Christmas: a Story of Service

Matt 1:18-25

18 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. 19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. 20 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. 21 And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins." 22 So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: 23 "Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel," which is translated, "God with us." 24 Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, 25 and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name JESUS. NKJV

A certain pastor was organizing an evangelistic outreach using small acts of kindness to demonstrate Christ's love. He phoned several neighborhood grocery stores and laundromats for permission to do specific services.

On one call, the employee who answered the phone hesitated, then said, "I'll need to ask the manager, but first, let me make sure I understand: You want to clean up the parking lot, retrieve shopping carts, hold umbrellas for customers, and you don't want anything in return."

"Yes, that's right," our pastor replied.

After disappearing for a moment, the employee returned to the phone. "I'm sorry," he said, "we can't let you do that because if we let you do it, we'd have to let everyone else do it, too!"

-- Ann Jeffries, Kansas City, Kansas. Christian Reader, "Lite Fare."

Last Sunday we looked at Mary and how the angel came to her with a wonderful plan for her life. Although Mary was no doubt young and had many plans for the future, yet she surrendered her plans, goals and life to God.

Today we want to look at the other main figure in this story. Joseph was engaged to Mary with plans for a wedding in the future. Mary has been on a trip and has returned from visiting Elizabeth. When she returns to Nazareth, it is evident that she is pregnant and about three months along. Joseph loved her and had no desire to punish her for what seemed to him as an illicit sexual affair.

Joseph instead determined not to ruin his life by carrying on with the marriage to Mary. He determines to divorce her, though quietly with as little public notice as possible.

But God intervenes in Joseph's life just as He had done in Mary's. The angel appears to him in a dream. He informs him of the truth of Mary's condition. He tells Joseph to go ahead and take Mary as his wife and to raise the child Jesus. The passage tells us that he does this immediately.

Just as in the case of Mary, I believe that when it came to dedication to the Lord, that Joseph was no slacker. We know little of him beside that he was a carpenter by trade, was from Nazareth and was without doubt not a rich man. As Mary was, he too was a descendant of David. His genealogy is found here in Matthew while that of Mary is found in Luke. Both were from the royal line while they were from different children of David. Joseph was a descendant of Solomon while Mary was a descendant of Nathan.

Although Joseph did not have the personal connection to the Messiah that Mary would have yet his role was more of service. Service like submission is a means to spiritual growth. Spiritual growth cannot be had without out it and it is a measure of growth.

Archbishop Secker used to say, "God has three sorts of servants in the world: some are slaves, and serve Him from fear; others are hirelings, and serve for wages; and the last are sons, who serve because they love."

  1. Joseph was being commanded to serve.
    1. We see than in verse 24 where it is said he did as the angel had commanded him.
    2. His service was still willing, he was looking to do the will of God.
    3. It was not the matter of God making Joseph do something he really didn't want to do.
  2. Joseph was serving another's interest rather than his own.
    1. This is what makes serving so unattractive.
      1. We would naturally rather do those things that would benefit us.
      2. We would rather seek our own welfare rather than that of another.
    2. This involves self sacrifice.
      1. That is the giving up of what is ours to give to another.
      2. It means putting ourselves last instead of first.
      3. As we will later this morning receive our offering for the retired pastors and missionaries we must remember their self sacrifice as they ministered faithfully to the Lord thru their lives.
  3. By serving others Joseph was really serving God
    1. It is in serving that we adhere to the demands of Jesus on us. Ga 6:2 Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.
    2. It is in serving others faithfully that we really are serving Jesus. Col 3:24 Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.
    3. It is before Jesus that we serve and not men. Eph 6:6 As slaves of Christ, do the will of God with all your heart. 7 Work with enthusiasm, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. 8 Remember that the Lord will reward each one of us for the good we do, whether we are slaves or free.
    4. The principle of serving is seen in Mt 25:34Then the King will say to those on the right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. 36I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.' 37"Then these righteous ones will reply, 'Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? 39When did we ever see you sick or in prison, and visit you?' 40And the King will tell them, 'I assure you, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!'
  4. By serving others Joseph distinguished himself in the world
    1. Mt 5:16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
    2. Phil 2: Your attitude should be the same that Christ Jesus had. 6Though he was God, he did not demand and cling to his rights as God. 7He made himself nothing; he took the humble position of a slave and appeared in human form.  And in human form he obediently humbled himself even further by dying a criminal's death on a cross.
  5. By serving others Joseph turned the world's values upside down
    1. God's way of living usually contradicts the world's.
      1. If you want to live for God, you must be ready to say and do what seems strange to the world.
      2. You must be willing to give when others take, to love when others hate, to help where others have abused.
      3. By giving up your own rights in order to serve others, you will one day receive everything God has in store for you.
    2. Look at the woman who anointed the feet of Jesus with the precious ointment. Mt 26:7 There came unto him a woman having an alabaster box of very precious ointment, and poured it on his head, as he sat at meat. 8 But when his disciples saw it, they had indignation, saying, To what purpose is this waste? 10 When Jesus understood it, he said unto them, Why trouble ye the woman? for she hath wrought a good work upon me.
    3. The world is controlled by lust. Lust say ME and not YOU. But in our lives we are controlled by the Holy Spirit. Rom 6:12 Do not let sin control the way you live; do not give in to its lustful desires. 13 Do not let any part of your body become a tool of wickedness, to be used for sinning. Instead, give yourselves completely to God since you have been given new life. And use your whole body as a tool to do what is right for the glory of God. 14  Sin is no longer your master, for you are no longer subject to the law, which enslaves you to sin. Instead, you are free by God's grace.
  6. As Joseph served others he became like Christ
    1. There is no greater example of service than that of Jesus Christ.
    2. Col 1:10 That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God;
  7. Serving others is real leadership
    1. Being a God called leader means becoming a servant. Matt 20:24  When the ten other disciples heard what James and John had asked, they were indignant. 25But Jesus called them together and said, "You know that in this world kings are tyrants, and officials lord it over the people beneath them. 26But among you it should be quite different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, 27  and whoever wants to be first must become your slave. 28  For even I, the Son of Man, came here not to be served but to serve others, and to give my life as a ransom for many."
    2. In God's kingdom, becoming great means becoming humble. Matthew 181About that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, "Which of us is greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?" 2Jesus called a small child over to him and put the child among them. 3Then he said, "I assure you, unless you turn from your sins and become as little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. 4Therefore, anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.
    3. Jesus described leadership from a new perspective.
      1. Instead of using people, we are to serve them.
      2. Jesus' mission was to serve others and to give his life away.
      3. A real leader has a servant's heart.
      4. Servant leaders appreciate others' worth and realize that they're not above any job.
      5. If you see something that needs to be done, don't wait to be asked. Take the initiative and do it like a faithful servant.
  8. The blessings of serving the Lord
    1. 1Co 15:58 ¶ Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.
    2. Joh 12:26 If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour.

Joseph did not loose his life when he gave in to the will of God. He found it.


This message was preached at FBC Toulon, by Albert Harmon. See it at