The Call Of Christmas Part 2: A Call To Protect
On Sunday 11th December at our morning services,we continued our Christmas series 'The Call Of Christmas' with the topic 'A Call To Protect'. In this blog you will find a summary of the talk and then some questions and reflections for you to think through on your own or to discuss in your small group.
To listen to the talk on-line, please click here.
To download the talk to listen to off line, please click here.
I wonder what you think of when you think about dreams. Maybe at this time of the year you think of the song “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas.” Maybe you think of martin Luther King’s famous speech “I have a dream…..”
You might be thinking about the dream you had last night. If you are what did you think when you woke up? Did you think that was a bit strange, did you think was that a dream or was that for real? Have you ever thought it might be a message from God?
I wonder if you knew about the importance of dreams in the Christmas story and in particular the importance of them to one man – Joseph.
I personally think that Joseph is an often forgotten character in the story of Christmas and if he hadn’t followed what he was told to in his dreams the Christmas story could have looked very different.
In order to understand the story better it needs some kind of context. Joseph was engaged to be married to Mary. However in those times that actually meant something quite different to what it means today. Once you were engaged you were actually deemed to be married in the eyes of the law. You then had a period of waiting when couples tested their love for each other and were meant to abstain from sexual activity.
Mary then came to Joseph and told him she was pregnant. That God via the Holy Spirit had made her pregnant. What a bombshell for them both, but for Joseph this led to a real quandary. If he married Mary it was like he was admitting the baby was his and so that would be him effectively saying he had broken the “law” of not having any kind of sexual intimacy with Mary. This in turn would have meant he would have become a bit of an outcast in society.
So his other option was to divorce her. In those times there were two ways you could have divorced. The first option was a public divorce, the other was a quiet discreet version where effectively you got two witnesses and said you wanted to get divorced. In Matthew 1 verses 18-24 it tells us that Joseph had settled on the quieter option for the divorce.You can read that byclicking here.
Why would he do this? Well I think it was to protect Mary as well as himself. He may well have thought Mary will enough to deal with once it is obvious she is pregnant, so let’s go for the quieter option. But God had other plans. In his dream an angel appeared and basically told him that he should take Mary as his wife and she would give birth to Jesus.
When he woke up he followed what God had asked him to do in that dream and if you look at other parts of the Christmas story we see other ways in which Joseph heard from God I dreams and then acted to protect Mary and Jesus. First of all Joseph had to go to his home town to register for the census which involved him taking Mary on a donkey to Bethlehem. When they got there he had to try and find somewhere for them to sleep, but everywhere they went they were told we have no room, until they found the stable.
After Jesus had been born and the wise men had visited Joseph had another dream where the angel told him he must take Mary and Jesus to Egypt to protect them from Herod, and then he had a further dream where God told him those that had wanted to kill Jesus were now dead themselves and so they could all now go back to the land of Israel.
So what does this all mean for us today? Well I think there are two main points.
First of all god as our Father wants to protect us. We need to think about this carefully though. It doesn’t mean there won’t be challenges and difficulties in our lives. Let’s be honest joseph didn’t have an easy part in the Christmas story. He had to take the tough route in taking Mary as his wife. He had to make a tough journey back to his hometown. He then had to protect Mary and Jesus by taking a different route home.
But all the time God was looking over them and protecting them.
The second point is that as part of God’s protection Joseph had to take notice of what the angel in the dreams were saying and then act on what he was being told. Maybe you know that God has been prompting you to maybe change some things in your life. Maybe you need to stop something that you know isn’t helpful, or maybe start doing something that you know will be good for you. Maybe you need to be like Joseph and get up and take action.
Questions and Reflections (for you to think about on your own or to discuss in your small group)
1. Is there something in your life at the moment where you need to feel God’s love and protection?
2. Is there something you need to take action on in your life?
3. What might you need to stop doing?
4. What might you need to start doing?