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Tag: Joseph

The Promise of Hope

How many people here are planning to have an Advent Calendar of some sort this Christmas? If you don’t know what an advent calendar is, basically, it’s a countdown for Christmas! Its kinda like a regular calendar except it usually only has 24 or 25 days on it and each day is printed on a little door that opens to reveal something on the other side.

Sometimes’s just a little picture or saying or maybe even a Bible verse behind each door. But most often there is a little gift inside. For example, growing up, we often had an advent calendar that had little chocolates behind each door. More recently, I know several people who have had lego advent calendars with little mini legos sets behind each door. But the idea is you start on December 1st, and then each day, you get to open the corresponding door and get the little prize inside! And of course, the biggest door with the biggest prize is always on the 25th – so it’s a great way to build anticipation for Christmas.

And as a church, we do a similar thing. Of course, we only meet together once a week, so we don’t have a daily countdown, but we do have a weekly countdown. We count down the four weeks before Christmas, which of course starts today.

But instead of an advent calendar, we have an Advent wreath – which has five candles – one for each week, plus one final candle for Christmas Day. Each Sunday of Advent we light a candle – not only to build anticipation for Christmas, but also to remind us of what Christmas is all about.

It’s so easy to get caught up in the shopping and the festivities and the family gatherings – and all those other good things that come with Christmas – but in all that activity – we often neglect to put much thought into what we’re actually celebrating.

Christmas is a time to remember and celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ! That’s why His name is right in the title – Christmas – or “CHRIST”mas!

And so these Advent candles – each reminding us of a different aspect of the true meaning of Christmas – are a great way to help us remember that Jesus truly is the reason for the season.

That’s why, over these next five weeks, we’re going to pause our series going through the Book of Acts, and instead we’re just going to talk about the meaning behind each of these candles. What is Christmas really all about? And chances are, I’m not going to say anything that most of us haven’t already heard many times before! But if you’re like me, we could probably use the reminder! 

This morning we have already heard that this first candle is called the Prophet’s Candle or the Candle of Hope.  We also mentioned that over 1/4 of the Bible is prophetic in nature. And you might find that a little bit surprising. I mean, there is a lot of stuff in the Bible – history, letters, poetry, songs…. Does prophecy really make up more than 25% of entire the Bible?

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In His Father’s House

As many of you have probably noticed, I really enjoy preaching through Biblical biographies! I love preaching through the life stories of all the incredible characters found throughout the Scriptures. Over the years I’ve preached through the stories Joseph, Elisha, Samson, Nehemiah, Abraham, Samuel, King Saul, and so far, about 1/2 of the life of David.

But I realized something this last December. As I began preaching through the different characters of the Christmas story, I realized that I’ve never really preached through the life of Jesus!

Now of course, Jesus has been a key part of pretty much every sermon I’ve ever preached! After all, every part of the Bible points to the life of Jesus in some way, shape or form. He is the central figure of the Bible and it all relates back to Him.

But as far as chronologically working through the life of Jesus here on earth, that’s something that I’ve never really done!

And so – for these next few months between our seasons of Christmas and Easter – I want us to walk through the life of Jesus – from Christmas to Easter.

And I don’t intend to make this a detailed, comprehensive study on every aspect of Jesus’ life here on earth – perhaps one day we’ll do something like that – but this time around I just want to create a bit of a timeline for us – just a basic outline to see the flow and progression of the key events in Jesus’ life and ministry.

We certainly spend a lot of time studying his birth every Christmas… and his death and resurrection every Easter – but what about all of the other stuff that happens in the middle? I mean, we’ve got miracles & parables, training the 12 disciples, healing people, casting out demons, teaching and preaching…. But how does it all fit together? How exactly do we get from Christmas to Easter? So that’s what I want us to look at for the next few months.

Now of course, having just come out of the Christmas season, I think we’ve all had a sufficient refresher on the birth of Jesus, so I won’t go over all of that again. Instead, I want us to pick up the story a little later on in Jesus’ life  – when he is now 12 years old.

Not much is recorded about the life of Jesus prior to his full-time ministry – which he started when he was about 30. In fact, this event I want to look at today actually is the only recorded story in the Scriptures of Jesus’ childhood – outside of his birth. So that, in itself makes this a rather unique story.

