UNEXPECTED Peace | Matthew 1:18-25
Topic: Gospel Passage: Matthew 1:18–1:25
Unexpected Peace in the midst of a classic Christmas meltdown Intro:
Good Morning and Merry Christmas. By the way it’s ok to start saying Merry Christmas now as there are only 10 days till Christmas. Wow. Just 10 days before Christmas. I can feel the anxiety in the room... there is still so much to do, presents to buy, cookies to bake, parties to go to... Can you even spare the time to be here this morning? Some of you are tempted to multitask and shop Amazon from your phone while listening this morning. Am I right? No judgement here. Everyone just take a deep breath with me.... It’s going to be ok.
Today I’m going to be talking about peace. How to find unexpected peace in the midst of a classic Christmas meltdown. Peace seems to be so elusive during the Christmas season. We are all hoping at the end of the day we have a moment of peace, where all seems right in the world. Right? The problem is there are all sorts of expectations around Christmas, trying to relive our past Christmas memories, get the perfect gifts, try to find the Christmas spirit... whatever that is... oh and our problems don’t just go away, our life is more hectic than usual. That’s usually when the meltdowns happen. Especially when things don’t go according to plan. We used to say that it wasn’t Christmas until mom melted down and threatened to take back all our Christmas presents.
It reminds me of the classic Christmas move: Christmas Vacation.
I think it is such a classic because we can all relate in some ways to Clark Griswald. He really wants to give his family the perfect Christmas but nothing seems to go his way. He gets locked in the attic, he falls off the roof putting the Christmas lights on, His tree catches on fire, the turkey is inedible, his crazy redneck relatives show up, but when he doesn’t get his Christmas bonus... he snaps.
Sometimes life just doesn’t go according to plan. Let me ask you: What is interrupting your peace right now? What is threatening to cause a meltdown? Is it stress at your job? Is it your finances? Is it your passive aggressive family members? The attitudes of your kids?
Did you know that having a Classic Christmas Meltdown is a long standing tradition that goes back long before Clark Griswald? It goes all the way back to Joseph. Don’t believe me? Let me prove it.
Today’s text is Matthew 1:18-25. READ
The First Christmas Meltdown:
It’s easy to read past these verses to get on to the good stuff, you know shepherds, angels, and kings. But let’s for a second imagine what it is like to be Joseph. Joseph is probably no more that 18. It used to be thought that Jospeh was a bit older, but recent scholars now say that Joseph was probably still in his teen. Ok, so think about what it is like to be 18. Young, good-looking, full of life, excited for his future. He probably had big dreams about getting married, getting his own house and starting his own business. Life was going just about as well as he hoped. And that is when the first Christmas meltdown happened.
Joseph must have been crushed. Last week we learned that Mary goes on a little road trip to see her aunt Elizabeth and when she gets back she is 3 months pregnant. That’s probably all Joseph knows. He knows he isn’t the father. Imagine the fight that may hay ensued as Mary tried to explain to Joseph... or anyone for that matter how she got pregnant. No one was believing her.
So there he is... troubled Joseph... in full meltdown mode with no peace. How did he not see this coming? Angry at Mary. Depressed about his life. Probably even despairing about his faith. His hopes, his dreams, his plans... all crushed. This was probably the biggest storm Joseph had ever experienced in his life. Are you in the middle of a storm? We have all had experiences where we are melting down... Being in an impossible situation...Where it seems all is lost.
About 3 months ago I went through a pretty big storm in my life. I work in the tech industry in Seattle and I when I had my yearly review... I was laid off. Out of the blue. No warning. I was devastated. That is the best word for it. After 4 years of long hours, close friendships, and writing code... I no longer had a job. When I called my wife Rachel she said she physically felt like she had been punched in the stomach. What were we going to do? How are we going to pay our mortgage? For kids braces? Gas for the car? Food? It was absolutely terrifying.
