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Big Idea: God can use the most disgraceful moments of our ‌lives to do great good.

Text: Matthew 1:18-25
• I want to ask us a question:

What words do you associate with Christmas?

• I did that exercise with myself and this is the list of words that came to me: joy,
decorations, parties, presents, Santa, trees, and cards.
• This is generally the picture that we get of Christmas, people having a good time and
enjoying themselves and having a generally joyful season together.
• Well, there are two more words that I want to introduce to us to think about as being part
of Christmas.
• What's really strange is that shame and disgrace are actually essential parts of the
Christmas story.

The annunciation to Mary and Joseph

• The annunciation to Mary is a very famous passage in Luke 1.

• It's a powerful moment where the angel Gabriel comes to Mary directly.

• She doesn't understand it and she wonders how she as a virgin can have a baby, but she accepts this message.

• And she goes on to give a wonderful hymn of praise called the Magnificat afterwards.

• But what about Joseph.

• We often think that he discovers in the same way, but it's actually a little different from what we anticipate.

• Luke talks about the annunciation to Mary but Matthew talks about the annunciation to Joseph.

• What I want to point out is that Joseph did not find out about Jesus at first through an angel.

• By verse 18 there is no angel here so how does Joseph find out?

• Either he deduced it and he saw the changes physically that were taking place in her, or Mary told him herself and told what had happened.

• His response to it is different as a result as well.

• Essentially, Joseph did not believe Mary and he wanted a divorce.

• He doesn't believe this whole story about her being pregnant through the Holy Spirit. And let's be honest, who among us would have believed that?

• He believed she was pregnant with another man's child and he wanted a divorce.

• We often put Mary's annunciation and Joseph's together and we think, Yeah, they both found out by an angel.

• He found out in probably the worst way he possibly could have. He didn't know what was going on.

• I think we need to recognize how that must have felt for Joseph.

For Joseph, a moment of ultimate disgrace

Matthew 1:19 NIV84
Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.
• Believe it or not, it gets one degree worse, because in the second half of verse 19 there is this very particular phrase where it says, “He did not want to expose her to public disgrace.”
• We assume it means he didn't want to embarrass her.
• But that's actually not what the Scripture is talking about.
• That verse, 19b, references a verse in Deuteronomy, from Deuteronomy 22, and that
verse says this.
Deuteronomy 22:23–24 (NIV84)
If a man happens to meet in a town a virgin pledged to be married and he sleeps with her, you shall take both of them to the gate of that town and stone them to death—…
• That is the truth of what is going on here, that Joseph thought Mary had done something so shameful that she could be killed for it.
• When you put these two things together, the fact that his fiancé is now pregnant with who he thinks is someone else's child, and that she might die—brutally, a result which he does not want to happen—

we need to recognize that for Joseph this is a moment of ultimate disgrace.

• He feels like he has been cheated on and now this person that he was going to be

committed to for his entire life might die.

• This is the Christmas story.

The turning point: the angel

• But this is the point at which the angel comes.
• The angel doesn't come before this, the angel comes here at this moment after verse 19.
Matthew 1:20 NIV84
But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.

• And the angel does three things and out of these things a transformation takes place.

• The first thing that the angel does is the angel appears.

• The second thing that the angel says, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid. Do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife.”

• Then thirdly, the third message that the angel gives is that Jesus, this Son who will be born of your future wife, will save his people from their sins.

• Out of those three things an incredible transformation takes place in Joseph.

• How does he move so profoundly from this momentous experience of shame into hope instead?

What is it about these three things that the angel does that transforms his shame into hope?

God doesn’t leave us during our shameful moments

• The first thing the text says is that the angel of the Lord appeared to him.

• Why is that important to Joseph, why is that important in terms of shame?

• Well, the first thing that we should recognize about shame is that the power of shame is that it makes us feel like God wants nothing to do with us.

• I think that's what Joseph probably felt as well.

• But lo and behold what does he discover? The angel comes directly to him in a dream.

• In this moment where Joseph imagines that God wants nothing to do with him, God is more present that he has ever been in Joseph's life.

• That is what breaks the power of shame—to realize that in this terrible moment God is still there.

• We should realize that God does not leave us during our shameful moments.

Be confident in God’s opinion of us

• The second thing that the angel tells Joseph is this: "Do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife."

• Why is that important for him to hear?

• The reason is because the power of shame is that we fear the judgment and condemnation of others.

• Shame is not simply how we feel about ourselves, shame is also magnified by how we think other people look at us.

• Joseph, I think, would probably feel the same way if not much more so.
• As he thinks about having this child, who he is not the father of, the timing is going to be
off, the baby is going to be born a little too early.
• He's terrified of what other people will think of this situation. But in that terror God says,
“Don't be afraid.”
• And in that moment Joseph knows God's opinion, which is far more important than any
other person's.
• He doesn't live in fear of anyone else's because God himself has told him, don't be afraid, so he can go home and take home Mary as his wife.
• We need to be confident in God's opinion of us and hold it higher than any others.
• Not even your shame. Not even the worst thing you've ever done can separate God’s love
from you.

God can use our most disgraceful moments

• Finally the angel says this, that Jesus will save people from their sins.

• One of the final powers of shame is the belief that our moments of shame can never be redeemed.
• I wonder if Joseph felt the same way as he thinks about this moment where everything is wrong and he imagines God can never do anything with this.
• Yet, the angel appears to him and what does the angel say that out of this moment, out of this child, out of this particular circumstance, Jesus is going to save his people, meaning us, from their sins.

• We need to realize God can use the most disgraceful moments of our lives and do great and tremendous good.

• God is able to take the absolute lowest moments of your entire life, moments that you just
want to bury and you wish would never come to the surface again, and he can make it the strengths of your life instead.
• This is what God does.
• God takes our shame, takes Joseph's shame and makes it his glory instead.
• Takes what would have been Mary's shame and makes it her glory instead.
• Takes the Cross and makes it an instrument of glory as well.
• God is able to take the moments you never want to look at, and make it blossom into something you never believed.
• That is what the Cross is, that's what Joseph's story is, that's what Christmas is.
• In the worst moments of your life the power of God is such that he can take it, he can break it down and can reform it into something beautiful.
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