Sermon from December 19, 2010

Love ALL: Joseph’s Gift

December 19, 2010

Matthew 1:18-25

Joseph gave a gift to the world that first Christmas, you can too.  And they called his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.  He is Immanuel which means God with us, and he will save his people from their sins.

I was listening to the radio in the car one day this week and an advertisement came on for a practice specializing in sedation dentistry, for those who just can’t get numb, you can basically take a nap and instant presto, you’re teeth are fixed – no problem.  Now, I’m all for painless dentistry, but there is no sedation salvation.  He will SAVE his people from their SINS.  The moral and spiritual decay and crookedness that attaches to the entire human race cannot be cured with sedative.  Scripture teaches that it would cost Jesus’ dearly to fulfill the eternal role his very name defines.  There was no Novocain or sedation at the cross.  It would end up costing this baby and his heavenly father dearly to enable us to do the things we’ve been talking about this advent, worship fully, spend less/give more, and today love all.  Love all.

So we’ll talk briefly this morning, as we did last week, about WHY to love all, and then HOW we might carry that out in a specific way.  Short answers: WHY love all? Because Jesus very naming shows us we’re all in this together.  HOW to love all?  We love all by loving one by faith.

First  WHY love all?  We love all because we are in this together.  Look at Jesus names here: Immanuel God is with us, not with a few, not with just some, but with all.  And he will save his people from their sins, not just some, not just a few, but his people; and as the scripture shows this is not just Israel, though it includes them, but it also includes people of every tongue and tribe and nation.  His name is Jesus which means he will save his people from their sins.  We are all in this thing together.

When my wife was student teaching there was this little girl who came in one morning, probably 4 or 5 years old, preschooler, cute as a button, and announced to everyone who could hear: I’m in deep, deep trouble.  Now how much trouble could a 4 year old really be in?  You want to see trouble honey wait till your 34 or 64; you have no idea.  Yet Matthew shows us by locating Jesus birth in the midst of a genealogy and this account of petty brutal Herod’s child murdering ways – that all we humans are in deep, deep trouble because of sin.  Jesus was without sin, but his genealogy is full of both heroes and heroines, Abraham and Ruth, but also with persons like Tamar, whose story illustrates brutal humanity treating humanity at its brutal sinful despicable worst.  Plenty of stories represented there that would easily be R if not nc17 movies.  Why love all, were in deep trouble together.

Jesus would become the despised and rejected one in order to do moral and spiritual surgery on the human race, and yet are not we all in some sense despised despisers and rejected rejecters?  All victims and perpetrators of sin?  Some years ago I heard a pastor say he prayed the prayer daily for his church “Lord, send us the people nobody else wants.”  It has really stuck with me through the years.  The more I pray it, not only does God seem to answer it but it keeps coming back into my spirit to teach me new things about God and human nature.  Are we not all at some time or other in our lives the people nobody else wanted?  On some level who hasn’t had their feelings hurt unfairly?  Or who hasn’t unjustly hurt the spirit of another?  Some more perpetrators than victims, others more than victim than perpetrator– it never though resolves or equals itself out in this world apart from God.  Lord, send us the people nobody else wants.  Are we not all despised despisers, rejected rejecters on some level?  Why love, because we are all in deep trouble together.

And yet are we not all deeply loved together as well.  And he will SAVE his people from their sins, Immanuel, God is with us.  God is for us.  He came not to get back AT us for despising and rejecting him and each other BUT to get us BACK by being despised and rejected.  God is with us.  God is for us —  In this thing together, ALL  rejected and rejecters, ALL despised despisers, yet all redeemable and reclaimable.

Why love all?  Because we’re all in this together, all undeserving of love YET all recipients of a love we dare not reject or refuse.  He will save his people from their sins.  God is with us.  God is for us.  This gift binds us together in loving destiny as no other could possibly do or bind.

So HOW then do we love all?  I want to suggest based on this passage that affirms God came to be with us in a particular way, at a particular time, in a particular baby’s birth, that in a paradoxical way we love all, by loving one.  Shakespeare of course said, love all, trust a few, do harm to none.   That’s pretty good advice, but how do we love all by loving one?  Well I suggest we love particular people at particular times NOT by their deserving, not by our feeling, but by faith.  We can’t love all, which is why he came to save us.  So we love people by faith.  He can, through us.

In fact, I want to suggest we love all this Christmas by choosing one hard to love person in your life, and concentrate on him or her.  Love all by loving one.  You see, the word love actually never even gets mentioned in this passage and never gets mentioned in the book of Matthew until chapter 5 when Jesus is all grown up and teaching in the sermon on the mount and says you have heard it said love your neighbor and hate your enemy, but I say love your enemy too and pray for those who despitefully use you.  It’s not a matter of not setting boundaries on those who would abuse you; sometimes the most loving thing to do is to hold somebody at arms length, but even that can be done lovingly.  Why love all?  Because we’re all in this together.  How love all?  Love all by loving one hard to love person in your life by faith, because then you know that you know that you really know that it is a God thing.

How though, do I love this one hard to love person in my life by faith?  There is a movie called eat pray love.  Joseph’s pattern for us here in Matthew 1 is see pray do.  See pray do.  See the person as Jesus sees them, despised and rejected even deserving of rejection yet redeemable, reclaimable.  Pray about the person to the Jesus who came to save us from our sins, then do what your heart leads you to do.  See pray do.  See, pray then do the loving thing.  You see, we don’t hear from Joseph again in Scripture.  All we know is when he was no doubt not feeling too warm and fuzzy toward Mary he resolved to see her as one who should be treated decently, then his prayer was in the form of a dream, and then drawing on his faith he did the next loving thing.  He simply loved a hard to love, frightened young woman that first Christmas, and we and the world are all the more rich because he did.

Why love all?  Because we’re all in this together, all in deep, deep trouble, yet even more deeply loved.  How love all?  Start by loving one hard to love person in your life this Christmas by faith.  He came to save his people from their sins.  God is with us.  God is for us.  Joseph got that and did his part.  This Christmas, will we?

David B. Humphrey

Asbury United Methodist Church, Smyrna, DE

December 19, 2010

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