Sermon for 12.07.22 “A message in the midst of fear of the unknown”


Text: Matthew 1:18–25

Theme: A message in the midst of fear of the unknown (Joseph)

A. In the Name of the Father…Amen.
B. Matthew 1:18-25 serves as our sermon text for this evening, which was
read a few moments ago.
C. Grace, mercy, and peace be yours from God our heavenly Father through
our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
D. Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, let us pray:
LSB 900:1-3 Jesus! Name of Wondrous Love
Jesus! Name of wondrous love,
Name all other names above,
Unto which must ev’ry knee
Bow in deep humility.

Jesus! Name decreed of old,
To the maiden mother told,
Kneeling in her lowly cell,
By the angel Gabriel.

Jesus! Name of priceless worth
To the fallen of the earth
For the promise that it gave,
“Jesus shall His people save.”

A. Fear of the unknown.
1. In the spring of 2020, our world was upended by an unseen enemy.
2. Our lives were changed by a virus we little understood and couldn’t see.
3. We had no cure, and many faced it with a sense of terror and dread.
4. Sickness increased.
5. Hospitals overflowed.
6. Medical personnel strained to hold up under staggering loads of care.
7. Shortages abounded.
8. Deaths mounted.
9. The world seemed under siege.
10. Months passed.
11. A year passed.
12. What would come next?
13. Does it ever end, or do we just wait for the next variant?
14. Fear of the unknown.
B. But this was not the first time in recent history such a cataclysmic
event turned our world upside down.
1. Most of us still recall 9/11.
2. Many of us stood that day transfixed before our TV sets watching the
unthinkable happen.
3. Terrorists took a most useful and friendly machine, the airplane, and
turned it into a deadly missile of mass destruction.
4. Nearly three thousand people perished as two towering skyscrapers
collapsed in burning heaps of rubble and death.
5. Security immediately tightened everywhere.
6. And a war on terror commenced around the world.
7. But these enemies could not always be seen or easily found or identified.
8. When would the next event occur?
9. Would a terrorist attack come to my neighborhood?
10. Fear of the unknown.

