Saturday, December 14, 2013


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.  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. 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.  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." All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: "The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel"—which means, "God with us."

When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.  But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus
(Matthew 1:18-25).

A young secretary left the office building where she worked, only to find that her car had a flat tire.  It was a bitterly cold day and the sunlight was fading fast.  Some men who worked in the same building saw her problem and helped out by changing the tire.  As they worked, they joked about how their “good deed” should appear in the town paper, which often ran articles about helpful people.  But after the laughter settled down, they decided that this situation wasn’t special enough to warrant such attention.  If there had been some drama—maybe if the woman was pregnant or some thugs had been loitering nearby—that would have been newsworthy.  But ordinary people in ordinary situations just don’t make the news.

I imagine that you’d agree—ordinary people doing ordinary things don’t get much media attention.  Newsworthy people are those who hold positions of authority, whose decisions affect the stock market, public policy, and the assignments given to our military.  This tendency is also seen in the Church—there are a select few whose names we remember—names like Moses and David, Peter and Paul.  These men of God are remembered for the great things they did; they were the “headliners” of their times.

But the ordinary people who fill the earth are important too.  How much could the headline makers achieve without common people to support them or follow them?  This is especially true in the Church.  The great theologians preserve God’s truth, and the masterful preachers inspire, but it is in ordinary lives where “the rubber meets the road.” Ordinary people doing ordinary things—that is where the great battles of faith happen, that is the place where souls are won for heaven or lost to hell.  Being ordinary does not mean you have nothing to contribute—as an example, let’s consider the man named Joseph.

Some have called Joseph “the forgotten man of Christmas.”  There was a church that was putting on a Christmas pageant.  The afternoon of the play, a worried mother called the church office to say that her young son, who was to be Joseph, was too sick to leave the house.  The teachers did not have enough time to get another youngster ready for the part, so instead they wrote Joseph out of the script.  That night, very few noticed that the cast was incomplete.  The Christmas story is about ancient prophecies fulfilled, angels singing of Good News for all the earth, a virgin and her holy Child, and a darkened world receiving the light of its Savior.  Joseph is just not all that important to the story—but he was important to God.

Joseph was a very ordinary man living a very ordinary life.  The Bible doesn’t say much about him.  We first meet Joseph as a man engaged to be married.  His fiancee is Mary.  Like billions of people throughout history, he is going to get married and have a family of his own.  I’m sure that he was filled with happiness as he looked forward to his wedding day.  Joseph had some big names in his family tree, but he himself was nothing special.  He lived in Nazareth, an unremarkable village in the back country of Galilee.  He had the callused hands of a carpenter.  He was not in a position to give his young bride everything her heart might desire, but they would have each other and enough to live happily.

Joseph was a man of good character.  We see proof of it when his plans for a happy life with Mary seemed to hit a disastrous obstacle.  Mary had been away for three months visiting her cousin Elizabeth who was pregnant and would soon give birth to John the Baptist.  When Mary came back to Nazareth, everyone could see that she was pregnant.  Joseph must have felt hurt, betrayed and humiliated.  We can only imagine what was going through his mind.  But his racing thoughts were moderated by two things—his love for Mary and his love for God.  Because he loved Mary deeply, Joseph did not want to hurt her; and because he loved the Lord, Joseph wanted to do the right thing.  Mary was pledged to Joseph; cheating on him was forbidden by law.  If Joseph had decided to press charges, the consequences for Mary would have been severe.  So instead he decided to divorce her quietly in order to cause her as little trouble as possible.  Certainly this is evidence that Joseph was a righteous man who was guided by the love of the Lord.

It was at this point that God helped Joseph with his dilemma.  The Lord sent an angel to let Joseph in on what was going on. 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.  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.  Can you what was going through Joseph’s head?  As a faithful Jew, this humble carpenter had been waiting for the Messiah, the agent of God who was coming from heaven to save His people.  How incredible to think that he, Joseph, a man who was nothing special, was involved in the coming of the King!