When things go wrong, we find out where our peace actually comes from. Often we are looking to our jobs, our finances, our health, or our relationships to give us peace. How bad would it shake you to suddenly lose your job, your life savings, your house, or even your spouse? This kind of stuff rocks us.
So how do we find peace in the midst of a Classic Christmas meltdown?
- Be reconciled to God
Ok, so if you are not feeling very peaceful this Christmas, the first thing to do is make sure you are reconciled to God. I mean the whole reason Jesus came was to save his people from their sins. That is what Christmas is all about. I mean have you come to terms that you are not the great of a person, and you need someone to save you?
Even Jospeh needed Jesus to save him and he was a good guy.
The verse says he was “just and unwilling to put her to shame”. Some sermons on this verse say the main takeaway here is that we should be kind like Joseph at Christmas. What I take from this is that Joseph was a good kid, went to church, tried his best to do what it right, was genuinely kind. You know... he had a “good heart”. He helped is mom out around the house. The kind of kid we want all our kids to someday be.
Thinking we are “good people” gives us a false sense of peace. First of all, how good is good enough? Deep down that is a nagging question that steals our peace. At the end of the day we have a sin problem that we need to be saved from.
Yeah, but we don’t like to think of ourselves that way. Are we comfortable admitting that we are “bad people”. As good Northwesterners, we are polite and kind to others. We let other people go first at a stop sign. We smile and nod at our neighbors. We recycle, we give bicyclists space on the road. We don’t honk, if we do, it is a short friendly honk that says we are annoyed but not mad. We might even pay for someone else’s coffee a Starbucks... you know for good Karma. We do good to others knowing that the universe or God will pay us back in His own way. We are certainly not perfect, but try to be good. Probably a little better than most... I think
this is why it is hard for the “good” people of the northwest to believe in Jesus. They just don’t think they need Him.
And just when we start to point fingers we realize that we too have drifted into a casual “I think I’m better than others” mentality. Often times we don’t even realize we are doing it. You know, generally we are good people, right? As good Christians we go to church, pray before meals, and say “Merry Christmas” instead of “Happy Holidays”. We feel like God owes us because of our good behavior. When something goes wrong our peace is rocked because we feel like God has let us down. We might even think.... Why am I trying so hard to do what is right if God isn’t going to uphold his side of the bargain. Generally we are good people. As good Christians we go to church, pray before meals, and say “Merry Christmas” instead of “Happy Holidays”.
This is not the gospel! We don’t serve God so he will bless us. We serve him because he has already blessed us. God does not owe us. We are not better than other people. We need to soak in that reality.
 And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”  And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. (ESV)
 as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one;  no one understands; no one seeks for God.  All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” (ESV)
The Bible says we have all sinned, we have all hurt people, we have all made a mess of our lives and we need to be rescued. I mean if we are honest... we are ashamed of it. The horrible thoughts we have had. The mean things we have said. The ungrateful selfish way we go about our lives. But... that’s the whole point of Christmas. When you see presents under a Christmas tree, we need to remember that God’s gift to us that first Christmas was Immanuel “God with Us”. He is the only one that lived a truly good life. And then he died a criminals death to pay for all of our criminal activities. All we have to do is accept it, open it, and wear it. And what does it say on the front... Loved and accepted. Not based on our performance, or anything we have done. Peace with God, once and for all
Have you ever had a Christmas where you found an unopened Christmas gift days later. At our house, we wrap presents at night after the kids go to sleep, and then we hide them in random place to keep the kids from finding them. Occasionally we will find something days later that we forgot to put under the tree. Let’s not forget about this gift this Christmas. Maybe you opened your gift of God’s peace long ago, it might be time to dig it out of your closet and put it on and remember the amazing gift it is. To be loved and accepted by God. There is nothing that brings us more peace.
- Listen to God Ok... back to Joseph... when we are going through a big storm or a Classic Christmas Meltdown. When everything in our lives are going sideways... we really need to listen to God.
