Matthew 1:18-25

A moment in time. A single heartbeat in eternity. A time when a crucial decision will define you. Henry Ward Beecher once wrote, “A person’s ledger does not tell us what they are, or what they are worth.

Count what is IN a person not what is ON them, if you want to know their worth, whether they are rich or poor.”

Mary’s betrothed was a righteous man and was unwilling to expose her to public disgrace; so Joseph planned to dismiss her quietly.

But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived within her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”


Stop. Press the pause button and let’s take Joseph’s hand and suspend ourselves in this moment with him. Forget for a moment that you know the end of this story. Let’s rise from that bed with Joseph and spend time in that foggy dream state. Let’s enter that moment in his life when what he decides to do will define him. When what we decide to do defines us.


Do I marry for love no matter how different we are, no matter how different the worlds we inhabit? Do I stay in an unhealthy relationship for the sake of the kids? Do I work harder to provide for my family, or do the kids get fewer opportunities as I spend more time at home with them? Do I try and keep my ailing spouse at home, or, for their own safety, place them in a long term care facility? Is chemo and radiation an option? Is the time they will give me worth the quality of life I lose while I undergo the treatments? And a thousand other life questions. Moments that occupy space in eternity. Moments where it is all on you.

This is not a sermon about providing answers because the only right answer is the answer that is right for you.


So, lets just sit with Joseph not directing, not offering advice, not trying to resolve this issue for him. Let’s just sit with this righteous man.

This man who has the ‘blue blood’ of King David running through his veins. This orthodox Jew. This man who is a leader in the synagogue. An uncomplicated man which is why he has earned the title of being a master builder. He is good at resolving construction problems, of reading blueprints and making plans take life. A man who can measure, weigh, calculate and get the answers. As Max Lucado says, “Joseph was a carpenter. He made things to fit. He squared off edges. He followed plumb lines.    He measured twice and cut once. Surprises are not the friend of builders. He followed blue-prints and likes to know the plans before he begins.”

Men are not complicated beings. They do one thing at a time and, when that is done, they move on to the next thing. No multi-tasking here. They don’t like to be confused. Simple. Straightforward. This righteous Joseph understands what the law demands of him. He has already decided to put Mary away quietly. As a leader in the community and the synagogue, he can not marry a woman who is already pregnant, whether he believes her story or not. Legally, she should be stoned to death for defiling her oath to Joseph. But he is not a man without a heart. He has empathy for her and her situation. So he will put her away quietly which is really pretty decent of him.

So why does he keep tossing about in his bed at night? Why is he plagued with these dreams? Why can’t he focus at work during the day?

His simple black and white world is being shaken. “What if Mary is telling the truth about who the father is? Why would she lie about this? It has only made her own life more difficult. She has already had to get away from the rumours, the side glances and the open scorn from the villagers. And where does she find refuge? In her elderly cousin, who’s lump in her belly also defies reason and has struck Zacharias dumb.

But Elizabeth has always been good to Mary. So what am I suppose to do? My family will never welcome her into their home. Am I supposed to give up my family? Who will support them? My little brother John knows the business but he is pretty young. Dad would have to come out of retirement to help out. I would have to pack everything up and go live who knows where with Mary. Am I supposed to give it all up because of dream? Yet, I know it is deeper than a dream. Something is stirring deep within, a beating that won’t cease, thoughts what won’t end, and an impulse to trust in something so opposite to who I am. Will I still be a righteous man if I do this? What of love?


Don’t go anywhere. Don’t try to take this moment somewhere where it is not ready to go. These moments are sacred because they define us. Again, the only right answers are the answers that are right for us. And if we make a wrong decision, well, God has been shown to be pretty good at fixing our mistakes.

If Joseph had decided not to follow the dream, if he had decided not to sacrifice everything he had, if he  had decided not to defy the law, and put Mary away quietly, the world would not have blamed him.

Rather, the world would simply have never remembered him. God would have found another way for with God nothing is impossible. But with God, with faith in a living God, with faith in a God who is wiser than we, Joseph’s decision made him a man known throughout the world as a man of great faith.

For that is what faith is; when you are willing to give up everything and head into the great unknown simply because you believe that God talked to you in a dream.


Hear these words again. “A person’s ledger does not tell us what they are, or what they are worth. Count what is IN a person, not what is on them, if you are to know their worth, whether they are rich or poor.”


I would suspect that if each of us would take more time to allow ourselves to be suspended in these critical moments of life instead of being is such a hurry to resolve them; if we spent more time reflecting and praying within these moments, spent more time listening for the heartbeat of eternity, then maybe we would make better decisions; maybe we would become better people; maybe the world would become a better place and take one more step towards unrolling God’s plan for this world.




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