Intro Michael Ngubane
We greet the brethren, here in this auditorium, in South Africa, Africa and worldwide, in the name of our Saviour Jesus Christ. We thank the Lord that we can meet around His word. We are amazed at the wisdom of God and that which He imparts to our leaders. We have just held a Youth Conference which seemed an impossibility due to all the challenges. We can be in our comfort zone and not realise the state that the youth are in. This is a time to be alert. God’s name and everything pertaining to the faith is being trampled on. We are facing a spiritual war greater than the world wars and Satan comes in subtle ways. The Youth Conference went well and ended on a high note – the march in Durban where we stood for Christian truths and values. This season belongs to the Christ child.
Today’s message is about two young people and the lessons we can learn from them. Many young people think they are right, and when they were young did not obey their parents. But, it will catch up on them – there’s no getting away from it. There is a saying in Zulu that says, ‘Dove, fly on but ahead your feathers will be plucked.’
18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfil what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). 24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25 but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus. Matthew 1:18-25
God wanted to bring this to the world. It was the theme of the angels’ message – good tidings of great joy. We need this joy. It is inexpressible and can be experienced in God’s presence alone through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, who was presented on that day. Joy is an engine that propels you to extremes. Some people are sick and the reason is because they carry unnecessary burdens which destroy their lives. Joy is infectious. It is more infectious than Covid has ever been. Someone once sent me a clip which showed people travelling on a train. It was in the morning. People looked tired, unhappy and depressed. One passenger had a tablet or cell phone which he began looking at and as he did so, he began laughing at something funny. After a short time, others who were watching him began to chuckle. One after another the laughter spread. The laughter was infectious. Everyone in the coach of the train was eventually laughing. Christianity is like this. This joy is contagious. We must never forget that joy is a fruit of the spirit. If the world would have this joy, what a world wouldn’t we live in?
What is the opposite of joy? Misery. Dejection. Doldrums. Sorrow. Depression. Suffering. Joy can overcome all of this. When you have joy, you allow others to help you. When I started working on the farm at the mission a number of years ago, Rev Stegen would send someone who knew nothing about farming, to tell me how to do something. How often it is that you do not want to be told by someone whom you feel knows nothing about your field of expertise. Joy saves a person from becoming a victim. If you have become a victim, somewhere along the way you have lost the joy.
Joy brings unity. That is why the Lord said, “Joy to the world.” Joy creates something by His grace. It melts people together. When everyone is filled with the same spirit, there is a unity. You cannot work together if one person is grumpy.
The joy the world gives is like fool’s gold. The world portrays this on advertisements. For example, in advertisements of Coke or beer people are always happy. Fashionably dressed women are always laughing. Do not be deceived by Satan. He is a master at getting you to do something and then torturing you thereafter. It is not worth it.
We cannot really grasp all the implications of this Christmas event. Mary and Joseph were two young people. How Joseph found out or heard about Mary being with child, the Bible does not say. Somewhere, somehow, someone must have whispered it in his ear. It must have taken courage to tell Joseph. Joseph, however, was an exceptional man. He did not make impulsive decisions. He was a man of quality. He was not flippant. He must have been shocked. Mary, whom he loved and whom he was going to care for, had let him down. This must have pierced him. We do not know whom he spoke to about the matter.
Today the world would be very happy if events happened in the way they did with Mary and Joseph. This is how things are done nowadays. A while ago I met an agnostic. He told me how many girls he had had before he got married. He spoke openly and unashamedly about all the dirt he had been up to. Sometimes the people with the loudest mouths live in this manner. They are loud to cover up the dirt they have been busy with. God in heaven will catch up with them one day.
For Joseph and Mary, this event must have brought everyone to a standstill. Sometimes when God does and says things through others, it goes against the grain and man cannot accept it. When we reflect on where we have come from in the past year and what we have experienced, we can understand what Joseph and Mary must have experienced. It is often the people who have made the biggest mistakes who make the most noise.
Joseph and Mary kept this event a hidden secret, a mystery. We do not hear them defending themselves because they knew the truth about it. Young men, examine the quality of this man, Joseph. When Joseph heard about Mary’s pregnancy, according to their tradition, she should have been stoned. When a girl was found guilty of adultery, she had to be stoned. I wonder whether Mary wondered whether that would happen to her. Joseph had the right to report her, and he would have had to report her to the authorities. He would have been in trouble if he had not reported it. The authorities would have said that he had fathered the child. He was put into a corner. Humanly, it was impossible to be pregnant without a man. These things must have gone through his mind. What must have happened in his heart? It must have seemed like the end of world. His fiancée was pregnant and what anguish he must have gone through. However, Joseph grasped the mystery. He knew he had to do things differently. He was not willing to harm Mary. He had true heavenly love for Mary. This is the absolute opposite of the world today. People tread on corpses. Christians are even prepared to trample on corpses to achieve their goals. If you gossip about someone else it does not matter, as long as you get that person back.
