Hespeler, 9 December, 2018 © Scott McAndless
Matthew 1:18-25, Psalm 10:12-18

Note: this was a dialogue with children, not a preached message. The following only approximates the conversation.
was the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled down for a long winter’s nap…
      But wait a minute; I’m having trouble sleeping, aren’t you? I’m tossing and I’m turning. Do you ever have trouble sleeping? What can sometimes cause that? When you’re worried about something, or when something is wrong and it is really bothering you, or sometimes when you are sick or uncomfortable in some way.
      Well, let me describe a situation that might give you trouble sleeping at night. Have any of you ever known somebody who was different in some way? Now there is nothing wrong with being different, is there? Sometimes people come from a different background or they look different. Sometimes people are affected by certain medical conditions or they have certain limitations in what they can or cannot do. In fact, there are all kinds of ways in which people can be different and that is fine. In fact, I would even say that that is just how God has created us sometimes and it is all good.
      But not everybody sees it that way. And sometimes they are not very nice to people who are different. And what do they do? They tease them, maybe laugh at them or bully them. It’s not right. I’m sure it is against the rules at your school to do that, isn’t it, but that doesn’t mean that it never happens.

      So let’s say that you are facing a situation like that. There is somebody you know who is being teased or laughed at or bullied and you just really feel bad about it because you know that it isn’t right. Is that something that maybe might make it hard to go to sleep at night?
      I mean, when you see something like that, you might want to get up and tell those other people to stop it, that they shouldn’t do things like that, but it’s not always so easy to do that, is it? You might want to go and tell someone – like maybe a teacher – that all of this is going on so that the teacher will make it stop, but, I don’t know about you, but I don’t always find that to be the easy thing to do. So, can you imagine that dealing with a situation like that might be something that would keep you awake at night?
      But let’s say that it’s even worse than that. Let’s say that it’s not just everybody else who is teasing or bullying someone because of something that is out of their control, let’s say that they are expecting you to do the same. In fact, they’re not just expecting it, they are demanding it. They let you know, in no uncertain terms, that, if you don’t pile on that person with them, they are going to make your life miserable too.
      I mean, people may not exactly say that in so many words. They may not say, “if you don’t insult her, we’re never going to play with you again.” But they can usually find some way to make it clear to you that they are expecting you to be just as mean to this person as they are. Have you ever been in a situation like that?
      You see, when people do that – when they are mean to someone just because they are not fitting in – they always know (somewhere deep down inside) that they are wrong. They know that they shouldn’t do that. They also know, though they hate to admit it, that, under other circumstances, if things were different, it might be somebody else who is making fun of them. So actually when people do that, when they are mean to someone like that, they’re actually afraid that someone is going to see through what they are doing. So if they can persuade anybody else to join them in the bad behavior, well then that makes them feel good and much less afraid. So, by joining in with them, you are actually encouraging the bad behavior.
      But when people are doing that to you, when they are encouraging you to join in the bad behavior, it is hard to resist. Everyone wants to fit in. Everyone wants to belong. So yeah, if you’re dealing with something like that it can be hard to sleep.
      With that in mind, Mr. Paddock going to start reading our Bible passage for this morning.
      This was how the birth of Jesus Christ took place. His mother Mary was engaged to Joseph, but before they were married, she found out that she was going to have a baby by the Holy Spirit. Joseph was a man who always did what was right, but he did not want to disgrace Mary publicly; so he made plans to break the engagement privately. While he was thinking about this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream.
      So I want to imagine you’re Joseph for a moment. Everybody is being mean to Mary. They’re being mean to her because something has happened to her that everyone in that society thought wasn’t allowed. She was going to have a baby, even though she wasn’t married. And, what’s more, the story tells us that this wasn’t even something she had chosen to do. It had just happened to her. Somehow it was God’s doing. People didn’t care about that though, and they were being terrible to Mary.
      But it was worse than that. They have let Joseph know that if he doesn’t join in, if he isn’t even meaner to Mary, they will be mean to him too. So, do you think that Joseph’s having trouble sleeping? You bet he is.
      Now we let’s read the next part of the story.
      While he was thinking about this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, descendant of David, do not be afraid to take Mary to be your wife. For it is by the Holy Spirit that she has conceived. She will have a son, and you will name him Jesus—because he will save his people from their sins.”
      Now all this happened in order to make come true what the Lord had said through the prophet, “A virgin will become pregnant and have a son, and he will be called Immanuel” (which means, “God is with us”).
      So when Joseph woke up, he married Mary, as the angel of the Lord had told him to.
      Now, what happened here? Joseph, with the help of a message that came in a dream from an angel, did the right thing. He didn’t let Mary down. He didn’t treat her the way that everyone else wanted him to treat her. It probably cost him, it cost him a lot. He lost friends. He lost the respect of the mean people, but he did the right thing.
      And do you want to know what the best part of this is? The best part of it is that, because Joseph was brave, because he did the right thing no matter what it cost him, we got Christmas. Because of Joseph’s bravery, when Jesus came into the world he came into a safe place, into a family that loved him.

      I wanted to tell you this story, I guess it’s a bedtime story, because you know what, there are times when we all have to do the right thing and when we have to stand up for someone who’s been mistreated because it’s the right thing to do. It’s always hard. I’m not going to pretend that it isn’t. But I’m going to promise you that just like God was able to bring incredible good out of the brave thing that Joseph did, God will do the same thing when you stand up for what is right and you do it with trust in God like Joseph did.