2020 Achievement Unlocked: Surviving a Decade of Detours (Matthew 1:18-25)

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If you are reading this then let me be the first to say “ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED”,  because you have made it to the end of the decade!  It has been a long and difficult road  over these last several years … all across this country we have watched as families, friends, and people from every walk of life have been painfully split due to their personal ideologies.  Homes have been torn apart, enemies formed, friendships damaged, and if we are being honest we have all been desperately seeking a third option that would end this constant war between the two sides.  Fortunately, the Nintendo Switch filled that void and completely broke down the two-party system and all of their rhetoric that has kept us bound for so long.  Wait… you weren’t talking about the party divide between Sony and Microsoft?  What in the world did you think I was talking about?  Oh… you thought I was referring to that political mess???  GROSS.   We aren’t CNN here people…

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2020 is shaping up to be a year that features some AMAZING swan songs on both the PS4 and the Xbox 1 as we watch their console lights prepare to flicker for the final time. Titles such as the Final Fantasy 7 remake, Last of Us 2, Cyberpunk 2077, and several others will insure that we send these consoles off into that good night with a bang.  But as this console generation winds down and we stare off into an uncertain horizon, it is appropriate to be concerned with the path that lies before us as gamers.  Will the PS5 and the Xbox Series X continue to play peacefully with one another in the online space and expand on the promise of a cross-play future for all video game titles?  Will the Nintendo Switch provide a counter to the launch of these new consoles?  Will there ever be a sequel to Sneak King now that the technology exists to support it properly?  So many questions…

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Seriously, this decade has brought all of us a great deal of challenges that hasn’t necessarily brought out the best in us as a society.  And there is plenty of blame to go around, but all of the finger-pointing in the world won’t solve this mess.  If we are going to start fresh in this new year, this new DECADE of opportunity… we will have to look to the past for an example of how to balance the desires we have to live our lives with integrity for the Lord with the ever-changing playing field we find ourselves inhabiting.  And I have JUST the place to look… enter our Lord and Savior’s step-dad, Joseph.

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Joseph doesn’t appear much in the Bible… but he has an incredibly critical role to play.  We can’t even glean much from his INCREDIBLY limited mentions in Scripture, and he didn’t bother leaving much of a social media footprint behind either.  (That is a joke… believe it or not Joseph probably didn’t even have a cell phone OR a FaceBook.)  But the small amount of actual footprints that he left behind are incredibly insightful.  This passage of Scripture may be incredibly familiar to you, but we are going to take a slightly different viewpoint on the story this time around…

Matthew 1:18-25 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”  So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying:  “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name Jesus.

Joseph was a seemingly normal guy…  living his life, marrying a girl, working his trade, when all of a sudden God’s plan COMPLETELY interrupted his simple life plans.  One might think that this intersection of the Almighty in Joseph’s life would lead to some pretty exciting things for Joseph.  I mean, his new wife is going to give birth to the MESSIAH.  That seems like a pretty big deal.  But we don’t have much recorded about Joseph from this point forward.  Many have even hypothesized that he passed away early in Christ’s life, although that is unable to be proven.  Regardless of whatever role Joseph did or did not play in the life and upbringing of Jesus, we know this for certain… God NEEDED and CHOSE Joseph to bring this plan to fruition.

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This plan was a complete detour from the life Joseph has planned.  He never signed up for all of this, and he didn’t do anything to cause all of the drama that was set to unfold.  Joseph had to endure the embarrassment of seeming to have impregnated his wife out of wedlock so she would not appear to have committed adultery and get stoned to death.  That was a pretty big deal back then.  He also had to forego any of the… ummm… let’s just say “typical honeymoon festivities” because his new bride had to remain pure until the birth of Jesus.  I am sure any of us who have been married (or are looking forward to it) would understand the disappointment there.   And then, because King Herod wanted to murder Jesus, Joseph was forced to move to Egypt for years (Matthew 2:13-23), and then finally settled down in Nazareth, a town that did not seem to have such a great reputation (John 1:46).

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NONE of this was in Joseph’s plan.  This was not the life he had planned for himself… marrying an already pregnant fiancee, supervising his wife’s labor and laying her child in an animal’s feeding trough, living a life on the run in a foreign country from people who want to murder her baby.  NONE of this came up when he was discussing his ten year plan with his high school guidance counselor.  But while this wasn’t how HE would have scripted his life, this was absolutely the way GOD had scripted it.  He needed Joseph to be EXACTLY who he was, with EXACTLY the qualifications (or lack thereof) that he had, to be in EXACTLY the position he was in to support Mary with the birth of Jesus.

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Consider this… if Joseph had been rich, Jesus would not have been born in a manger.  If Joseph had been born from a different family, Jesus would not have been born in Bethlehem.  If Joseph had been famous, he would not have been able to hide in Egypt undetected.  All of these components were critical to Jesus’s birth, insuring He fulfilled all of the prophecies and proving that God kept EVERY single one of his promises, even the most obscure ones.  Joseph’s path could not have been more distant from what he had originally planned for himself, but God’s plan was written from the dawn of time for JOSEPH to be the one human being who was trusted with insuring Mary was cared for safely.  There will only ever be one woman who can lay claim to giving birth to the perfect Son of God… and Jesus will only ever have one special step-father who followed this seemingly crazy, zig-zagging plan of God all the way through to the finish line.

As you peer out into 2020 and the nebulous future that awaits, I want to encourage you that every false start, every strange occurrence, and every obstacle you have faced to this point is not an accident.  It is a plan with a purpose to do for you what God did for Joseph… place you onto an intersecting course with the Son of God.  That intersection will be certain to completely blow up all the plans you have for this year and this next decade to come… and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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Merry Christmas and the happiest of New Year’s celebrations to each and every one of you… it is my prayer that as you navigate this coming year that you embrace the detours that God places you on.  Each of these seeming “off-ramps” in your destiny are actually designed to bring you face to face with His plan for you.  Just as Joseph found out as he carried the Son of God to each unique and challenging place on his path, these strange happenings are how we end up delivering the reality of Jesus to people we would have never come into contact with any other way.

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