Rev. Dr. Ronald E. Braxton, Senior Pastor
Metropolitan AME Church
Sunday, December 22, 2013
Scripture: Matthew 1:18-25
Short Summary of Sermon:
If you ever start to feel short-changed, take a lesson from Joseph
(1) Joseph stay in your lane. Gods’ got this thing. Brothers and sisters before you start feeling short-changed stay in your lane and put the whole matter in God’s hand.
(2) Before you start feeling short-changed, to the best of your ability, do your part. Do what you are supposed to do. In fact, don’t just do your part, go beyond what is expected.
(3) When you start feeling short-changed, in every circumstance, situation and at all costs (whatever the cost) be obedient and faithful to God.
I want to speak for a few moments from the theme: “Before You Start Feeling Short-Changed.”
Because it did not come off just as you had planned; because you did not get the gift you were expecting – you spent all your money on the big gift, and he/she gave you a little gift; because Uncle Bubble had too much to drink and started a family feud just before ya’ll sat down to eat Christmas dinner; because nobody recognized all the hard work you put into it, and nobody said thank you. How easy it is to get to Christmas Day or Christmas Eve, and you start feeling short-changed. And it really does not have to be Christmas. It easy to feel like nobody is paying the right amount of attention to you or somebody got what you thought you were supposed to get, consequently, you started feeling short-changed.
Aaron Klink, in his Pastoral Perspective of this text writes, “American culture and media both load Christmas with false expectations of family harmony and good cheer. These images and expectations allow Hallmark and the shopping mall catalog to define the “perfect Christmas.” Some of you live by Hallmark or the multitude of Christmas catalogs that come to your house selling every thing, all defining the perfect Christmas. And so we come to this day, three days before the big day, zapped of energy; ready to get it over; sad because some tragedy happened since last Christmas; feeling empty and upset, wondering if it is worth all the money you spent and charged on your cards. When you look at all the smiles and cheers on everyone else face, and you don’t have one, you start feeling short-changed.
Here is a passing thought: If you ever start focusing on other folk and looking at what you think they have; looking at what you don’t have; you will lose sight of your own blessings, it is easy to start feeling short-changed. If you start measuring your life by someone else’s life, what they do or don’t do; what they get by with; what happens or does not happen to them, it is easy to start feeling short-changed. When it looked like “stuff” went down and you were not included, it is easy to start feeling short-changed. They didn’t invite me to the meeting; they made some decisions in the family and they didn’t include me in the decision.
I submit that it is possible that Joseph, in our text, might have started feeing short-changed. The first Christmas was not a hallmark, harmonious, perfect family Christmas. It was not a comfortable family gathering moment. A scandal caused a dark cloud to hang over the family. And guess what – Olivia [Pope] would not be able to deal with this scandal. Joseph was in the thick of it and no doubt he was feeling short-changed. Mary turned up pregnant and Joseph didn’t know anything about it. He had to have been feeling short-changed. He was engaged to be married, and Mary ended up pregnant.
I am coming to the first point that I want you to text or tweet to somebody. The Bible says, “So her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly.” The King James version says that he was going to, “put her away quietly.” The truth is that based on cultural tradition and the social rules of society during that time, Joseph had every right to have Mary killed. Feeling short-changed, but before he could execute his plan, an angel of the Lord appeared on the scene, saying: “Joseph, Take Mary to be your wife, the Holy Spirit has done this thing.” Here is the point I want you to text or tweet to somebody: (1) Joseph stay in your lane. Gods’ got this thing. Brothers and sisters before you start feeling short-changed stay in your lane and put the whole matter in God’s hand.
Some of us can witness that when we start feeling short-changed, we can come up with some crazy ideas and sometimes do all kind of crazy things. We jump from one lane to the other; we make stupid plans; we say crazy things out of our minds; our thoughts run wild. With some of the crazy mixed up stuff that can happen to us in life we need to put it in God’s hand and let God handle it, and stay in our own lane. You gotta do a whole heap of praying to stay in your lane; you gotta let God help you through the dilemma. Before you start feeling short-changed; making your plans about all the craziness; all of the madness that is going on and stay in your lane and let God direct you through the maze. You may think you’re a Superman, or a Wonderwoman, but some things belong to God.
