Sermon Dec. 9, 2012

The theme for our Christmas season this year is generosity.  So here’s the question: “What is generosity?”   Let me show you.   How many of you like chocolate?  I brought some chocolate to share with you.  Am I being generous if I give you a Hershey’s miniature chocolate chip?  What if I gave you a regular size Hershey’s chocolate chip?  Obviously neither would be generous.  Would a miniature Hershey’s candy bar or a snack size Hershey’s candy bar, be generous?  What about a regular size Hershey’s candy bar or a King Size Hershey’s candy bar, would either of them be generous?  Would this extra large Hershey’s candy bar be generous?  Which of these candy bars illustrates being generous?  None of them do.  So what is generosity?  This is generosity.  (get out 5 lb. bar)  This is a five pound Hershey’s candy bar.  It’s huge!  There’s no comparison between this candy bar and these.

Have any of you seen a 5 pound Hershey’s candy bar before?  I brought one several years ago, and Brad and Jane brought me one from Hershey Pennsylvania.  I’ve been looking a long time for another 5 pound Hershey’s candy bar and found it at Dillon’s Grocery store in Macpherson.

Five pound Hershey candy bars are rare and hard to fine; they’re unusual.  They’re also expensive and cost a lot. That’s tells us something about generosity. Generosity is rare and hard to fine, it’s unusual.  Generosity is expensive and costs a lot. That’s not all.  This candy bar looks nice in the wrapper and box.  But for you to be able enjoy it, I have to take it out of the box, (do it) unwrap it. (do it).  I can’t hang on to the candy bar, I have to let go of it.  Generosity means letting go and giving what you have.  I brought a big tray and some gloves to break up the bar so you can have a piece. So come get a piece of my five pound Hershey candy bar.  (give out)

What is generosity? Generosity is more than just giving.  Generosity is unusual giving; generosity is costly giving; generosity is extreme giving. Generosity is giving away what is valuable and special to us.  And what is more valuable and special then our lives?

In Romans 12:1 God’s word talks about being generous with our lives.   Listen once again to this well known verse of scripture.

I urge you brothers, sisters, in view of God’s mercy, God’s grace, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God, this is your spiritual act of worship.


What is generosity?  Generosity is us not keeping our lives for ourselves but generously giving our bodies, our lives, to God as living sacrifices.  That’s what Mary and Joseph did.  They were generous with their lives.  How?  Turn to Matthew chapter 1 and look at verses 18-19:

This is how the birth of Jesus 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.


Matthew, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, writes this looking back to what happened.  We read this knowing the whole story.  But let’s look at this carefully in the present tense, how Joseph experienced.   Mary is pledged to be married to Joseph.  How did that happen?  Did Mary and Joseph date fall in love and then Joseph asked her to marry him and she said yes?  That’s how it happens today not then.  Then the marriage of Joseph and Mary was arranged by their families.  First Joseph’s father and Mary’s father talk together and agreed that their children should marry.  Then Joseph goes to Mary’s father, pays the bridal price to take her as his wife and they are engaged.  There is no dating before the engagement; in fact there is very little contact prior to engangment.  When their engagement is announced, they are considered to be husband and wife even though they are not yet married.  An approximate date, is be set, usually within a year and Joseph returns to his father’s house to build a room or a house for Mary.  That’s what happened.  Joseph and Mary were engaged.  Joseph did return to his father’s house to prepare a place for Mary.  Then what happened.   Turn to Luke chapter 2 and look at verses 26-35, 38-39:

In the sixth month God sent the angel Gabriel to a virgin pledged to be married to Joseph, a descendent of David.  The virgins name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored, the Lord is with you.”  Mary was greatly trouble at his words and wondered what kind of a greeting this might be.  But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid Mary for you have found favor with God.  You will be with child and give birth to a son and give him the name Jesus.  He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.  The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.”

“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.  So the Holy one to be born will be called the son of God.

Vs 38-40 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered.  May it be to me as you have said.”  Then the angel left her.”  At that time Mary go ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth.


Sometime after their engagement, the angel visits Mary and tells her she’s going to have a son.  Mary is shocked, she and Joseph are not yet formally married; she’s still a virgin.  The angel then tells Mary that the Holy Spirit will cause her to conceive without Joseph’s help or the help of any man because the child will be God’s own son.  How does Mary respond to all of this?  Mary responds by saying: “I am the Lord’s servant.  May it be to me as you have said.”  What happens then?  Mary is with child of the Holy Spirit just like it says in Matthew chapter 1.  As soon as she knows he has conceived, a month or so after the angel’s visit, Mary leaves Nazareth and spends three months with her cousin Elisabeth in Judea.  That’s not all that unusual because during the engagement the couple did not spend time together like engaged couples do today.

