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An Uncomfortable Resolution

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An Uncomfortable Resolution
Presented by OrLando Yarborough III

Opening passage: Matthew 1:18–25 (NKJV) Birth of Christ

Purpose of This Presentation:
Make known/explore a broader range of how God may engage you.
Increase your likelihood of you going the distance with God.
Inspire hope and reimagine how God may work today through your situation (education, relationships, career, recreation...all the places/arrangements you dream into).
Opening passage: Matthew 1:18–25 (NKJV) Birth of Christ
Today is an era of personalization.
With long-distance communication, we choose our cell phone brand, color, size, and ringtone...whether we will send an email, regular mail through the United States Postal Service, UPS 2-Day ground shipment, or FedEx (air) overnight.
With school, we choose where we will attend, how and who will pay...and when, our major and concentration, classes...from whom we will learn and not.
With work, we choose which company/organization we'll join, whether it will be not-for-profit or for-profit, public or private, green, equitable, social justice-minded...whether we'll change states or change countries, work remotely from home, a coffee shop or show up in the office.
With technology, we choose whether our profiles will be public or private, who can follow us or subscribe for our updates, whether we may be marketed to based on our profiles and online activity, which companies may sell our personal data or not (or so we think we have that choice.)
In our relationships, we choose what name others shall call us, by what pronouns we will be referred to, and whether we take an Uber alone or carpool with strangers.
With faith, we choose our religion and how religious we will be, how spiritual we are, with whom we will fellowship, where we will attend, what we will watch, and for how long...we can personalize our playlists and customize our faith apps.
Medicine will become more and more personalized and, therefore, effective...prayerfully.
We see ourselves, for sure--selfie and all. And we know our own prerogatives.
God also sees us...and sees us for who we are.
God sees you...and sees you for who you are.
God engages you, me, today, personally...but you see, God's engagement is not always in accordance with our preferences.
...maybe I am the only one?
Let's consider (the Bible's) Joseph and Mary.
In our opening text, the writer Matthew provides a story of Joseph and Mary.
And this story of Joseph and Mary is told in the telling of the story of Jesus Christ's birth.
Joseph was betrothed to wed Mary. They committed themselves to marrying one another.
Opening Passage: Matthew 1:18–25 (NKJV)
Matthew 1:18–25 NKJV
Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.” Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name Jesus.
Theme: An uncomfortable resolution
(Let us pray)

All Planned Out

Joseph and Mary were two young adults who agreed to make their future together.
Mary was betrothed to Joseph.
Betrothal represented a permanent relationship nearly equivalent to marriage. To be betrothed was to be legally promised in marriage. In fact, breaking off a betrothal required a decision akin to divorce.
(John D. Barry et al., Faithlife Study Bible (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012, 2016), Lk 1:27.)
Joseph and Mary had taken the "big step."
You know, the "big step"...lol
Whether they had planned out the big day, I don't know.
Whether they even had a "date," as we think today about a wedding date, I don't know.
What we do know is that they were committed...to one another and to the process of marriage...to their future together.
Joseph and Mary had the next steps of their life together, all planned out. They were together, traveling a certain course.
Q: Have you ever had it all planned out...how you were going to do a thing? You set course, and things are actually going in the direction of your choosing.
That was Mary and Joseph. Patient and committed.

