Dec 18 Sermon based upon Matthew 1: 18-25
"Have a Good Heart" 
Catholic churches pay some homage to Joseph, the earthy dad of Jesus.
But within Protestant churches, we seem to mostly ignore the poor man.
It can feel like Joseph, as with Rodney Dangerfield,… gets no respect.
Outside of this time of year, he is pretty much left out of any discussion.
He shows up in the creche scenes, on Christmas cards and in school plays.
But after the Christmas season is over,….he fades from importance.

However, his name did become famous on the bottle of aspirin for children.
I researched the origins of St. Joseph aspirin;… that little pink pill that parents always used to give to their children.
It was invented in Tennessee by Leopold Gerstle; an immigrant from Bavaria. 
Some say he came up with the name from the town of St. Joseph, Missouri, where he had once spent some time.
But others speculate that he used the name of the man who is the patron saint of children and families and the sick - St. Joseph.
For over a hundred years, that little pink pill has helped ailing children feel better.

Today the company calls itself ‘the company with a good heart’.
That sounds like a good marketing motto, but I think it relates well to Joseph.
His choices and actions dealing with his betrothed, Mary (and her baby), reveal something important about Joseph.
Of course his actions were, in part, based on what God “commanded” him.
So, when in a dream an angel came and told him what was really going on and what God wanted him to do, Joseph complied.
But let’s also not forget what he did before that event.

You see,…the situation he found himself in was not what he bargained for.
Being betrothed to Mary meant they were practically bound to each other
But for the ceremony, for all intents and purposes, they were unofficially married.
Then he finds out she is already pregnant so he intends “to dismiss her quietly”.
The bible passage says he did this because he was “a righteous man”.
A better modern day term would say that he was a man with ‘a good heart’.

And that was why Joseph ended up doing the right thing with Mary.
For being commanded by God does not guarantee that people will do as told.
We are commanded all kinds of things by God, but often ignore the commands.
Being “righteous”, or ‘having a good heart’, prompted Joseph to comply with God.

Not only did Joseph comply with God’s instruction from the angel, but even before that he was going to quietly dismiss Mary.
In a small town like theirs, word would get out that he had been fooled and bought himself a bill of what most would consider damaged goods.
By intending to spare Mary public shame, Joseph showed his “good heart”.
What he intended to do for Mary would have undoubtedly made her feel better. 
Better than what the culture then expected or even demanded for him to do.

What’s it mean to have “a good heart”?
That’s a common term but not always a common attribute for people.
Does it mean doing good things, being nice, or giving to charity?
We could make a laundry list of actions to try to define having “a good heart”,….
but I think that it can be summed up with these following words -
Having a good heart means making people feel better.

Having a good heart means to care about and trying to do for others.
Making them feel better, especially if they are feeling bad to begin with.
And having ‘a good heart’ means doing even if it ends up being at our expense.
Because what’s good for others may sometimes be not so good for us.

How do we end up with or get ‘a good heart’ like Joseph had?
Is it something we’re born with or does it get developed over time?
To be “righteous” is to have your heart in alignment with the wishes of God.
So having ‘a good heart’ is to be “righteous” and, therefore, close to God.
‘A good heart’ is one that’s open to Jesus Christ and keeps him there all the time.

The prophet Isaiah refers to him as Emmanuel, which means “God is with us”.
So in Jesus coming, we have the gift of “God with us”.
Do we then,…..open our hearts to this Jesus and keep him close by to us?
Do our hearts reflect on things he did and what he would do in our situations?
Do our hearts take in his words let them help guide how we deal with others?
Do we give heartfelt thankfulness to God for this Jesus he brings to us?

When we open our hearts and let Jesus in,…. we not only end up righteous,…
we end up with what people refer to as having ‘a good heart’.
Then our words and actions are such that we end up making people feel better.
Feel better than they were to start, and feel better when they are down and out.

There was a song years back called ‘Put a Little Love in Your Heart”.
But the line I’m thinking of is ‘Put a Little Jesus in Your Heart’ (same thing). 
When we keep Jesus Christ in our hearts, then we’ll be more like St. Joseph.
With “a good heart”, we can bring relief to others, ease their pain, comfort them.
God makes us feel better with the love, forgiveness and salvation Jesus brings.
And just like those little pink children aspirins did for us when we were sick,…
with our good hearts, we can make others feel better too.

Amen