So for Joseph an angel shows up. Wouldn’t that be great if an angel showed up to tell us what was going on? I don’t know about you, but I have not had an angel show up to tell me what to do next.
I mean when I found out I was being laid off, it would have been amazing for God to send an angel to be like “Don’t stress... here’s what’s going on... you are going to have 2 months of vacation before I give you a better opportunity. God feels like you are under appreciated and under paid, so we are moving some things around to give you a better position.” I mean that would have alleviated so much stress.
Instead we feel like it is up to us to figure it out... you know logically. Our life is melting down and we are just supposed to figure it out??? I mean good luck.
So according to this passage, Joseph had made up his mind that he was going to divorce Mary. I mean that is what that was the right thing to do right? I’m sure that’s what his parents and friends told him to do. Logically he is doing the right thing. Here’s my question. Did he even pray about it? Is there any reason to even pray about this? Here’s what I know, wisdom from age 40: God’s ways are not our ways. The Bible says as much:
 For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. (ESV)
Joseph was completely wrong about what God wanted him to do. What seemed like devastation was God’s divine plan. This was not God’s punishment.
 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. (ESV)
When we are in the storms of life... rest assured that God has a plan. God is up to something. God may be trying to get our attention, teach us something, or he may be altering the trajectory of our life for a good reason. We need to stop resisting the storms of life and embrace them as God working.
If God’s ways are so different than our ways, why are we so convinced we know what God want us to do if we don’t ask him. We need to listen to God. So how do we do this? There are so many things in our lives that prevent us from listening to God, especially at Christmas time. 1. We are too busy. Working, sitting it traffic, shopping, cleaning the house, driving the kids around, Christmas activities, and of course when we feel completely shot there is Netflix. Life is busy, for sure. It is not going to get less busy if we don’t carve out time for God.
- Our lives are too noisy. Our lives are so full of noise. At home, it’s kids playing or fighting.
In the car it’s music or sports radio. All the other times we fill with our smart phones, Instagraming, texting, or just shopping online. 3. We can’t stop our own voice. Have you ever had a friend that never stops talking? Or a
friend that never asks about you, but rather goes on and on about their lives? Super annoying. My wife tells me that I can be this way. This bleeds into our relationship with God. We go Dear Jesus.... And then all of our thoughts, desires and wishes... and then Amen. How can God get a word in?
Samuel heard God’s voice in the quiet of the night. Elijah heard God’s voice as a whisper Jesus often got up early to be alone to hear from God.
My Soul Waits for God Alone
To the choirmaster: according to Jeduthun. A Psalm of David.
 For God alone my soul waits in silence;
from him comes my salvation.  He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken. (ESV)
When I was young, my dad grabbed his Bible and went to the mountains to pray. When he came home he said. “God wants us to sell everything and become missionaries.” Somehow, by quieting the noise around us and getting alone... we can hear from God. When was the last time you slowed down enough to listen to God. I’m not talking praying to God. In my experience, most of the time I am just praying all the thoughts running through my head. Somehow thinking that God doesn’t know what I am thinking already.
Here’s something I’ve been practicing recently. Regularly carving out time, each day, extra early in the morning before the kids get up for a cup of coffee and some time set aside to sit quietly with the Lord.. and it’s not to get through my “Read the Bible in a Year plan”. I feel like I need to tell you that.
I sit quietly and quiet my mind by thinking: “Be still and know that I am God”. I just breathe, relax, and think about the attributes of God. Sometimes I end up thinking: You are God and I am not”.
Then when I feel settled, I think: “Speak Lord, your servant is listening”. I actually try to hear God’s voice. Often I end up praying... “I am your servant, what do you have for me to do today.”
And Finally I “delight myself in the Lord” by resting in the Gospel. I am God’s beloved son in whom he is well pleased because of what Jesus has done. There is nothing I can do to make him love me more.
Then I read some scripture.