When Plans Go Awry For Her

Then it happens/ed: angel of God enters, stage left.
In Luke's account of the conception and birth of Jesus Christ, in Luke 1:26 the angel Gabriel visits Mary to announce
Luke 1:26–33 NKJV
Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!” But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was. Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”
-celebrate, God is with you
-blessed are you among women
-fear not
-you have found favor with God
-you will conceive in your womb and will birth a Son
-you will call His name Jesus
-and Jesus will be called Son of the Highest
-Lord God will give Jesus the throne of His father David
-of Jesus's kingdom there will be no end
This was all news to Mary...most of it.
Trying to figure this all out, Mary asks the angel Gabriel (a clarifying question),
Luke 1:34 NKJV
Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?”
--how can this be since I have not and am not having sex with a man--since I'm a virgin?
The angel Gabriel answers:
Luke 1:35 (NKJV)
Luke 1:35 NKJV
And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.
...then Gabriel expounds so as to intercept and cut off at the root any bit of disbelief that might brew in Mary's mind.
Luke 1:36–37 (NKJV)
Luke 1:36–37 NKJV
Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible.”
Mary's question clarified her own personal ability to fit into the vision and plan from God that the angel Gabriel is casting. "How can this be given who I am." Gabriel answers, "Given who you are, this is how God is doing it."
(What I love and respect about God is He doesn't dismiss the particulars of your life in order to do what He is going to do. In fact, God doesn't have to. He can work within the realm/confines of who you are because of who He is.)
This (conception and birth of Jesus) was news to Mary.
But notice the question Mary doesn't ask: why bring to earth the Son of God?
While the method of bringing Jesus through Mary was a different plan from what Mary had for herself...
The coming of Christ is for what God's chosen people--the Jewish people--had been waiting.
Now Christ was coming and in a real, tangible, tactile way.
God was resolving the issue that separated God from man--the issue of sin and its penalty, death.
The challenge was--and I've learned that with God that there is often a challenge--this proposed resolution wasn't a proposal--it was happening, and happening through the most unlikely of people.
A young couple, to be specific. Mary and Joseph.
Mary is satisfied or at least accepting of the change of her plans.
Mary's response:
Luke 1:38 (NKJV)
38 Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.
The only problem is, in my mind, Mary doesn't (first) check in with Joseph.
Not that God gave Mary a choice as to whether or not to participate. Nonetheless, Mary submitted to the full will of God.
(Side note: that's the type of wife you want. That's the type of husband you want. One who takes her cues from God. One who takes his cues from God. And one who seeks divine alignment and agreement as a first priority.)
In between this account of Mary with the angel Gabriel and our opening text in Mathew sharing Joseph's account with an angel of God, Mary and Joseph talk.
I presume Mary must have told Joseph something. Nonetheless, in three months' time, Joseph becomes aware of what is true with Mary, his betrothed wife.

