Matthew 1:18-25 18 This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. 20 But after he had considered 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 home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”–which means, “God with us.” 24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.
Luke 2:15-19 15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” 16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.
On this Christmas weekend, I want to talk to you about your mind and your heart. A whole lot goes on in our minds and in our hearts that isn’t known to anyone but us and God. As you unwrap gifts, tonight/today you might be thinking, “Ewww!” while you smile and say, “Thanks, I love it!” Or maybe you will think, “O good, this would be perfect for Aunt Ethel. I will re-gift it to her!” Our minds and hearts are secret spaces where only we and God knows what we think and are considering.
It is in our mind and in our hearts that convictions are held, decisions are made, and paths are taken. It is in our minds and hearts where Christ is truly Lord or we are lord of our own destinies. Full surrender isn’t about outward behavior, but it is about an inward desire and obedience at the highest level.
Look at Joseph’s story. Matthew 1 tells us that Joseph’s mind is just like ours. We make decisions based on our own understanding and the facts as we see them. He did, too. Mary is suddenly pregnant, and the baby isn’t his. What is he to conclude except that Mary has been unfaithful to him. In his mind, there is no other explanation. His mind starts to process the options. He thinks through the possible scenarios and the “what ifs” based on the information that he has. He uses reason and logic, of course. He goes into decision mode. He leans toward calling the engagement off which back in that day was considered divorce.
Matthew tells us something strategic about Joseph. Verse 19 tells us he was a righteous man. That means he walked with God. He wanted to get things right. What God wanted for his life mattered to him. He was one of the good guys. Even though he must have been hurt, even though he must have felt betrayed, even though he must have been crushed at the thought of calling off the wedding after the plans had been made and the dreams had been dreamed, he still wanted to “do the right thing.”
New information was given to him by angel. It was a new level of processing he would need to do. This information superseded facts. It defied logic. It was a level of thinking way beyond human reasoning and feeling. This information, because it was from God, was a game changer for Joseph. It didn’t matter what he had been considering, what he had been planning, what he had decided would be the best response to this difficult situation, the plan in his mind went not just to the back burner, but off the table when God’s plan was presented to him.
What I see in his actions is this:
Joseph wanted to do a decent thing, but he surrendered to a Divine thing.
In spite of what he may have been feeling, in spite of what others would think about him as many, no doubt, would consider him a fool for going through with the ceremony, in spite of it all, Joseph allowed his mind to be changed by God.
Joseph, being a righteous person, being a good guy, wanted to try to keep things on the down low as much as possible. Even though I am sure he was destroyed by the thought that Mary cheated on him, he still wanted to treat her with care. His decision to divorce her “quietly” as the text says was a sign of love and respect for Mary and her family.
It was respectful of Mary and her family.
He didn’t want her to suffer more than she would already suffer as people would talk about her and label her. He wanted to protect her from public scandal as much as possible. What an upstanding and decent guy! The plan he had in his mind involved more than just his desires, but Mary’s needs as well. From that standpoint, his thoughts were good thoughts, decent thoughts.
Divorcing her quietly was kind given the fact that in that day and time, a woman found in Mary’s circumstances could have been stoned to death. In that respect, Joseph’s plan was the “high road” in the eyes of society.
It was the “high road” in the eyes of society.
After all, he had rights, and the law was on his side.
Even though Joseph’s mind was set on doing the best he could in the midst of what he perceived to be were bad circumstances, God had a better plan. And when God’s plan became known to Him, Joseph stood down. Joseph surrendered.
You might be a moral person. You might be one of the “good guys.” You may be someone who thinks through things well and excels at making good decisions, at making the most of a bad situation. That is commendable. But one thing we need to remember, is that even the best earthly plan from the most moral or righteous person, pales in comparison to the plans God has for us.
We can reason well. We can examine facts well. We can even learn to suspend our emotions to think logically as Joseph must have done in order to come up with a decent plan, but when the Divine plan is revealed, we must stand down. It doesn’t matter who we impress or what earthly standards we meet, if we aren’t obeying God, we are missing the mark.
When we give our minds to God, His ways become more important than our ideas and plans. Let’s lay down even our most decent designs in order to pick up the Divine blueprints God has for our lives. Let’s face it. Not everything is as it seems. Not everything can be processed correctly with our earthly minds. Every problem can’t be solved through our limited human reasoning skills. We must allow God to have His say and His way in our lives even when it contradicts human reasoning.