It also includes the very first recorded words of Jesus. So I think this will be a key point for us to look at as we begin this overview of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ.

Now just before we get into our passage today, I briefly want to fill in the timeline between Jesus’ birth and our story today. When we concluded our Christmas series with the wisemen and King Herod a couple weeks ago, we ended with Joseph taking his wife and new baby down to Egypt to escape from King Herod who had ordered his soldiers to kill all the baby boys in and around Bethlehem. Of course, being warned of this in a dream, Joseph took Mary & Jesus and fled to Egypt – where they stayed until Herod died – which happened probably less than a year later. After Herod died, an angel appeared to Joseph again and told him that it was safe to return to Israel. So Joseph took his family and left Egypt and they eventually made their way back to their hometown of Nazareth.

Now of course, Luke doesn’t include the story of the wisemen, King Herod, or the trip to Egypt in his Gospel  (only Matthew includes those details) – and so as we begin our story in Luke chapter 2 today, the flow of the story may lead us to assume that Mary & Joseph returned to Nazareth just a few weeks after Jesus’ birth. But actually Jesus could have been 3 years old or even older by the time they made it back to Nazareth – where Jesus would then grow up.

Of course, we’re not given those types of details in the Scriptures, so it’s probably not too important for us to calculate all the dates and numbers and put it all together in a neat little package. Those details don’t change purpose or the message of this story, but I did just want to mention those things briefly, just in case you had questions about that as we get into our passage today. 

So let’s start reading in Luke chapter 2 – starting at verse 39.

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The Worship of the Wisemen

Through the month of December, our Sunday morning messages revolved around the characters of the Christmas story. We looked first at Jesus himself, then his earthly father Joseph, then his very young mother Mary, and then finally last week we looked at the shepherds who were outside of Bethlehem on the night of Jesus’ birth. Typically we tend to look at the events of Christmas more so than the characters, so I’ve appreciated the new perspective that we’ve gained as we’ve looked more in-depth at these different people.

Now my plan for today was to start leading us through a new series of messages that will take us right on through until Easter. Basically, I want us to walk through the life and ministry of Jesus Christ from birth to resurrection. However, I feel like we’ve kinda missed an important set of characters in the Christmas story. You’ve may have realized too, that we haven’t looked at the wisemen or King Herod.

And so today, I want to use the wisemen as a bridge between these two series of messages. They will be the final characters in the Christmas series, but also the first story in this new series as we begin to look at the life and ministry of Jesus Christ.

After all, the wisemen really do serve as a transitional story between the baby Jesus and the young child Jesus. Despite what most nativity scenes depict, the wisemen most certainly did not gather around the manger to meet baby Jesus on the night he was born, but rather, they met Jesus at least days, weeks, or even months after his birth! But we’ll look at all that stuff as we go through our passage today.

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The Message for the Shepherds (And You!)

Over the past few weeks, we’ve noted how each of the different Gospels draw our attention to different characters within the Christmas story. For example, Matthew draws our attention to the wisemen and King Herod – whereas Luke draws our attention to the shepherds and the angels. Both Gospels are telling the same true story of Jesus’ birth, but they each draw your attention to different aspects of the story.

The same is true even concerning Jesus’ parents. We see that Matthew writes his story from the viewpoint of Joseph and Luke writes his story from the viewpoint of Mary. It’s the same story – but we see it play out from totally different perspectives.

And so for the last three weeks, we’ve approached the Christmas story from three different angles – we’ve read from three different Gospels which have focused on three different characters – Mary, Joseph, and of course, Jesus Himself.

We started by looking at Jesus as he is introduced in the Gospel of John. And John doesn’t spend much time talking about Jesus’ birth, per se, but he focuses on how Jesus existed before he was even born! He talks about how Jesus has existed eternally as the second person of the Godhead and how He is our Creator. What’s more, out of his great love for us, Jesus choose to become one of us, born as a human being, so that He might live a human life and one day die a human death in our place so that we could be saved from our sin. We don’t always focus on that aspect of the story at Christmas time, but that’s really what Christmas is about!

