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Courage

 

Matt.1:18-25; 2:19-23
Bible Studies for Life, Dec. 22

 

Do you know what is SAD? For some, Christmas is SAD. They suffer from an increasingly common disorder known as Seasonal Affective Disorder. In an article entitled, “Why People Get Depressed at Christmas,” published on the website of Psychology Today, Ray Williams shares in one survey that 45% of respondents dread the Christmas season.

Why so SAD? The reasons may include time with family you really don’t want to see, low funds but greater pressure to spend, too much to do but too little time, and the commercial ideal of pulling off the perfect Christmas met with the anxiety and reality that it never really happens that way. For many of us, we do not celebrate Christ-MAS as much as we experience Christ-MESS!

Joseph was dealt the ultimate Christ-MESS. Yet through it all he remained relatively unnoticed, but extremely courageous. Joseph’s courage becomes a providential ingredient in the Christmas story. This week we will take some time to observe the courage of Joseph during the first Christ-MESS and by doing so glean some important truths that will call us to courage.

 

Courage is tested - Matthew 1:18

You may have a legitimate argument when it comes to your crazy Christmas, but try this on for size. Your fiancé is pregnant. The child is not yours, but apparently it is God’s.

The good news is that the Gospel does not meet us in the fairytale, the Gospel strengthens us most when life is at its worst.

The popular portrayal of the first Christmas is the peaceful, angelic birth of Jesus. We reinforce this romanticized image as baby Jesus sits on our mantel snug in the nativity under the aura of strategically placed Christmas lights and poinsettias, but this was not the scene Joseph experienced. Joseph’s first Christmas began with a scandal and ended in a stinking stable.

Is this your first Christmas after a loved one died? Is this your first Christmas after the divorce? Are you feeling the pressure more this season because of the economic downturn? Or is Christmas for you merely the next opportunity for your family to bring more needless drama into your life?

Joseph was not called to courage in life as we want it to be, Joseph’s courage was tested in life as it is. The good news is that the Gospel does not meet us in the fairytale, the Gospel strengthens us most when life is at its worst. The very story that becomes for us “good news” began for Joseph as a bad day.

 

Courage and difficult decisions - Matthew 1:19-23

What am I going to do? Whatever your Christ-MESS looks like, crisis brings us to the valley of decision. While courage may be seen in the midst of difficult circumstances, circumstances do not determine courage.

Courage is determined by character. Joseph’s circumstances were dire, but he was a man of great character. The Bible says he was a “just man” and did not want to put Mary to shame.

Consider your circumstances, but ask yourself only one question. Do I have the courage to do the right thing? Joseph wanted to do the right thing, but he was still not making the right decision in putting Mary away quietly. God visited Joseph in a dream and changed his perspective. This was no longer a Christ-MESS, this was an incredible opportunity.

The familiar words found in Matthew 1:23 were first uttered by Isaiah to King Ahaz hundreds of years before Christ’s birth. Ahaz was also in a mess. The surrounding peoples were in league against him and Jerusalem was their next target. He could either cower or take courage.

God sent the prophet Isaiah to share with the king the names of three prophetic children, each of which beckoned him to embrace opportunity and avoid compromise. Ahaz had no faith and so he had no courage. He lost his opportunity.

Joseph was a man of faith determined to do the right thing. As a result the Lord guided Joseph through his circumstances and helped him see that what was before him was less of a mess; it was rather an incredible opportunity. Through the lens of faith and courage, what is it that the Lord may show you that will turn your Christ-MESS into a Christ-focused opportunity?

 

Courage does what is right - Matthew 1:24-25; 2:19-23

According to psychologists, SAD becomes a cycle. Every year people allow the same season of circumstances to trigger their anxiety and depression. I wish I could say with certainty that time heals, but it doesn’t. Time may give us distance from our circumstances, but in time life is destined to deal us another difficult card.

Joseph obeyed the Lord and married Mary. Jesus was born, but this did not end the Christ-MESS.

An egomaniacal governor wanted the child’s life so Joseph hid his family. Herod eventually died, but his son Archelaus was no improvement.

How did Joseph react? He wanted to do the right thing, again. Again, the Lord guided him. For the man who wants to do the right thing, courage becomes his pattern and succeeding in the Lord’s will becomes his victory.

This year, face your Christ-MESS with Christ-focused courage. Don’t allow the circumstances to warrant a seasonal pattern of fear and failure in your life. Be courageous and faithful to Christ’s call in the Gospel. The Lord may turn your mess into an incredible opportunity.