3. Joseph faces fear of the unknown in Mary’s unexpected pregnancy and
whether or not to marry her.
A. Joseph lived with his own fear of the unknown.
1. In our current culture, it may seem minor, but for him the dilemma was
2. He was betrothed to a lovely young woman named Mary, legally married in
a union that was yet to be consummated.
3. It would be about a year before the final celebration, but their
marriage was real and binding.
4. Joseph surely dreamed of a wonderful life with his new wife and possibly
even a large family supported by a thriving carpentry business.
B. But all these dreams seemed in serious question when Mary was suddenly
“found to be with child” (verse 18).
1. She was pregnant, and Joseph knew he wasn’t the father.
2. Obviously, someone else was.
3. But what should he do?
4. A future with Mary was now fraught with complications socially.
5. He could continue with the marriage, but it was not so simple anymore.
6. The Old Testament law called for an adulterous woman to be stoned if her
guilt was confirmed (Deuteronomy 22:23–24).
7. This was unthinkable for the woman he loved.
8. So he couldn’t go there.
9. An option within the law allowed another solution:
A. “Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put [Mary] to shame, resolved
to divorce her quietly” (verse 19).
B. A quiet divorce.
C. The shame could be avoided, as well as the punishment for
D. He loved her and did not wish any of this hardship upon her.
C. As Joseph deliberated all this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in
a dream.
1. A special divine messenger from heaven.
2. And a needed one too.
3. As the first words from the angel reveal, Joseph’s struggle involved
more than just hesitation and concern:
A. “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife” (verse
B. Joseph was struggling with fear.
C. The word in the original language (phobeo) can carry the idea of
panicked flight, even terror.
D. And it was a terror, fear, of the unknown.
E. Fear of going through with the marriage despite the unknown of Mary’s
F. And the unknown of the consequences of breaking the holy law of God.
G. If word ever got out that Mary was pregnant before the actual ceremony
and celebration, the whole community would know.
H. She would be branded with an A for adulteress.
I. Joseph’s friends and neighbors would probably expect, maybe even
pressure him, to divorce Mary and possibly even carry through on the rest
of the law’s provisions and punishments.
J. And what about his reputation as a responsible businessman of Nazareth?
K. He couldn’t know how this would all play out.
L. Undoubtedly he even had more painful personal questions he wished could
be answered.
M. Why had she done it?
N. Who was the father?
O. How would she make it alone—well, with a child to raise?
P. Would he ever be able to trust someone again?
D. One can imagine such things keeping Joseph up at night.
1. A heavy burden so filled with worry and fear when he should have been:
A. Excited about the future,
B. eagerly planning and preparing the home he and Mary could have had
2. God comes along and answers that fear with the promise of the birth of
Jesus, Immanuel.
A. Fear is a true enemy of hope.
1. It robs us of the assurance:
A. that God is in control,
B. that God has a plan,
C. that even the darkness of the present might yet become the light of a
better day.
2. God’s solution to Joseph’s fear, however, was not just the assurance
that all things might work out in the end.
3. He must have been surprised by the amazing promise he heard from the
A. “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that
which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and
you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins”
(verses 20–21).
B. Mary was not just pregnant; the child in her womb was conceived by the
Holy Spirit.
1. God was his Father!
2. And the name Joseph was instructed to give this new child may have
seemed ordinary in one way—it was a relatively common male name for
Hebrews—yet, on the other hand, this name was forward looking of something
incredible and world-changing.
3. Joseph was to name this child Jesus, which means “Yahweh saves,” for as
the angel declared, “He will save his people from their sins.”
4. Here Joseph was concerned about:
A. his immediate personal circumstances,
B. his reputation,
C. Mary’s welfare,
D. his own questions . . .
E. and God was planning something much grander.
F. He was planning to deliver mankind from sin itself, and thus from death,
even hell.
G. What fear could be worse than a fear of death itself?
H. If hope could survive death, it could survive anything.
C. And even this was not the end of the message from heaven.
1. There was another name.
A. “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:
‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his
name Immanuel’ (which means, God with us)” (verses 22–23).
B. Just as the prophet Isaiah had declared.
C. In the darkness of fear, we often feel alone and isolated, even
D. Yet this baby in Mary’s womb would be God’s very tangible and visible
presence among his people.
E. Joseph was not alone in his concerns.
F. He was not left to work this out by himself.
G. God was with him.
H. God would strengthen him and guide him and protect him each step of the
D. As the story unfolds in the Gospels, we know that many more challenges
faced Joseph.
1. Traveling with Mary so close to her due date must have given some
2. Then struggling to find a place to stay in busy Bethlehem.
3. The night of the birth without a midwife or any others to assist.
4. In all this, God was with him.
5. And the story’s twists and turns would not end.
6. Joseph would have to flee with the mother and child to Egypt, for an
enraged Herod sought to kill the child to remove a possible contender for
his own fragile rule.
7. Again, an angel from heaven, a divine messenger, brought a timely
warning, as well as needed guidance and direction (Matthew 2:13).
E. So much change in Joseph’s life.
1. So many unknowns in the future.
2. How could he possibly entertain any real hope for tomorrow when he
hardly knew what tomorrow would bring?
3. But God was with him, Immanuel.
4. And the one over which he watched as a new foster father would be the
true promise for all mankind:
A. the one who by his future death on a cross would be the deliverer from
B. from death,
C. from the very power of evil itself that animated murderous and dangerous
men like Herod.
D. Joseph had everything even when at times it felt as if he had so little.
1. As we face our fears of the unknown, God answers with the same message
of hope in the Savior, God with us.
A. Late into the pandemic, our world tried to reemerge and find its
1. It’s still trying. The economy has wobbled as inflation has taken a
heavy toll.
2. Violence and terror have continued to leak into our cities.
3. Our communities have become polarized in hateful rage.
4. It’s hard not to worry about what tomorrow might bring, whether we’re up
to the challenges just around the corner.
5. The world around us changes faster than we can comprehend and adjust.
6. The world beneath our feet shifts and shakes.
7. We worry for our children and their future in this torn up and broken
8. We worry for our own futures as we age.
9. Fear grips with the clamp of an icy cold hand of terror and pins our
hopes to the ground.
B. And then we hear that word again.
1. Right from God’s own messenger.
2. Straight from the very throne room of heaven itself.
3. The angel now turns to us and says:
4. The one born of Mary is “Yahweh saves.”
5. This one delivered you from your sins and your certain death.
6. You do not have to fear.
7. This one born of Mary is “Immanuel,” God with us.
8. He is with you too.
9. You do not have to fear.
10. And so, you can hope again.
11. Hope not just:
A. for this fleeting moment,
B. for today,
C. but for tomorrow,
D. for next year,
E. for all eternity.
F. Your hope is grounded in God’s promised presence sent to save us and be
there for us.
C. As Paul declares to the Romans (Rom 8:31–39), no one can stand against
us if God is for us.
1. No one can frustrate or stop God’s plans.
A. Not Herod.
B. Not the worst tyrants of our time.
C. Not the terrorists.
D. Not any enemy.
E. No one can bring a charge against us.
F. Not even Satan, the accuser of the brethren. And he has been working
overtime lately on all of us!
G. God has declared us right with God through Christ.
H. No one can condemn us, for this Jesus intercedes for us at the right
hand of God.
I. And no one can separate us from the love of Christ.
J. Not tribulation or distress or persecution or famine or nakedness or
danger or sword.
K. For in all these things we are more than conquerors through the one who
loves us.
L. No one can tear us from God’s presence.
M. Not life, not death, not angels or demons or rulers.
N. Not things terrorizing us in the moment, or fears of what is to come.
O. Nothing in all of the created order.
P. Nothing.
Q. For the one born of Mary is the deliverer from sin, Immanuel, God with
D. And with that, we have hope.


A. The Angel’s Message of Hope to Joseph in the Midst of His Fear Gives Us
Hope as We Fear Our Unknowns.
1. A hope that cannot be disappointed.
2. A hope grounded in God’s assuring promise.
3. A hope that survives time itself.
4. An eternal hope. Amen.
B. Let us pray:
LSB 900:4-6 Jesus! Name of Wondrous Love
Jesus! Name of mercy mild,
Given to the holy Child
When the cup of human woe
First He tasted here below.

Jesus! Only name that’s giv’n
Under all the mighty heav’n
Whereby those to sin enslaved
Burst their fetters and are saved.

Jesus! Name of wondrous love,
Human name of God above;
Pleading only this, we flee
Helpless, O our God, to Thee. Amen.
Text: Public domain
C. The peace of God, which passes all understanding, guard your hearts and
minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.
D. In the Name of the Father…Amen.