Some of you here right now need to reconsider what you have been considering. Perhaps some of your plans aren’t the result of an encounter with God, but are the result of your best possible brainstorming. There is more. There is a miracle on the other side of surrender to God’s plans for each and every situation you face. Some of you here right now have made a decision about something you are planning to do after this holiday season. I believe that is straight from the Holy Spirit. You may have formulated a plan, but God has a plan with a purpose for your life. Like Joseph, give up the decent thing to experience a Divine thing.
Mary allowed a hard thing to become a heart thing.
When we read the Christmas story, we read it like it is water off a duck’s back. We have heard it so many times, we can recite it in our sleep. Luke 2:6-7 “6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” While that is all fact, it wasn’t a matter of fact experience for any of the Christmas characters and certainly not Mary.
There is nothing easy about finding out you are pregnant due to a miracle and a miracle all of the sudden. There is nothing easy about trying to explain that to your fiancé, his family, your family and the rest of the town. There is nothing easy about being young and being told you have been selected to bear the Son that would save the world. It isn’t easy to be told from the onset of His life that through His life’s mission, you would suffer as if a sword would pierce your heart (Luke 2:35). It isn’t easy to know that your Son’s very existence would cause division, drama, and ultimately His death.
Luke 2:19 tells us Mary allowed all of her processing to go beyond just a thought-level, beyond just a mind-level, and allowed it to stir around and soak around in her heart.
This was TMI. This was too much information to just try to deal with in her mind. It went beyond a decision or two. This wasn’t surrendering just to a next step, but to a total life change. Mary was taking to heart the role that God had assigned her to play in human history. Mary was willing for the Holy Spirit to overshadow her body and life for the rest of her life.
It was hard to understand. How does it all happen? The virgin birth? The training of a Son who is the Messiah? How do you do that? Some of us as parents get concerned that we have our children in the right sport or right creative outlet, but Mary had to figure out how you prepare a Messiah! And just how would He save the world? What did it mean for her as His mother? She had questions from the beginning.
It was hard to live out. This wasn’t a short-term mission commitment Mary was making. This wasn’t just a few years she would sacrifice. This was for the entirety of His life. She would watch Him be ridiculed. She would watch Him be falsely accused. She would watch Him be beaten. She would watch Him die. I am sure at several points along the journey she would question God. “How can this be part of the plan if He is the Savior? If He is the Deliverer? If He is the Messiah, why is He suffering?”
I truly believe if God hadn’t held Mary’s heart, if she hadn’t surrendered to God’s plan in her heart from the beginning, it would have been too hard for her to deal with, too hard for her to follow through. This is what I believe: When our hearts are surrendered to God, He can do in and through us what we never imagined. Supernatural strength becomes ours. Peace becomes ours. Power becomes ours.
When God has our hearts, hard things become Heaven’s opportunity to work in and through us.
But when we don’t give our hearts over to God for Him to do His work in and through us, we just get mad when we don’t understand why life is so hard. Instead of experiencing God we blame God for life not being fair, we accuse God of being cruel, or we doubt He is even there at all. When we don’t allow God to work in our hearts, we just make up our minds to go our own way. We just cut people off and cut people out of our lives because it is too hard to deal with them. When we don’t allow God to work in our hearts, we just experience what life can do to us rather than what God can do through us in spite of our circumstances.
What I think God wants you to hear this Christmas Season is that there is a God to know and experience. He wants to change the way you think about everything, including the decisions you are wrestling with right now. He wants to change the way you experience everything by taking control of your heart. If you will surrender your mind to Him, if you will surrender your heart to Him, He will equip you, empower you, encourage you, and use you in miraculous ways and in ways that bring contentment to you and deliverance to many others.
Life won’t be easier, just sweeter. Life won’t be more fair, just more joyful. Life won’t be less painful, just more purposeful. Life won’t be less confusing, just more contented. Life won’t be less complicated, just more simple as you follow the One who is the Light of the World and the way out of this life and into eternal life in Heaven.
Take in the Gift of Christmas. Allow God to change your plans. Take in the Gift of Christmas. Allow God to do a work in your heart. You will be eternally glad you did.