Writing a children’s sermon on Matthew 1:18-25 is challenging in a different way than usual. The challenge? This text is such a simple, straightforward story that it seems like we should just read it to the kids and ask some wondering questions.
But no. You want a children’s sermon on Matthew 1:18-25, and you shall have it. However, I’ll totally understand if you decide to skip this and just read the text. (You can read my regular Monday Meditation on this text here.)
I’ve fleshed out the narrative in ways that will seem familiar to Orthodox or Catholic readers. We Protestants tend to just live with the Bible’s silence about Mary and Joseph’s family background. Historically, Christians wanted to know more. From very early on there were stories about Mary’s parents and Joseph’s widowhood. (Who knows? Maybe they were handed down from the people themselves?)
A Children’s Sermon on Matthew 1:18-25
Good morning, kids! I’m so glad to see you. Thanks for coming up to hear the children’s sermon.
Today is the fourth Sunday of Advent. Advent means “coming.” You know who is coming, right? On Christmas Day we celebrate that Jesus has come to be with us, to give us new life. The coming of Jesus is so important, so amazing, that we need four whole weeks just to get ready.
Joseph and Mary
This week our story from the Bible starts when Jesus’ mother, Mary, was waiting for Jesus to be born. The angel had told her she would have God’s own baby — but she was not married. Raising a baby alone would be very hard. But God had a plan to help.
There was a man named Joseph, who lived in the same town as Mary. He worked as a carpenter. And he wanted to get married.
Joseph knew Mary’s parents, Joachim and Anna, and he respected them very much. And he knew Mary from the village. Joseph liked Mary a lot. Like, a lot lot.
So, as people did in that culture, Joseph asked Joachim and Anna if he could marry their daughter.
“That would be wonderful!” said Joachim.
“But you had better ask Mary,” said Anna. “She’s got her own ideas about things, you know.”
So Joseph made an appointment to come and talk to Mary.
The two of them sat in the living room, while Anna was working in the kitchen nearby.
“Hi Mary,” Joseph said.
“Hi Joseph,” Mary said.
And they both sat there for a minute.
“Wow!” said Joseph. “I’m so nervous!”
“It’s okay,” said Mary. “Just take your time.”
“Thanks,” he said. Then he let out a big breath. “Here we go. Mary, I really like you. I mean I like like you. A lot. I’d like to be a family together. Would you marry me?”
“Oh, wow!” said Mary. Her eyes got big, and she sort of looked around. “I don’t know what to say, Joseph. Don’t you think maybe you’re a little — a little old for me?”
“Right. Well, sure,” Joseph said. “Yes, I’m older than you. But men are often older than their wives.”
“And you were married before,” she said. “You have children already.”
“Yes, that’s true,” Joseph said. “My wife died a few years ago. Being a single father is hard. I’m hoping you can be a new mother to little James and the others.”
“Oh, my,” Mary said. “This is a lot to take in. It’s not exactly what I imagined. There’s something I have to know: Will you be faithful?”
“Absolutely, Mary,” he said right away. “When we’re married, I’ll be true to you for the rest of my life.”
“Right, well, that’s good,” said Mary, “but that’s not what I mean. Will you be faithful to God? I think of myself as God’s servant. Do you want to serve God too?”
Joseph was quiet for a moment. “Yes, Mary,” he said. “I love God, and want to live in God’s ways. If you want to call it being God’s servant, that’s a good way to say it.”
Then it was Mary’s turn to be quiet for a moment.
“Okay, Joseph, I accept,” she said. “I would be honored to be your wife. We’ll serve God together.”
Joseph was so excited, he stood up suddenly. “Oh Mary!” he said. “You’ve made me the happiest man in the world!”
She stood up too — a little more slowly.
Joseph wanted to give Mary a big hug, but in their culture men and women didn’t touch each other until they were married.
So they both just stood there, looking at each other, with big silly grins on their faces.
One More Thing
“Joseph,” Mary said. “There’s one more thing we need to talk about. Maybe we’d better sit down.”
So they sat back down.
“What is it, Mary?” Joseph asked.
“Well, you see,” she said, “I’m going to have a baby.”
“Oh, well, sure, Mary,” sputtered Joseph, “we’ll have children someday. After we’re married.”
“No, Joseph,” she said, “I’m going to have a baby now.”
Joseph laughed a nervous laugh, and said, “Um, maybe you’d better talk with your mom about these things. I mean, I’ve never even touched you. Babies won’t come till after we’re married, and living together.”
“Actually, Joseph, I know where babies come from,” she said. “This is different. It’s a gift from God. The baby will be here in about five months.”
“Well I —,” said Joseph.
“I don’t —,” he sputtered.
“But how —?” he asked.
“You can’t —!” he exclaimed.
And then, he was just so flustered he bolted out the door.
You can imagine that Joseph had a hard time getting to sleep that night.
He tossed and he turned.
He turned and he tossed.
Finally he slept.
And as he slept, an angel came to him in a dream.
“Joseph,” the angel said, “wake up. Tell me your plans.”
“Well, I can’t marry her if she’s having someone else’s baby,” Joseph said. “But she’s such a dear person. I don’t want to harm her. I don’t want to make her embarrassed. Give me your advice. How can I get out of this engagement quietly?”
The angel said, “Joseph, don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife. Yes, she’s having a baby. She’s having God’s baby. Your job is to raise him as a son.”
“God’s baby?” Joseph asked. “How can she have God’s baby? That’s impossible!”
“Joseph,” said the Angel. “Nothing is impossible for God.”
And Joseph woke up.
- I wonder how Mary felt when she had to tell Joseph about God’s baby?
- I wonder how Joseph felt, thinking about becoming the adopted father of God’s child?
- I wonder if God will ever ask you and me to do something that we never really expected?
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