From there, we turned to the Gospel of Matthew who focused on the character of Joseph. We saw that, while Joseph was indeed a descendant of King David, he did not live a life of royalty. He was just a regular guy – working in the trades, doing his best to provide for his family. But what’s impressive about Joseph is His godly character! Even when he believed that his fiancé Mary had been unfaithful to him and had committed adultery – because she was now pregnant and Joseph knew that child wasn’t his – but even then, Joseph determined to do what was right and to act in a loving way towards Mary even when it seemed that she had been unloving to Him.

Furthermore, we were impressed by Joseph’s immediate and constant obedience to God. Every time God gave him some instructions – even ones that were pretty difficult follow –  Joseph did it immediately and without arguing or complaining or anything. All we see from Joseph was immediate obedience to God. What a great example for us!

And then last week, we looked at the Gospel of Luke to see things from Mary’s perspective! And Mary is another impressive character! Even though she would have been very young at the time – probably 13-16 years old – she displayed some incredible spiritual maturity when God revealed to her that she was going to be the mother of the Messiah. I’m sure Mary realized the negative social consequences of having a child out of wedlock and that having this baby now would completely change the course of her life – but like Joseph, all we see from Mary is immediate submission to the will of God.

Luke 1:38 sums it up well:

38 Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” Luke 1:38a

Mary’s willing submission to God was clear evidence that she knew the character of God – and if God was going to ask her to do this very difficult thing, then she could trust Him. Even though she didn’t fully understand what God was up to, she could trust that God was doing something good – because that’s just who God is.

Again, what a great example for each of us. As I said last week, it is no wonder that God chose this couple to raise His son Jesus.

And so that’s a brief summary of what we’ve been going through for these last few weeks. Now today, I want to continue looking at the different characters of the Christmas story – specially, I’d like us to look today at the shepherds.

Now the shepherds may not be ‘essential characters’ in the Christmas story – after all, Matthew, Mark, and John all leave them out of their Gospels entirely – but yet, Luke does include them – and their part of the story has been recorded for us in the pages of Scriptures, so there is obviously something important about them. There is something that God wants to communicate to us through the story of the shepherds, and so today we’re going to see if we can dig some of that out!

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Mary – Eagerly Submitting to the Will of God

For the past couple of weeks, we’ve been looking at some of the key characters of the Christmas story. And I’m not talking about Rudolph or Santa Claus – that’s a different story all together! I’m talking about the original Christmas story – the historic events that actually happened some 2000 years ago and are still packed with meaning and significant for us even today.

And I expect that most of us are familiar with the events of that first Christmas – how Jesus was born and laid in a manger – how the angels appeared to the shepherds and how the wisemen brought their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Those are all the traditional Christmas scenes that we sing about in our Christmas carols or we display in our nativity arrangements. 

And of course, if you’re not familiar with those events, I’d invite you to come to our Christmas Eve service this Friday as those events will be the focus of our Christmas celebration.

But for our Sunday morning messages as Christmas approaches, we’ve been taking a deeper look not at the events of Christmas, but rather at the characters of Christmas.

We started by looking at Jesus Himself. Who is this baby who was born and was laid in a manger? And what is so significant about that child that we continue to celebrate his birth even 2000 years later!? To find those answers, we looked in the Gospel of John and saw that Jesus was not just an ordinary baby, but was in fact, the second person of the Godhead – the eternally existing Creator of the world – now born as a human being. He truly is Emmanuel – which means God is with us. And what’s all the more amazing is that He came to be with us so that we could be with Him for eternity.

Then last week we took a closer look at Joseph. We don’t read a lot about Joseph’s life in the Bible – he kinda comes across as a minor player in the pages of Scripture, but as we saw last week, Joseph really was a spiritual giant – truly a model of righteous character and faith in God. He is perhaps one of the best examples for us to follow in how to be a godly father and husband.

Now today we want to look at a third major character in the Christmas story – and that of course, is Mary, the mother of Jesus.

Like Joseph, she too, is a pretty amazing example of someone who displayed an absolute trust in God. When you consider all that she went through – especially considering how young she was at the time – her faith and obedience to God are truly remarkable. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

As I mentioned last week, when Matthew writes his Gospel and records the birth of Jesus, he focuses almost exclusively on Joseph. He begins with Joseph’s family tree, he talks about Joseph’s dilemma when he discovers that Mary was pregnant before they were married, and he records the four different visits that Joseph had from the angel. But he really doesn’t say anything about Mary. 