When Plans Go Awry For Him

Matthew 1:16
Joseph has had some time with Mary since the angel Gabriel visited her.
Mary, early on, told God (through the angel Gabriel), "Yes, Lord, to Your will. Yes, to Your way." Now it was Joseph's time to officially decide on what side of history he would land--Mary fully agreed and aligned with God but would Joseph similarly agree and align with God?
Matthew as a writer, tells us the end of the story and then starts from the beginning...(presumably so we can observe the drama lol).
Indeed, in v16, Joseph is Mary's husband--they follow through on their intention to marry--and as a married unit, Mary births Jesus.
What I want for us to learn today is how Joseph wrestled, perhaps, with this process of events...so that we may learn not just from the outcomes (of faith) but also from the faith journey and process.
Matthew 1:18 (NKJV)
Matthew 1:18 NKJV
Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit.
1) Mary was betrothed to Joseph
2) they did not have sex during this betrothal season
3) Mary was evidently pregnant because she was showing it--Mary was "found with child."
4) Mary's child was not of any man (let alone Joseph)--Mary's child was of the Holy Spirit, was of God.
Joseph's life with Mary now comes to a critical point. This moment brings everything to a head. What had largely been a private matter was now public. Where perhaps people before speculated, they now know for sure. Mary is physically showing (to the observation of those around her) that she is with child.
I bring this forward because there comes a time when God is resolving a matter--like here resolving the world's need for a Savior through Jesus Christ--that God brings the resolution from private to public.
I submit to you that one of the biggest challenges in my own life to following God and walking with Him in His will, is when He needs to move a matter of my life from private to public.
Truth be told I am more agreeable when it is private. I am more willing to accept the assignment when I just know what the assignment is. (In fact, now I check with God--"It's just going to be me and You, Jesus? If so, then I am good. But if You think You're going to want to let other people know, then maybe we should talk about this a little more. Because I am not too keen on everyone/others knowing my business."
Story: I was in that moment of my senior year of undergrad when I was planning my next steps. In fact, all of us on my campus in my program were planning our next step. For me, it was graduate school--I don't know where I was going but I knew I was going somewhere--to somebody's graduate school...God willing. And it was indeed God willing--college was tough, I wasn't cocky, I needed a miracle.
Very few people and none of my peers knew to which schools I was applying. (You might say, well, OrLando, your recommenders knew...but I don't think that I asked a single recommender to provide me a recommendation to all of the schools to which I applied (maybe one professor but maybe not). So, collectively, yes, my recommenders knew every place to which I applied...if they were to talk to each other. But each, within themselves, only knew a few places.
And the only person who truly knew where I actually sent my application was the lady at the front desk of the post office on campus...and that's because she had to process my postage for the large envelopes I mailed--this was before submitting an entire application online. So she and I had an unofficial agreement--you don't tell, and I save face.
In the Fall, I mailed applications. In the Spring, responses started to roll in. Schools seriously considering you for a PhD in a STEM field would invite you to their campus for an in-person interview. I received my first invitation to interview. The day came. I was leaving my on-campus apartment to catch the train to travel to UPenn for their interview weekend.
I'm out the door, down to the sidewalk, when my roommate shouts after me, "SNAPS, somebody's on the phone from Yale. Want me to tell them you gone?" Me, "No, I'll take it." Now, this is the time on campus when there is a house phone that everybody shared--some of us had cell phones, but that was for friends and family to call--the cell phone wasn't a number a person would put on a professional application (we would give the house phone number).
I go back inside my apartment, and the house phone is in a communal space shared with my roommates...but the house phone has a really long cord.....so I stretch the cord, bring the phone into my room and close the door--to have a private conversation. Long story short, Yale said, "We invite you to visit our graduate program for an interview weekend, but understand--you have been admitted without an interview. We want you to come so that we may show you the program." I finish the conversation, hang up the phone, take the phone out of my room, put it back into the communal space, and leave.
Before I catch my train, I head to the STEM program office, and find my advisor, who prepares us for graduate applications and interviews. I share with her, and only her, the good news that I had been admitted to Yale--I think--and then I leave and catch my train for UPenn. Fast forward. Had a great interview experience at UPenn. They said they would let us know in several weeks whether or not we had been offered admission. I come back to my undergrad campus.
The next day I'm walking to and from class, and I hear, "Congratulations. Good job. Look at you. So proud of you." Some of the people I don't really know. I go into the STEM program office to see my application advisor for graduate school--she placed on her office door a little triangular flag sign with the word "Yale" and my name. What I told her in private, she made public. Others saw, and now my business was in the streets. I was so uncomfortable and embarrassed. And not only did she do it once, but over the course of the semester, she had seven flags on her door for me, representing where I had been accepted. And she had flags celebrating the other students, too.
My problem was that I didn't think I was that good, and, remember, I was applying, "God willing." She wanted to encourage folks, and I wanted to stay unknown.
Yes, there were plenty who celebrated with me. But there were enough who hated on me. (thinking they were better than me, and most of them were!) I was uncomfortable with how things were transpiring...even though the public elements were all successes.
God's resolution for reconciling people to Himself through His Son Jesus was a resolution that included Mary and Joseph...but it was an uncomfortable resolution.
Mary's pregnancy was now starting to show. What had been private between Mary, Joseph, and God was now made public.
Q: Why does God need so much stuff to be public--because it's through manifestation that God makes Himself known and that people come to trust Him. Yes, "people"--plural, more than just you; God wants for you to know, but He also wants for your neighbor to know, and for your neighbor to know, and for your neighbor to know. (John 14:11)
If there were ever moments, Joseph said to himself (or to Mary, or to others), "No, this must not be true," now it is evident, not only to others but to Joseph himself--the woman to whom I pledged myself to be wed, Mary, is with child (...and the child is not my own).
Not too dissimilar to an engagement today, being betrothed made a statement.
Q: If two people came in here and said, "We are engaged," what would that mean to you? How would you read it?
Being betroth said:
-we belong to each other
-we commit to mary
-we are off-limits to others
-we will make and be family
Being publicly pregnant created some issues for Mary and Joseph, and Joseph was thinking about these issues.
In fact, Joseph had now made up his mind.
Matthew 1:19 NKJV
Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly.
1:19 not wanting to disgrace her The law demanded that an adulteress receive the death penalty (Deut 22:21). However, the Jewish community of this time often did not carry out the death penalty; instead, they punished adulteresses through public disgrace.
(John D. Barry et al., Faithlife Study Bible (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012, 2016), Mt 1:19.)
While Joseph did not want to put Mary to public disgrace, he also decided not to move forward with "business as usual."
While thinking what he must do next, the text says, "...behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream..." Matt 1:20
Matthew 1:20–21 NKJV
But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”
Initially, what Joseph might have heard would have been second-hand information.
But now, Joseph is now receiving his own first-hand experience. And Angel from God speaks.
As unbelievable as it all might sound, Joseph is given his own revelation and his on assignment. Mary carries the child. You name the Child just as a father would.
1:21 you will call his name A father was responsible for naming his son at the time of his circumcision (eight days after birth). The angel’s words implicitly command that Joseph accept his role as father of the child.
(John D. Barry et al., Faithlife Study Bible (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012, 2016), Mt 1:21.)
What does Joseph now decide to do.
Matthew 1:24–25 (NKJV)
Matthew 1:24–25 NKJV
Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name Jesus.
While the revolution was uncomfortable for him, Joseph wholeheartedly accepted his assignment.
(I say "wholeheartedly" because in the Gospels, you can read about Joseph living a life different from what he and Mary envisioned for their marriage and new family. Joseph fully committed even though they would now be Fugitives, Refugees, and a Blended family.)

