Christmas Continues: Focus on the Holy Family #2

Title: Christmas Continues: Focus on the Holy Family #2

Text: Matthew 2:19-23

Time: January 9th, 2005

Is there a God to guide us through life? Is there power to rescue us from danger? Is there Anyone out there we can turn to when we are in trouble? We are looking at the Christmas story and we are coming nearly to the end of it, the part where after Jesus, Mary and Joseph escape into Egypt to avoid Herod’s soldiers. Later, they then return to Israel where Jesus then spends the rest of his life. But what we see is a model not only for our individual lives but also for family life. We see Joseph and Mary working together, in harmony with God and each other in preserving the baby Jesus the Messiah, the Savior of the World. This month I’ve been focusing on the family, that is, I’m talking about topics related to the family, what the Bible has to say about family. Why the family? Because we just happen to live in a day and age when the family, that is, a man, a woman and children, the family unit, is breaking up and breaking apart more than any time in human history. Let me repeat: marriages and families today are breaking up, falling apart, today more than at any time in the history of the world. But these are just statistics. Many of you are statistics. You know first hand what its like to go through a marriage and family break-up. So you know it first hand. Others of us have witnessed it in the marriages and families of friends, relatives, and even close family members. Does God have anything to say to help this situation? Or is there nothing that can be done to hold marriages together and keep families from splitting apart? The Bible and the Christian faith teach that only through the power of God can there be healthy marriages and families. What that means is we have to look to God, not the therapists, not the modern family experts, not the psychologists and psychiatrists you see so often on talk shows or hear on radio – that has gotten us nowhere. We must go to God and hear from Him. Only God can get us out of the mess we’ve gotten ourselves into. Now according to the Bible and Christianity for nearly 2000 years, divorce should be a very rare thing. In other words, God gives a provision for divorce, but in the overall community, it should be a very rare thing. And for nearly 2000 years of Christian history, it was a rare thing. Yes, people got divorce but not very many people did. When it happened it was a tragic and terrible thing. But today it is common, happens every day. In fact, 1 out of every 2 marriages, they say, will end in divorce, and the breaking up of a family. The goal of this series is to give us clear thinking and strong convictions about marriage and family. If you are divorced, this is not a criticism of you. It’s an opportunity for you to learn from God’s word. One of the greatest teaching aids the Bible gives us is in the way of example. And Mary and Joseph give us a great example of how a marriage should work, it serves as the ideal we should all shoot for. Read Matthew 2:19-25. Let’s look at some important points we see here and in the related passages.

First, we see a priority in the marriage of Joseph and Mary on the child. Now some of you who are married might be saying, “Well, dah, yeah.” But wait. Making the children a priority in marriage today is not something that always happens, in fact, a lot of times today, children are not the priority. But I’ll get to that. Look at verses 19-21, “After Herod had died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph, in Egypt, and said, ‘Get up, take the child and his mother, and go back to the land of Israel, because those who tried to kill the child are dead.’ So Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and went back to Israel.” Notice the emphasis on the child. The child this, the child that. These two put their child as a priority. Why did they go into Egypt in the first place? To protect the baby Jesus from Herod. Why did they return to Israel? Because the threat to the baby was over. They put a priority on the child. Now some of you who are single right now might be thinking, “Man, what does this have to do with me?” Well, some day in the future, you may be struggling in a troubled marriage and wondering what might help, and all of a sudden you’ll remember sitting in a church in Jamestown on Sunday morning, and remembering about how Mary and Joseph put the priority on their child, and something will click in your head and you’ll say, “Yea, that’s it. We need to put more emphasis on raising the children right instead of our own selfish personal interests.” It might just save your marriage. But anyway, back to the present. There are solid psychological reasons why putting a priority on the children is healthy for a marriage: it gets the man and the woman working together instead of separately. And that important because we have many couples, even most couples, with separate jobs or careers outside the home today pursuing separate agendas in life. They need to get working together on things to preserve the unity of the marriage relationship. Putting priority on the children is a great way to do that.

