Anticipation, Part 4: Trust & Obey (Matthew 1:18-25)

Luke tells the story of Christ’s birth largely from Mary’s perspective, while Matthew tells it largely from Joseph’s. No attempt is made to bring them into alignment in an artificial way. Instead, each provides historical facts from a different point of view. And yet, both accounts are needed to get a fuller depth and perspective on the whole story. What’s common to both accounts—among other things—is the virgin birth of Jesus. That’s the non-negotiable for each writer. As the Apostles’ Creed says:

I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit
and born of the Virgin Mary.

It’s a reminder that God still does the supernatural. The surprise, however, is that he uses ordinary people to carry out his extraordinary plan. According to rabbinic tradition, Mary would have been about 14-16 years old at her engagement, and Joseph would have been about 18-20. They were two ordinary young people. Godly people, to be sure, but ordinary just the same, made of the same “stuff” as everybody else.

All through the Bible, we see God using the most unlikely people to do his best work. Sometimes we miss it because what God does through them is so extraordinary, we just assume he does it through extraordinary people: Moses parting the Red Sea with just a rod. David dropping Goliath with just a rock. Elijah calling down fire from heaven with just his voice. Next to these folks, we might feel like underachievers. And we might be tempted to say, “How could I ever be like any of any of those people? What’s the use? I’ll never amount to anything in the kingdom of God.” 

What we often miss is that it was God who did the extraordinary deeds, not his people. It was Godwho parted the Red Sea, not Moses. It was God who guided the trajectory of that sling stone, not David. It was God who sent the fire to Mount Carmel, not Elijah. Not only that, in between the mountaintop experiences of those people’s lives, we miss the struggles they had in the valley—the wavering, the uncertainty, the self-doubts, the frustrations, sometimes even the deep depressions and wrestlings they had with God when pushed to their limits. 

Mark it down: God can use ordinary people to carry out his plan. So, don’t ever look at your life and think, “I could never be used by God. I don’t have the gifts, or skills, or talents that others have.” Absolutely not. God is not attracted to your abilities, nor is he distracted by your inabilities. What’s important to him is your availability.

Joseph made himself available to God’s plan. He trusted God’s Word and obeyed God’s word, even when it was hard. In many ways, Joseph is the unsung hero of the Advent. What would have happened in history had he not obeyed the Word of the Lord? Would Christmas have happened at all? His life reminds us that God’s people prepare for Christ’s coming by trusting and obeying him. So, let us prepare well for the Lord’s return.

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