12/29/2019 1st Sunday of Christmas The text is Matthew 2: 13-23 .
13 Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” 14 Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, 15 and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, “Out of Egypt I have called my son.” 16 When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. 17 Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah: 18 “A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.” 19 When Herod died, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, 20 “Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the child’s life are dead.” 21 Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And after being warned in a dream, he went away to the district of Galilee. 23 There he made his home in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, “He will be called a Nazorean.”
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to You, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer.
Grace, mercy, and peace are yours from God the Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Just five short days ago, we assembled in this holy place on Christmas Eve to celebrate the birth of the Christ-child, the Son of God, Savior of the world. And now, this morning we read that the life of the infant Jesus is already under threat. The Revised Common Lectionary, the listing of Sunday readings that the wider Christian church publishes for Lutherans to preach from, makes, I think an unfortunate choice for this morning. On Christmas Jesus was born and today the story picks up right after the Wise Men have made their visit and experienced their epiphany that this child is the Son of God. Next week the lectionary shifts to John’s Gospel and we will hear again that “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was God”. This will then serve as our epiphany as to whom Christ Jesus truly is; God in flesh!
But this morning we must deal with the aftermath of the Magi’s visit to the Holy Family. Rather than report to Herod with the news that they had found the prophesied “King of the Jews”, they returned home by a different route. Now Herod The Great, this was the quintessential “bad guy”. Although born an Edomite, he was installed by the Romans as “overseer” of the Jewish population in Israel. According to the historical record, his blood-lust didn’t begin with the slaughter of the male babies in his quest to eliminate Jesus as his rival. It is reported he previously killed his father-in-law, three of his sons and several of his ten wives. It is apparent that he would stop at nothing to eliminate any threat to his power. So, now we may find ourselves struggling to find the positive in this entire scenario.
The four Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, portray the life and mission of Jesus in the world. The word “Gospel” comes from the Greek, “euangelion” which literally translates to “Good News”. The coming of Jesus into the world is the initial good news that we have received. But what can possibly be “good” about Herod’s murderous action against innocent Jewish baby boys? For the sake of the world, God sent an angel to warn Joseph to leave with Mary and Jesus and so they traveled to Egypt where they would be safe from Herod. The good news to be found here is that even in the face of horrific adversity, God is present with God’s people to provide safety and security.
You will recall that Joseph is warned to leave right after the Wise Men bring their gifts in honor of Jesus. We may assume that the gold, frankincense and myrrh that the Magi brought could be sold to provide food and shelter for the Holy Family. God sent the Magi the star to guide them to Jesus; God provides. Joseph had previously been visited by an angel, telling him to take Mary as his wife even though she was already pregnant with Jesus by the Holy Spirit. God provides. In Egypt, while awaiting the time to safely return, Joseph would surely be able to find work as a carpenter. God provides.
Both Mary and Joseph exhibit unwavering obedience to God’s will. And, in return, God ensures that they are provided for as they secure Jesus’ future. Perhaps, here is where the good news is to be found. That, in the midst of all that is evil, corrupt, and dangerous in the world God will provide for His people. The very name that Joseph is told to give to Jesus, “Emanuel”, means ‘God is with us’. The Christ-child has walked his path before us and walks our path with us now. Martin Luther wrote, ‘We are saved by faith alone, but the faith that saves is never alone’. We are not able to see the what lies around each bend for us. But by virtue of the Gospel, the “Good News” we know how our lives will ultimately turn out. At the end, by our faith in this newborn babe, we will enjoy life eternal with God.
But there will be bumps in the road along the way. We will face trials that might seem insurmountable. But our faith in the Good News is what will bring us through these struggles. We know that we are not alone in our walk; God indeed travels with us. Mary was open to God’s will and she bore the Savior of the World. Her faith assured her that she would not be alone; God was with her. Joseph was obedient to God also. His faith was strong enough that he believed that his young fiancé was faithful to him and that the child she carried was from God. And he knew that when he escaped to Egypt with his young family that God was with them then, also.
So. let us not focus this morning on the savagery of Herod, or his cowardly disregard for human life, overshadowed by his lust for power. Instead, let’s bring our hearts and minds to rejoice in the knowledge that God will always be with God’s people, no matter the circumstances. The path of our lives is tenuous and fraught with many perils. But the ‘Good News’ remains; we do not travel alone. As God ensured safety for Jesus and his earthly parents, God walks the path with each of us in ways which we are not even aware of. God provides. Yes, Mary was surely overwhelmed by the news of her Holy Conception and Joseph was very distraught when he had to face the embarrassing situation. But their faith and the knowledge that God was with them, even as they fled to Egypt, resulted in Christ being preserved to become our Redeemer.
We will likely never be called on to face the kind of dangers that befell Mary, Joseph, and the infant Christ; odds are we will never be forced to flee to another country. Yet, each of us will face trials that seem impossible to bear. In this life there is sickness, untimely loss of loved ones, abandonment, addiction, loneliness, fear, abuse in all its forms. Each of us will suffer hardships in this life and if we are to rise above them, we must acknowledge that we do not endure them alone. And this is the true ‘Good News’ of God in Christ Jesus; that we always have the Triune God by our side. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit walk with us wherever we travel, supporting us in whatever trials we face. God provides.
Will you pray with me? Good and gracious God, we give you thanks for the birth and preservation of your Son, Jesus our Savior. You provided for Mary and Joseph as they protected the Christ-child. We pray that you would provide also for us, your children. Grant us the faith that saves, a faith that is never alone.
And in Jesus’ name together the people of God say…Amen.
God is good, all the time. All the time, God is good. Amen.