When Mary returns from spending time with Elizabeth, Joseph finds that Mary is with child. How?  Four or five months have passé, it’s obvious.  Someone either tells Joseph or Joseph sees for himself that Mary is going to have a child.  How does Joseph respond?  Remember, at this point Joseph doesn’t yet know the child is from the Holy Spirit.  All he knows is that the child isn’t his so what else can he think but that Mary has been unfaithful to him during the time of engagement.  Joseph is a righteous man, has hasn’t slept with Mary, so he has to do something to protect his reputation as a righteous man.  He could totally expose Mary to public disgrace.  He could bring Mary before the synagogue elders and announce that the child was not his and that Mary had been unfaithful to him.  The elders would pronounce Mary guilty of adultery.  Then she would experience horrible public disgrace.  She would be stripped to expose her sin for everyone to see and be led through the streets to the gate of the city where she would be stoned to death.   Joseph would then be known as Joseph the righteous, godly man who put following the law above everything else in life.  Joseph could have exposed Mary to public disgrace, cleared his reputation and gained status as a godly righteous man.  How does Joseph respond instead?  He responds with generosity to Mary. Verse 19 says that he had in mind to divorce her quietly.  How?  He would go to the synagogue elders and say, “I have found some impurity in my engaged wife.”  He wouldn’t have to say what that impurity was. Then he would turn to Mary and say, “I divorce you, I divorce you, I divorce you,” and the engagement and coming marriage would end.  That’s what Joseph planned to do.  That would have been generous.  But God called Joseph to be even more generous. He called him to extreme generosity. Look at verses 20-21:

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 of 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.”


Joseph was willing to be generous with Mary but God called him to extreme generosity in obedience.  God called Joseph to take Mary home with him as his wife.  How was that extreme generosity?  That meant Joseph had to allow his reputation to be destroyed two ways.  By taking Mary home as his wife, he would be admitting that the child was his and that he had not been a righteous man but had been a sinner who was guilty of a pre-marital relationship with Mary.  His reputation as a righteous man would be ruined.  However, if the child wasn’t his and he married her anyway, he would be ridiculed by the community for marrying an immoral woman and for giving his name to a child that was not his.  Obeying God and taking Mary as his wife meant extreme generosity with his life.  People, especially other men, would make fun of him and ridicule him as a man who had an unfaithful wife.  When other children were born to Mary and Joseph, men would joke and say, “I wonder if Joseph’s the father?  Is this really his child?  Who’s the real father of this one?” Remember only Mary, Joseph, Elizabeth and Zachariah know the truth.  Since no one knows the truth Joseph had to live with continual suspicion, mockery and ridicule. Joseph’s status in the community would be barely above the status of a hated tax collector. But Joseph was extremely generous with his life when obeyed God and took Mary as his wife.

Mary was also extremely generous with her life.  When the angel told Mary that the Holy Spirit would cause her to conceive and that her child would be God’s son, she said, “May it be to me as you have said.”  May it be to me—that’s extreme generosity for what did the “it”—being the mother of Jesus cost Mary?  It cost her almost everything in her life.  What does every girl dream about?  She dreams about a beautiful wedding, right?  Mary dreamed of a beautiful wedding where Joseph would come for her at night, there would be a torch light procession as he took her to the wedding hall.  She would have a beautiful wedding followed by days of feasting and celebrating.  For that short time she would be the literal queen of her community.  All the other young unmarried women would envy her, all the married women would praise her; it would be the greatest moment of her life.  Yet when Mary said, “May it be to me as you have said.” the “it” meant no beautiful wedding. The “it” meant a lifetime of suspicion. The “it” meant she would have to hear the snide remarks, the gossip, the slander the accusations. The “it” meant she would be thought of as an immoral, impure woman who couldn’t be trusted. The “it” meant that some women would shun her and not talk to her or associate with her to show their own righteousness. The “it” meant she would never be totally accepted by the women of her community.  The “it” also meant she would have to leave her own home and go to Bethlehem and have her child in the home of a distant relative.  The “it” meant she would have to flee to Egypt in the middle of the night like a refugee.  Saying, “May it be to me as you have said,” was extreme generosity.   Mary was generous with her life and accepted the “It”.  Joseph was also generous with his life and accepted the “it” of taking Mary as his wife.  Mary and Joseph were both extremely generous with their lives.  They just didn’t give a tiny chocolate chip sized piece of their lives or a regular candy bar sized piece of their lives or even an extra large candy bar size piece of their lives, they gave generously, they everything, they gave a 5 pound Hershey candy bar sized piece of their lives.  They gave their whole lives as living sacrifices unto God.  Accepting God’s “it” was extreme generosity.

Generosity—extreme generosity begins with God who gave his son.  Extreme generosity continues with Mary and Joseph as they gave their lives.  Mary and Joseph each had an “it” in their lives where God called them to be extremely generous with their lives.  What the “it” in your life where God calls you to extreme generosity?

Maybe the “it” in your life is risking friends by saying no to drinking parties and sensual behavior.  The “it” may be dressing modestly instead of following the latest style.  Maybe the “it” in your life is being willing to say you’re a believer when non-believers mock believers, the church and God’s word and being generous in accepting ridicule.   The “it” in your life may be giving up a boy friend or a girl friend who isn’t a believer.  Maybe the “it” in your life is giving up anger, bitterness and resentment toward those who have hurt you and being generous with forgiveness.  The “it” in your life could be giving up what you want and being generous in serving others.  The “it” in your life could also be giving up the right to have things done your way at church and being generous in openness to change for the sake of unity.  Maybe the “it” in your life is giving up the right to be healthy and wealthy and live the good life and be generous in your willingness to suffer.  God has given me many “its” in my life where I’ve had to be generous with my life.  I’m still learning to be generous and still struggling with generosity.   Mary and Joseph had “its” in their lives where God called them to be generous in giving their lives.  We all have “its” in our lives where Jesus calls us to be generous and give up what we want to do what he wants.  What are the “its” in your life where Jesus calls you to be generous?  What are the “its” in mine?  Will you be generous with your life and accept the “its”?  Will I?    Let’s pray.