And so this ordinary man became a vital part of God’s salvation plan.  Although he was in the background, Joseph had an important role to play in the Savior’s early life.  He obeyed the angel and took Mary to be his wife.  He loved her and cared for her as they traveled to Bethlehem where she gave birth to the Christ Child in an outbuilding filled with animals.  When King Herod tried to murder the holy child, Joseph again obeyed the command of God and took his family to safety in faraway Egypt.  When it was safe to return home, Joseph kept the family fed and clothed, and taught his foster Son the carpenter’s trade.  This ordinary man was not so ordinary when he served the will of God.

The story of Joseph is a perfect example of how God usually works—He uses ordinary people to carry out His will on earth.  Even those considered great in the kingdom of God usually came from humble beginnings.  Before he was Israel’s king, David was a shepherd boy.  Moses spent 40 years as a herdsman before God spoke to him from the burning bush.  Jesus chose disciples with humble backgrounds—Peter was a fisherman, for example.  This is the way God usually works; Paul writes in 1st Corinthians chapter one, Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth.  But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.  He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him

These words might also be said of us.  As we look at ourselves and those who join us in worshiping Christ, we see ordinary people who spend their time doing ordinary things—getting married and having children, playing sports and attending school activities, going to work and lounging in front of the television.  We are ordinary people.  But we are also God’s people, and no child of God can truly be ordinary.  Peter says, you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people who belong to God (1 Peter 2:9).  We are people who have been touched by the grace which comes down from heaven.  God has made us see that we are miserable sinners who are not worthy of love.  He has called us to forgiveness through faith in Jesus the Messiah.  He has taught us to trust Him and call Him “our Father.”  He urges us to give our entire being to Him as a “living sacrifice” so that our every word and deed might show Him the highest respect and the greatest honor.  Although we live ordinary lives, every day can be something special when we dedicate it to the Lord.  Paul writes in 1st Corinthians 10:31, whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.

Just think what this means for our lives!  We are God’s children, chosen by His grace, cleansed by the blood of Christ, and renewed by the power of the Holy Spirit.  The world we live in was created by God to be perfect, filled with love and joy and praise for its wonderful Creator.  But sin has mauled this world, robbing it of happiness.  Sin has distorted human thinking so that people only focus on themselves and how much they can get.   As a result, we have the task of being influential “salt” and a ray of hopeful “light” as we go through our daily routines.  As our ordinary lives touch the lives of others, God can use us to share something that is extraordinary.

We live in the age of the spectator.  We turn on the television and see incredible things, like a man walking on the moon.  We go to the movies and are blown away by the special effects.  Video games let us do things (virtually) that would ordinarily be impossible.  All of these mind-blowing experiences can make the day-to-day stuff seem pretty dull.  Sadly, this attitude can also affect life in the church.  Worship just doesn’t seem very exciting.  There aren’t many heroes in the church any more, great leaders who get you excited about following Jesus.  For many Sunday worshipers, nothing that happens there can equal the excitement of the afternoon’s football games.

Nevertheless, there is something exciting about living as a Christian.  The little things you do each day can have eternal consequences.  How well you teach your children about Jesus has a huge impact on how much they value having a loving relationship with the only one who can save them.  Each day we have all sorts of opportunities to practice God’s command to love our neighbors as ourselves—or to turn away from the Lord by being cold and selfish.  Each day we participate in the battle between darkness and light; Satan tempts us to let destructive passions rule our hearts, while the Holy Spirit urges us to walk in the ways of righteousness.  Christians butt heads with each other over keeping traditions and exploring change.  Only God’s Word, studied and applied, can bring these conflicts to a satisfying conclusion.

Praise God because He does great things through ordinary people.  There are homes where Christ is welcome and the members of the household build each other up to face the battles of life.  There are Christians of all ages who are living their faith as they attend school, earn a living, and hang out with their friends.  There are followers of Jesus who do volunteer work for the needy, visit those in hospitals and nursing homes, teach Sunday School, and share their faith when the opportunity presents itself.  These individuals probably won’t be remembered with a plaque somewhere; they won’t be featured in the news or have people calling them to say “thank you.”  They are just ordinary people, God’s ordinary people. 

Are you just an ordinary person doing ordinary things?  Or are you willing to let God do something extraordinary with your life?

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