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Lessons from the Holy Family

A Wedding Sermon

December 21, 2021 by

Earlier this Advent season I had the pleasure of presiding over a wedding. As it is Advent, we were thinking a lot about the coming of Christmas and the birth of Jesus over two thousand years ago. And as it was a wedding, we were thinking about marriage and the example given to us by Mary and Joseph, who together with Jesus formed the Holy Family. The Holy Family is the most important family that ever happened, because through it the Son of God and God the Son entered the world.

God himself formed the family starting with Adam and Eve, and told them to be fruitful and multiply, to fill the earth and subdue it. That task remains. God said that a man shall leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife and the two shall become one flesh. You could say that a husband and wife should be glued together! So God has ordained this bond of marriage between one man and one woman for life. Christian married couples actually have a duty to the world, to witness through their joy and faithfulness to a true marriage, something that is very needed today.

The Holy Family

When I consider the Holy Family, one thing that strikes me is how both Joseph and Mary listened to God and were obedient even if they did not understand all that God wanted of them or how things would work out. That is very important because we often don’t understand, and we need to have faith and trust. Mary was visited by an angel, who told her she was going to have a baby boy. This was troubling to Mary because she was not yet married to Joseph. Mary was given a vision for her baby when Gabriel told her:

Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end. (Luke 1:30–33)

Imagine the awe and question in Mary’s heart and mind at that statement. But Mary believed God even though she did not understand, and that is very important for us all: to believe God, even when we are confused and don’t understand. To have faith that God knows everything already even if we don’t.

This is the thing that the human heart most longs for: that what is wrong in us can somehow be forgiven and made right. Now Joseph was quite a man. He was very sensitive to God and because of that God could use him to protect Mary and Jesus. Joseph did not understand about Mary’s pregnancy, and on his own he decided to divorce her quietly. But God talked to him through an angel in a dream: “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:20–21). Right here we are told something very wonderful and powerful about Jesus, even before he was born. He would save people from their sins. This is the thing that the human heart most longs for: that what is wrong in us can somehow be forgiven and made right. All people long for this, whether they can express it or not. And here an angel tells Joseph that the baby Jesus who is coming will do just that.

Joseph listened to God and took Mary as his wife. Then he had another dream where an angel told him to flee with Mary and Jesus to Egypt because Herod planned to kill Jesus, and we know that Herod did a very evil thing killing many baby boys in his effort to do that (Matt. 2:16). But because Joseph listened to God, Jesus was saved.

These accounts of Joseph and Mary should challenge us to listen to God. You may not have dreams of angels, but God still speaks through the prompting of our hearts and through our brothers and sisters. Be sensitive to how God is leading you. Together husbands and wives find the way of service to Jesus and the church.

There is something else that is important. Several times in the Gospels it says that Mary pondered things in her heart. When the angels announced the birth of Jesus to the shepherds and the shepherds came and saw the Lord and then went out telling everyone the amazing news, Mary treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart (Luke 2:19). When the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem and his frantic parents found him among the priests in the temple, questioning them and answering their questions, again his mother “treasured all these things in her heart” (Luke 2:51). It requires work to ponder these things, and wisdom to recognize spiritual treasures.

Both Joseph and Mary challenge us to faith and obedience. They embraced the mystery of the birth of Jesus and accepted it in faith. We will never, ever grasp what it actually meant for Jesus, the Son of God and God the Son, to step out of eternity and become a baby. It really did happen as the Bible tells us. And because Jesus was born, the world is forever changed, and we also can be changed if we grasp the message of Christmas and allow God to change us. Then we can become what God means us to be.

Through their faith Mary and Joseph became players in the greatest event in history, the coming of the Savior and the redemption of the world. We are also called to be players in God’s work in this world. Only God knows what part you will play, but embrace it, go for it, and do it with faith and joy.

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About the author

Randall Gauger with his wife, Linda

Randall Gauger

Randall Gauger is a pastor at the Bruderhof communities in the United States. He and his wife, Linda, live at the Fox Hill...

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