Let us pray: Dear Savior, as we bask in the afterglow of Your coming to earth to save us, we’re also mindful of Your many promises to us as found in Your Holy Word. You have promised to listen to and answer the prayers of the faithful. You have promised us forgiveness for our sins in holy baptism, communion, and Your blessed Word of absolution. You have promised to bless our lives, to strengthen us in our weakness, and to lead us to heaven. Today we thank You for delivering on these promises and making them real in and for us. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM THE BLESSED BABE OF BETHLEHEM!
TEXT: Matthew 2: 13-15, 19-23
Fellow Redeemed Sinners:
The 1st Sunday after Christmas is usually one of the least attended Sundays in the entire church year. There are various theories for this. One, people are tired out after all the Christmas hoopla. Two, many think that all they will hear on this Sunday is a recap of what they’ve already heard on Christmas Eve or Day. And three, to many it seems an imposition to attend church three days in a row. So, why have you come today? Why did you pull yourself out of bed on a cold morning, drive in a cold car, and show up at church today? Was it habit? Was it a sense of duty? Was it joy? Or maybe, it was a combination of all three?…. Yes, what do you receive and hear today that you didn’t hear or receive at the previous two services?
WHY ARE YOU HERE TODAY?
Today’s text is far different than the other Christmas lessons. O, it builds on them and fleshes out the early life of Jesus. And yet, it is distinct. Matthew wrote his gospel for Jews who knew about the many Old Testament prophecies concerning the Messiah. He skips over the amazing account of the wise men who came from Babylon to worship the King of kings. He begins this way: “When the Magi had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. ‘Get up,’ he said, ‘take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.’”
Christ was probably about a year old at this time. The Magi had brought very expensive gifts to honor the Baby Jesus. No doubt, Mary, Joseph, and the whole town of Bethlehem were stunned by their appearance and their gifts. We’d say it was the “talk of the town.” But, as soon as they left, an angel, (was it Gabriel? We don’t know.) appeared to Joseph in a dream and ordered him to leave their safe little abode and make that long, hard journey to Egypt. The angel even tells him why.—Herod is going to kill him.
Every Jew reading this account knew what that meant. King Herod was a vile, cruel, evil man. He reigned for 37 years and kept his crown by murdering anyone who appeared to be a challenge to his rule. In fact, he had murdered at least one wife and a son! When Herod got agitated people died. Heads rolled, literally.
“So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod.” What always amazes me is that Joseph acts immediately. He doesn’t wait. He doesn’t hem and haw. That very night he gathers what they need and leaves without a forwarding address. O that all Christians should so heed the voice of God and not put off repentance and obedience to His will! They stayed in Egypt for about 2 or 3 years. No doubt living off the proceeds of those expensive gifts of the Magi. They stayed until the threat to their soul’s salvation had passed. One thing you might find interesting. Herod died at age 70 after having taken poison in an attempted suicide. He died in terrible pain. He literally rotted away from the inside out as worms, internal parasites ate away at his internal organs. Josephus, the Roman historian, writes that the smell around him was so bad that people could not stand to be in his presence! Yes, God punishes sin in this life. Herod was the living-dead proof.
“And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.” Again, that was a God-given prophecy about the Messiah taken from Hosea 11 verse 1. And it reveals to us that God always keeps His Word.
“After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, ‘Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.’ So, he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets: ‘He will be called a Nazarene.”
In some respects Archelaus was just as evil as his father. Perhaps that is why he survived to follow his father to the throne. Remember: politics in those days literally was a blood sport. Anyway, Joseph is warned about this vile man and decides to go back to the rural district of Galilee. Back to his old stomping grounds in Nazareth. He knows that no one will ask questions and he will be welcomed.
The key point here is contained in the words: “So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets: ‘He will be called a Nazarene.’” The word “Nazareth” comes from the Hebrew word: “Nezer.” It literally means “a root, a tender shoot, a sapling which grows out of a cut off trunk.” Many of the Old Testament prophets spoke of the Messiah in those terms. Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Zechariah did so. Matthew’s readers would have known this. So, again, every single promise of God concerning His Son was fulfilled, kept, born out in Christ. It all goes to show that God always, always, always keeps His promises. He never ever goes back on His Word of truth.
So, why are you here today? You’re here because you needed to be reminded of that glorious truth! You’re here because you needed to be comforted by the many promises of God addressed to you. Of prayer: “Ask and it will be given.” Of baptism: “Baptism now also saves us” as Peter writes. Of holy communion: “Do this for the remission of sins.” Of the one way to be saved Jesus states: “I am the Way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father except through Me!” Of faith: “He that believes and is baptized will be saved.” Of strength amid temptation: “God will not test you beyond what you can bear.” Of humbleness: “God’s power is made perfect in our weakness.” Of eternal life: Christ says: “I go to prepare a place for you—in heaven.”
We have come to honor God because He keeps His promises. We have come to have God Almighty in the person of a Baby fill our souls with happiness and joy. We have come because that Baby says: “Call upon Me in the day of trouble, I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.” Why are you here? Because there’s no place better to be! Amen