December 6, 2015
text: Luke 1:26-38, Matthew 1:18-25
The theme of last week was Hope and we lit the Prophet’s candle in our Advent wreath. This week our theme is Faith and we light the Bethlehem candle.
It took great faith to make the journey to Bethlehem. I want to draw your attention to two verses, Luke 1:38 and Matthew 1:24. After Gabriel delivers God’s message to Mary her response is that she is the servant of the Lord, adding “let it be to me according to your word.” After Joseph is told to take Mary as his wife, despite the fact she is already with child, he did as the angel commanded. The message and the circumstances were extraordinary but Joseph and Mary responded together in faith. We don’t know what their respectively families must have thought or said about their situation. We wouldn’t think twice today about meeting a single mother; our culture is about to the point that marriage is frowned upon. But think about first century Israel. Joseph was going to very discreetly get a divorce and not make a public example out of Mary. He could have taken before the city elders and had her stoned to death! That would have been normal in their society. Regardless of the looks, the talk behind their backs and what have you, they proceeded to follow God’s instructions. On top of everything else they were about to make a long journey with an expectant mother who was nine months along. Then when they got there… they couldn’t find a room.
God responds to faithfulness. As Jesus began his public ministry, his fame spread very quickly. Even before the information age and social media, he was not able to keep word from spreading and the masses from assembling everywhere he and the disciples went. Jesus was not able to enter into towns and villages because of the crowds, which is why we often read about him preaching on mountainsides or standing in a boat while the multitude gathered by the sea. But when he returned to his hometown of Nazareth he marveled at their unbelief. Those people knew him simply as a carpenter, the son of Mary, and they were amazed at his teachings and could not understand where his wisdom came from. Because of their unbelief he could no great works in Nazareth, Mark 6:5 noting that he healed a few people. How many times did Jesus tell others it was their faith that healed them and made them whole?
Faith is more than belief; it is belief that motives us to action. Fear is the enemy of faith. Fear can silence even a believer. How many times after the fact have you looked back on a missed opportunity and thought “I should have said something?” Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus, but when he got distracted by the wind and the waves he began to sink. And then what? He called out to Jesus to save him and Jesus saved him! His faith, though shaken, was still in the one who is able to save. The Bible never says that Joseph wasn’t afraid or the Mary wasn’t confused; it says they acted in faith. Their faith was not in their ability or understanding but in the same God that slayed Goliath with a small stone and brought down the walls of Jericho with the shouts of the Hebrews. God is motivated to action by our faith. Even Jesus could do no great work in a place where there was little faith. Faith like a grain of mustard seed can move mountains and in the case of Joseph and Mary, the faithfulness of one couple changed the world.