In contrast to that, when Luke writes his Gospel, he hardly mentions Joseph at all. He focuses his attention primarily on Mary. And that’s why it’s so great that we have four different Gospels. Each Gospel tells the true story of Jesus, but they all tell it from a slightly different perspective. That really helps us get a well-rounded understanding of really happened.

And so now, having looked at Joseph through the eyes of Matthew last week, today we’re going to look at Mary through the eyes of Luke. So if you have your Bibles with you, you can turn with me to Luke chapter 1.

However, we’re not going to start at verse 1 because Luke doesn’t begin his Gospel with Mary – he actually begins with Mary’s relatives – specifically, a priest named Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth.

And I don’t want to spend a lot of time going through their story this morning, but let me just quickly summarize it for you so you know what’s going on when we get into Mary’s story. 

Zechariah and Elizabeth have been unable to have children and the Bible describes them now as “both being very old.” Obviously too old now, to have any expectation of still being able to have children.

But one day, an angel named Gabriel appears to Zechariah and tells him that his wife, Elizabeth, is going to have a baby and that their baby would be the one to prepare the way for the coming of the Lord. Of course, every Israelite had been waiting for the coming of the Lord for quite some time now. In fact, for the last several hundred years, God had promised through the prophets had that he would send a Messiah – a descendant of King David who would save the Israelites and would rule Israel forever! 

So this was pretty huge news for Zechariah and Elizabeth – not only where they finally going to have the baby that they had always wanted, but their baby would prepare the way for the future King of Israel!

Oh and one more thing, their baby was going to be filled with the Holy Spirit from birth – and his name was to be John – we would eventually come to know him as John the Baptist.

So with that as the backdrop, Luke begins to tell the story of Mary in Luke chapter 1, verse 26.

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The Character of Joseph

Last week we began turning our attention towards Christmas – and we started, not by looking at the events surrounding Jesus birth, but rather by looking at Jesus Himself. We wanted to answer the question: Who exactly is Jesus?

And so to find that answer, we looked at the first few verses of the Gospel of John which remind us that before Jesus was even born, He existed as “The Word” – the eternal, all-powerful, second-person of the Godhead who is directly responsible for creating everything in the universe!

That in itself is a pretty astounding thought, but then we read John 1:14 which completely blew our minds! It says…

14 So the Word became human and made his home among us. John 1:14a

That is simply amazing! The infinite God of the heavens permanently fused his deity with our humanity and became human. We call Him Emmanuel because He is God-with-us. He became human like one of us. Even today in his resurrected state, Jesus is both fully God and fully human. And why did he do that? He came to be with us so that we could with Him forever.

I kinda like how the message Bible puts that verse. It says…

The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. John 1:14a MSG

What an incredible thought! That God would love us (his created beings) so much that He chose to move into the neighbourhood to be with us!

But yet sadly, most people, both then and now, choose to reject him… As John stated in verse 10,

10 He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him. 11 He came to his own people, and even they rejected him. 12 But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. John 1:10-12

And that’s really what Christmas is all about! Christmas is about God coming into the world so that those who believe him and accept him might become children of God. John 3:16 puts it quite simply….

16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. John 3:16-17 NIV

And so to answer our original question of “Who is Jesus?”…

Jesus is the Word – the eternally existing second person of the Godhead – our Creator. He is also Emmanuel – God with us – born on earth as a human being so that we might become children of God and be with Him forever.

So that’s what we looked at last week. This week, I want to continue looking at the characters of the Christmas story and this time, I want to ask the question: who is Joseph?

For being such a central figure in the Christmas story, Jesus’ earthly father, Joseph, is a little bit of an enigma. We don’t really read a lot about his life story and in fact, as the Gospels go on to record Jesus’ adult life, we actually don’t hear anything further about Joseph – even though we often hear about Jesus’ mother, Mary.

But despite having very little information about him, from the information we do have, we can see that Joseph was a pretty exemplary husband, father, and follower of God. He was a man that we would do well to model our lives after! So this morning, I want to look at the brief snapshot that the Bible gives us of Joseph and see if we can pull some things outta there that we can learn and apply from his life.

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