jesus Christ. If you remember nothing else, remember this – it is not enough to know the Word of God or the passages of scripture in the Bible. God expects us to act on it and live it. Just imagine what the world could be like if we all did this.”
End of sermon excerpt
In the full sermon, as recorded on the CD, it is clear that my son noted that we never hear Joseph speak even one word. All we hear about Joseph is that he listens to and obeys God. But I have to agree with my son, with or without words, that is precisely what is pleasing to God listening and obeying. As you just read, Ray closes with this suggestion – ” Just imagine what the world could be like if we all did this.”
Here’s what I imagine it would be like and the hope that I have:
We would all be participating and cooperating with God as He continues to fulfill His plan for satisfying our need and hope for eternal peace, love, and joy for all people on earth as it is in heaven, through the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus and His continuing presence through the Holy Spirit. That’s what Joseph was doing. That’s what we can always do, by the grace of God – if we will listen, trust, and obey..
Thanks for your attention. We look forward to hearing your comments about our web-site. We also invite you to send us stories of your experiences and observations of present hopes and hope fulfilled, so we can spread them around the world via this web-site. This is one way we can all join together to help keep hope alive.
May God be with you,
Patty and Ray