Characters of Christmas: Joseph – Sunday December 3, 2023

Matthew 1:18-25

Sleep and scripture.


Jesus sleeps on a boat in the middle of a massive storm, illustrating the power of God’s love to anchor us in the midst of life.


In one of the most terrifying periods of the prophet Elijah’s life, God tells Elijah to eat, drink water, and sleep. In fact, one day I really want to do a sermon over that passage called naps and snacks.


Sleep and scripture. Sleep is used in both the old and New Testament to convey everything from the importance of pause and rest, to the power of peace and calm, to the focus of our passage today. Staying awake to God’s presence with us.


Joseph is a good guy, a faithful guy, “righteous man” who had thought a lot about the situation he found himself in. His soon to be and basically was already, wife is pregnant with God’s baby. Now, we don’t read in scripture any conversations between Joseph and Mary about her pregnancy but we can imagine. And we do read that Joseph decided to approach the situation with care and compassion and divorce her quietly in order to not bring about public penalties or disgrace. Joseph was set on that approach until, God reached out. In a dream, God confirmed that child was from the Holy Spirit and that Joseph should not be afraid. And when Jospeh awoke, he changed course. “When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him.” But the thing is, Joseph didn’t just wake up from that night’s sleep. Joseph awoke from a walking sleep, a living sleep, in which he had missed God’s presence right in front of him. Joseph awoke to God’s presence already around him and Joseph’s story encourages us to awake to God’s presence with us.


Think about it like this.

Have you ever been driving, especially on a familiar path or through a very familiar part of town, and when you got to your destination, you didn’t entirely remember the drive there? Or even out walking. You know your neighborhood so well that you get lost in thought and suddenly you’ve made a full circuit and you’re back home. It is such a disconcerting and sometimes scary feeing to realize you were on autopilot. To realize that you were present enough to obey red lights and stop signs but not present enough for anything to stick in your brain.

Joseph was a faithful, righteous man. That greek word there, “righteous,” implies that Joseph had God’s favor and was approved of by God. Of all people, of all the people to recognize his wife was having God’s baby, it should have been Joseph. But even he feel asleep. He was present enough with God to have God’s favor but on autopilot enough to miss what was right in front of him. And this idea of being awake to God’s presence, isn’t unique to Joseph.





Look, we all fall asleep sometimes. We all go on autopilot and miss what is right in front of us. We take things for granted, simple things like the energy of a crisp breeze or the beauty of falling leaves. And bigger things, like the people you think, I can text them or call them anytime, until suddenly you can’t. And in between things like the billionth time you’ve watched a Minecraft video with your niece or grandchild, or the millionth time they sing Let it Go when Frozen came out 10 years ago. We all go on autopilot and miss the hope, peace, joy, and love that is right in front of us. The story of Joseph isn’t about berating ourselves or burying ourselves in shame or worry. The story of Joseph invites us to show ourselves grace. Even a righteous man missed the presence of God right in front of him. You’re going to as well. And the story of Joseph invites us to awake to God’s presence with us. It invites us to check in with ourselves and be careful when our faith or our life shifts into autopilot. It invites us to stay curious and open. It invites us to let God surprise us and appear in the most interesting and unexpected ways.


Joseph fell asleep but he didn’t stay asleep. Joseph woke up to God’s presence right in front of him and became a crucial part in Christ’s story. This week, how might God show up in your life? How might you recognize God in your midst? This week, awake to God’s presence within you and around you. Awake to God with us. Amen.

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