Two, we see godly spiritual leadership in the marriage coming from Joseph. Look at the passage again, and you’ll see Joseph getting instructions from God, through dreams and angels. They’ve done sociological research and they have actually found that women generally like it when the men in their lives take the lead in spiritual matters. Why? Because so often it’s the case the women of the family have to put forth all the effort to promote faith, church, prayer, Christian education, etc. And most men just sit back and let them do so without really putting forth much effort. The research shows that women generally would rather have their husbands take the lead in things like getting the family together for church on Sunday, and praying at meals, etc. But the sad fact is that most men wait for their wives to lead in these mattes. But the Bible teaches and the Christian church teaches that men are supposed to take the lead in respect to passing on the faith in the marriage and family. Look at Joseph in the Christmas story and you’ll see this guy really stepping up to the plate and taking on the responsibility of hearing and obeying God for his family. Not that Mary isn’t spiritual. Are you kidding? There are probably more pictures of Mary than any other spiritual personality besides Jesus Christ himself. Yes. She was a spiritual woman in her own right, but Joseph takes the godly lead in hearing and then following the will of God for his marriage and family. We get the picture of Joseph fighting the good fight on behalf of Mary and Jesus. Dealing with the problems, solving them through both his own best human efforts and any supernatural spiritual assistance he could get. We get the picture of Joseph as the protector of the family, of his wife and child. Joseph is a man of action, not a passive male. He went out into the world and used the best resources he could find to preserve and protect his family. He was a provider. That’s the ideal man — husband and father. It ‘s an image us men should strive for, and for women to encourage. It’s biblical and it’s God’s will for families.

Three, we see a godly supporting and affirming wife and mother in Mary. If you look at the passage you will not find one place in which Mary intervenes and tries to lead or direct Joseph in his task of providing and protecting the holy family. Oh I’m sure there were many places where she might have been tempted. Remember back when Joseph and Mary came into Bethlehem before Jesus was born? Joseph couldn’t find a regular place at the traveler’s Inn so he had to take his wife into a stable to give birth. Now if Mary had been a whiner or complainer she might have said, “What, a stable? Oh no, don’t tell me you’re thinking of having me give birth in this stinking cow stable? Oh no, no, no, no, no, no, no. Joseph, if this is the best you can do, then step aside and let a woman take charge!” No, she didn’t react that way, although she may have been disappointed momentarily. We don’t know. But she went along with his plan, even though it was a little unorthodox, a little out of the ordinary. She trusted her husband to come through for her, and he did although in a very modest way. Mary didn’t try to compete either with her husband Joseph. We don’t see her questioning his every move. The modern women’s liberation movement or feminist movement has had some positive affects, especially in respect to more equal pay for equal work in the marketplace. But it has had mostly negative results in respect to marriage and family. For example, today, a lot of marriages consist of two persons competing against one another for power and position. The man and the woman compete for leadership in the marriage and family. And these things have hurt healthy relationships, often leading to divorce. We don’t see any hint of Mary trying to compete with Joseph for leadership of the family. God speaks to Joseph through dreams and angels, and Mary is fine with that. She doesn’t constantly challenge him with, “Well, don’t tell me about angels. Remember, I’ve seen angels also before, myself, and I could probably tell you a thing or to about them.” No. Mary supports, affirms her husband, all the while giving her care to the baby Jesus. Mary understood that in order for her to have a successful family and raise her child right she’d have to work together with Joseph in a marriage partnership, and so she understood that encouragement goes a lot further than criticism.

Now what I’ve outlined in this passage above might seem to you as radical – it’s the traditional view of marriage and family. It is. Much of the traditional view has been shaped by the Christian church teachings from the Bible for at least 2000 years. But what I’ve outlined is still the best way to do marriage and family. All the modern alternatives fail the test. The failings of marriages and families today can be traced to couples departing from the truths I’ve outlined from the Bible. But it’s up to each person. We live in a free society, and each person can chose to do what they please in respect to their relationships. You can experiment with new innovations and inventions for marriage, or you can read, learn, and follow the Bible and our Christian faith in how to do marriage and family. There are many more points I could make, but I’ll save that for another time and another teaching.

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