- Do what God is calling you to do
One of the reasons why we don’t have peace is because we don’t want to what God says. You know, we are Americans. We are free to live our lives as we see fit. It’s like my kids... they think that they don’t hear me, they won’t have to do what I ask. We think, I’m going to do what I want and I will ask God to bless it. Or even, I’m going to go through this door, and if God wants to stop me, he will. Maybe he will send me an angel. Who is calling the shots in your life? Sometimes, if we are honest we already know what God wants us to do, but we are resisting it. We are Jonah, after hearing from God what he should do, he did something else. Maybe that’s why God sent the storm. Often times it’s not until we are in a bad storm that we turn to God and say... ok God I’m ready to listen.
 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.  For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror.  For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. (ESV)
What if God is asking you to do something different than makes logical sense? I mean, think of Joseph... God is calling him to change the plan. God is calling him to give up the wedding. God is calling him to ruin his reputation. This is not how you have a good comfortable life. Joseph now needs to figure out where they will live, how will he provide for his family, and how will he will deal with the criticism, and also protect this most important child.
Let me remind you, “God’s ways are not our ways”.
According to one of my favorite pastors Pete Scazzero, we need to redefine what our definition of success is. Success is radically doing what God has called you to do. Even if it does not look like success.
What has God called you to do. You specifically. Who has he created you to be? Where has he asked you to live? What job has God assigned to you? Is it time to change jobs?
We need to let go of the way we have been defining success:
Success is not having a nice house. Success in not having a great reputation. Success in not the money in your bank account. Success is not how many people come to your church.
Success is radically doing what God has called you to do.
When I was deciding on where I was going to work after I was laid off I had 2 job offers. One that paid more than I was being paid before but was less exciting, and another that paid less than I was paid before but seemed more interesting. I deliberated over the decision for several days. One day as I was helping roof a friends house, I heard a voice say.. “just trust me.” I knew that God was calling me to this new job. Knowing that God was in it gave me so much peace.
- God is with you
I want to go back to the first thing that the angel said to Joseph. Do not be afraid... to do what God is asking you to do. There is much of our decisions are based on our fear and anxiety. We are afraid to really live for God. To leave our comfort to radically do what God has called you to do. One of the reasons we don’t have peace is crippling anxiety that something is going to go wrong.
 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?  Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?  And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?  And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin,  yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.  But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?  Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.  But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (ESV)
When I had no job... this was the biggest stress in my life... how was I going to buy food, clothing, Christmas presents.
Joseph was not to fear... because it was Immanuel. God With us. I’m sure knowing that God was physically there with them, gave them peace. How many times in the Bible does God tell His people not to fear? Well he tells Joseph here, but remember Moses was told not to fear, then Joshua.
 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” (ESV)
 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (ESV)
 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? (ESV)
Rock in my pocket. This summer when I was at the beach with my family was when I first start trying to carve out time to listen to God. On the beach that day I found an interesting rock, my “God” rock. I put it in my pocket to remember that God is always with me.
As I was going to interview after interview, and I had some big interviews. Some of them included solving difficult algorithms on a white board. It was intense. Before every interview I sent a few minutes listening to God before I went in. I also made sure I had the rock in my pocket. I found myself reaching into my pocket and unexpectedly finding the rock during an interview and immediately remembering. Don’t fear, God is with me.
I did end up getting a great job, and God has provided for our needs in meantime. It has not been easy season for us to trust God. I’d much rather trust my bank account. However I have found peace in a new way. Slowing down to listen and remind myself that Jesus is Immanuel. God with us.
This Christmas, I pray that you find peace. Real peace.
If you have been trying to be good enough for God as if he was Santa, only rewarding good boys and girls, you have it all wrong. Accept his free gift, and have peace with God.
For those of us in the middle of our own Christmas meltdowns, remember that God is with you and for you. His peace is always available to us. Take some time to be still before the Lord, to listen to Him, and discover the amazing adventures he has planned for you... when you simply Trust Jesus.