Here is the second thought that I want you to text or tweet – somebody out there needs this: (2) Before you start feeling short-changed, to the best of your ability, do your part. Do what you are supposed to do. The text says, “When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him…” Brothers and sisters never be found guilty of half-stepping, slacking off, never be found guilty of looking for the easy way out. To the best of your ability; with all of your skills, know-how; with every bit of energy you can muster up, do your part. No, I got that wrong. Don’t just do your part, go beyond what is expected. Before you start feeling short-changed give life, give everyday, whatever the occasion or circumstance calls for, give it all you got, and go beyond what is expected.
Now, I want to be clear, it might not be comfortable; others on the outside might laugh and criticize; but go the extra mile, and do your part. I am reminded of Noah. God told Noah to build an ark on dry land. Everybody around Noah thought that Noah was stupid, or had lost his mind. A whole lot of people laughed and poked fun at Noah, saying, look at this fool building an ark on dry land. A whole lot of people it did not make much sense but in Genesis 6-7 the Bible says, “Noah did everything that God commanded Noah to do.”
Whatever is going down in your life; whatever is about to go down in your life, before you start feeling short-changed, keep in the forefront of your entire being that you cannot go wrong doing right, doing what God wants you to do. You can’t go wrong living like God wants you to live. You cannot go wrong serving others like God wants you to serve. You cannot go wrong worshipping and praising like God wants you to worship and praise. If you do your part, if you work hard everyday, before you start feeling short-changed, you cannot go wrong.
Finally, I am clear that feeling short-changed can just creep up on you. Serving and witnessing and praying and tithing, doing everything and out of the clear blue sky, feeling short-changed just creeps up in your spirit. It can show up in your spirit over the least little thing and in a moment in your life when you are dealing with so much and are just drained and down feeling short-changed can just appear on the scene. So, somebody is saying Pastor, “What if it catches me off-guard?” Tweet this to somebody: (3) When you start feeling short-changed, in every circumstance, situation and at all costs (whatever the cost) be obedient and faithful to God.
It is going to cost Joseph something. I believe that even in the process of knowing he still might have had some feeling of being short-changed. But Joseph remained obedient and faithful to God. Again, Aaron Klink makes the point, “It is helpful to think about the ways that the faithful thing to do and the faithful way to live are sometimes at odds with social convention.” In the text, Joseph disregards the conventional social rule. He is obedient and faithful to God. He takes Mary to be his wife; he takes the baby to be his earthly son, he names the baby exactly as he was directed, he names the baby Emanuel.
Life does not come to us as we expect it to all the time. Things we want, we don’t always get, and you can’t feel short-changed. Some doors we just will not walk through, and you can’t feel short-changed. Sometimes you pray and pray and pray, and the answer is “not now,” and sometimes the answer is “NO,” but you cannot feel short-changed. You look up and out of the clear blue sky, you find yourself feeling short-changed.
I am a witness, and I suspect that there are some other witnesses in here. If you are obedient and faithful to God, you gotta go through some stuff, you gotta wait on God, and you cannot feel short-changed. If you wait on God, you don’t know the blessings that God has for you down the road. You don’t know what doors God has waiting for you.
I know you did the best you could do, but cancer struck your wife. You raised those children the best you could, but they went astray; don’t feel short-changed. God’s got a blessing for you. When you wake up on Christmas morning, knowing that you can walk by yourself, knowing that you can praise the Lord by yourself, knowing there’s food on the table, give God the praises and don’t feel short-changed.
When you look back over the beginning of 2013 and look at what the Lord has done for you, you know you are blessed. Don’t ever feel short-changed; just wait on the Lord, worship the Lord.
Scripture: Matthew 1:18-25 (NIV)
Joseph Accepts Jesus as His Son
18 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet 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 conceive and 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 did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.