Why Joseph Worked For God?

In closing...
Why Joseph was a good choice for God?
Respected God. Respected himself. (Did not know Mary while betrothed. Wanted to live the standard.)
Respected people, including Mary. (Put her away secretly, not willing to make her a public example.)
Teachable. (Angel said, "Take Mary to be your wife…it’s okay." Joseph listened.)
Took the parenting role seriously. (Like when the boy Jesus was missing. Joseph searched.)

Why Mary Worked For God?

Why Mary was a good choice for God?
Humble. (Let it be to your maidservant according to your will.)
Willing to be company for Elizabeth. (Why would the mother of my Lord come to visit me?)
Willing to go the distance with God. (Mary pondered all these things in her heart.)

An Uncomfortable Resolution

We live in a period of time when we can personalize many things to our preferences.
God is personal with us but not always in ways that cater to our likes and dislikes.
At times God puts forth a resolution that is downright uncomfortable, let alone believable.
God often moves His will for us from private to public.
We have a choice to align ourselves with God's will and plan for our lives or keep to our own agenda and preferences.
Additional Information and Resources:
Continue to read the Gospels during this advent season. Notice how God works in and through people's lives.
Conclusion / Final Thoughts:

Participate in a bigger plan.

Q: has God ever resolved/begun to resolve something for you and your initial response was, “yes, but no”?
I encourage you to....
Participate in a bigger plan.
Have more peace in God’s will over Orlando’s will.
Next Steps:

Journal, Listen, Pray

To what are you open?
Are you willing to go the distance with God if what He has in mind is different from what you have in mind?
Maybe God wants more from your relationship with Him than you initially had in mind. What will be your response? What is your response—maybe you’re already there.
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