Think about how God works. When God works it seems as if it is a complete disaster because it goes against our thinking. We need a spiritual heart that opposes our human heart.
Joseph’s world must have crumbled when he received the news about Mary. Joseph did not murmur and cry - which was another quality of this young man. He somehow grasped the mystery. He decided to do something so that no one would get hurt. It is a disgrace when Christians do something to hurt their fellowmen. God has a greater plan than we can ever imagine or worry about.
Joseph and Mary must have been the talk of the town, “Have you heard?” “Who is guilty?” “Who is innocent?” You can imagine the gossip that went around. I must underline this: Gossip is something you must make right. You are not where you should be because of gossip. Many people have been shipwrecked because of something that has been whispered in their ear. Imagine what it must have been like when people saw that Mary was pregnant? She kept it a secret. She knew what the truth was. She knew what God had said to her. Friends, it is important to hold on to what God says to you. Mary was confident about what was happening in this situation. When she was told what God was going to do, she went to Elizabeth who was expecting John the Baptist. It may have been a way of escape. When she entered the house, Elizabeth experienced something and she knew without having to be told, what was happening. If the Lord does not speak to you, you will be pulled along by the crowd. These two people grasped the meaning of God speaking to them. You need a relationship with the Lord. Take time to be with the Lord. Does God speak to you, or do you only hear what your wife says? Her opinion is the opinion. Do you tell your wife to pray and then do what the Lord tells her to do? My wife works. How can I tell my wife what to do and what not to do if she is called into God’s work? How can I dare remove her from where God has put her? I must be one with that.
Joseph also has a different spirit. He was a just and upright man. Just can mean he was a man of mercy. We would have gone into a spin if we had we been in Joseph’s shoes. Ask the Lord to make you upright and just. Have you knelt and asked the Lord to do this for you? Joseph knew that he would not disgrace Mary. There are things that you expose because they must be exposed. He who goes about as a talebearer reveals secrets, but he who is trustworthy and faithful in spirit keeps the matter hidden. Proverbs 11:13 (AMPC) There are two sides. We need to walk with the Lord to know what to do and when to do it. Joseph did not want to disgrace her because he knew what could happen. In time the truth was vindicated.
20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. God intervened. Joseph must have had a spirituality far greater than we can imagine. He understood what the angel said. As he contemplated…What we think, influences our lives. We must be wary of what we think because then we draw our own conclusions about a situation. God saw Joseph in this situation. God saw that he was willing to be merciful and in the right time, and God intervened.
What is your relationship with God? When strangers meet you, do they sense that God is involved? We host many visitors for business and I often show them around. The reactions of people are interesting. One visitor made this comment when we had finished: “There is something about this place…there is a peace…there is the presence of the Lord.” It would be heartbreaking if people visit you and leave untouched. Young girl, can God notice your life and how you live? It does not mean you have to be perfect, but does God notice you? You need a relationship with God. Yes, you must have a relationship with your counsellor but at the end of your life, you must be ready and you can only do it if the Lord is with you.
24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, He did what the angel commanded him. He never doubted. He did not ask others. What grace that he did not do something else. What consequences would there have been if he had not obeyed. God will help us. He will not forsake us. God’s children will receive the right thing at the right time.
Where do you learn obedience? Does it just happen? Child, God gave you parents. The parents’ job is to teach you obedience. Many do not understand this. This is a school the child must go through. Children must learn obedience at home. Where did your children learn to be naughty? Mother, you have not taught the child. It is the parents’ responsibility. It is not wrong to pray. Hope is always there, and God will intervene but not in the way you think. Samuel was brought up in a particular way, with certain discipline. He was taught. You cannot pass school without a teacher. You need your parents to teach you. We need parents. If you do not have parents who discipline you, you can cry. Remember the university student who was dying. On her deathbed she said to her mother that she had taught her many things – how to hold a wine glass, how to flirt and so on - but the daughter told her mother that she had never taught her to die.
Joseph was told that the child would be called Jesus which means He will save His people from their sin. Immanuel, God with us. Suddenly things came into perspective. We do not know what Mary’s parents said to Joseph. They may have told Joseph to marry her, otherwise their family would have been disgraced. Joseph was in tune with God – on the station. My question: Immanuel, God with us - is that your life? Have you been longing for a Saviour to save you?
In 1829 two men, James Porter and George Wilson had robbed a mail carriage. They were caught and were to be executed by hanging. Porter was executed on schedule. He got what he deserved at that time, but Wilson had to wait. He had influential friends who asked President Andrew Jackson and he issued a formal pardon for Wilson. He had to spend 20 years in jail. Wilson chose to decline any pardon. The Supreme Court determined that a man cannot get the benefit of the pardon if he does not accept it. A pardon is an act of grace, but delivery of the pardon is not completed without acceptance by the guilty man. We must accept what God gives. He grants us pardon and He wants to save completely. Joseph got up then and did what he was supposed to. He did it immediately. May we do the same and may it be said of our lives – Immanuel, God with us.