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. You have promised both to listen to and answer the prayers of Your faithful. You have promised to forgive us our sins and uplift our souls when we repent. You have promised to enlarge our faith through the power of Your Gospel, strengthen our faith through holy communion, and implant and nurture our faith in baptism. You have promised to bless the lives of Your faithful and someday to welcome us into heaven. Thank You for coming into our hearts and making all these promises real to us today. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE BLESSED BABE OF BETHELEHEM!
TEXT: Matthew 2: 13-15, 19-23
Dearly Beloved in the Blessed Baby Jesus:
WHY ARE YOU HERE TODAY? What moved you to leave a comfy bed, start a cold car, and devote your Sunday morning to attending church? Obviously, you could have used this time to put all the Christmas “stuff” away. Or, to clean the house and prep for New Years. So, Why Are You Here Today?
“Well Pastor, I came because it’s Sunday, the 3rd commandment hasn’t been repealed, and I want to obey God by honoring Him.” Good! “Pastor, I came because I’ve had a stressful week and I want God to give me some peace of soul.” You came to the right place! “Pastor Fox, I came because I’m attending little Weston’s baptism and I don’t want to miss it.” Good again.
The point is: we all came for a multitude of reasons which all revolve around God giving us something special that we would not get by worshiping St. Mattress.
Today is the 1st Sunday after Christmas. The angel choirs have sung, the shepherds have returned to their flocks, and a year or so has passed since that 1st Christmas in Bethlehem. St. Matthew wrote his letter to Jewish background people. He and they all knew the many OT prophecies about the Baby Jesus. He skips over the amazing account of the wise men from Babylon who came to worship the King of kings. Instead, he merely 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 a year or so old at this time. Those Magi brought very expensive gifts to honor the Baby Jesus. No doubt, Mary, Joseph, and the whole town were stunned by their appearance and their offerings. We’d say today: “They were the talk of the town.” But as soon as they left, an angel (was it Gabriel?) appeared to Joseph in a dream and ordered him to leave his safe little abode for the long, hard road to Egypt. “King Herod is going to try to kill Jesus. Take Him away right now and be safe!”
Every Jew reading this account knew exactly what this meant. Herod the Great (called great not for his character, but for his long reign of 37 years on the throne and for the many grandiose buildings he erected during his tenure), this Herod was a very evil man. He kept his crown by murdering any supposed rival. He had already murdered at least one wife and one son! When Herod got agitated people died. Heads rolled…..
With the appearance of the wise men asking for the “new born King of the Jews” Herod was frantic. The rival must die quickly. God knew all this, too, and so did Joseph via the angel’s message. “So Joseph got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod.”
What can we learn from this? Joseph acts immediately. He doesn’t wait around and hem and haw. He doesn’t tempt God by being lazy in his faith and putting God off. When God speaks, He expects action from His people. Are you busy emulating Joseph in your own life? Do you take His commandments seriously, act on them daily, or wait until it’s all “more convenient?” Christians need to heed the voice of God and never put off repentance or obedience to Him. God knows what’s best for us. His voice of instruction is all about keeping us out of deadly, eternally deadly, trouble.
Well, Joseph leaves for Egypt. They stayed there for 2 or 3 years. Even then, God provided for them, just as He always does for us today. The gifts of the Magi were sold and provided enough money for them to live comfortably during that time. God always provides physical blessings to His faithful people even when circumstances seem daunting. That’s why later in Matthew Christ tells us not to worry about the future, but to do our best, trust in the Lord, obey His life-guidelines, and things will work out just fine. Joseph operated under this rule and everyone—including us—has been blest accordingly!
They stayed in Egypt until the threat of Herod the Great was gone. It seems Herod died at age 70 after having taken poison in an attempted suicide. He died in terrible pain. He rotted from the inside out as parasitic intestinal worms ate him up. Josephus, the Roman historian writes that the smell around him was so bad people could not be within nose-shot! Yes, God always punishes evil. God never forgets. Herod was living/dead proof of that fact. “And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘Out of Egypt I called my son.'”–that taken from the OT prophet Hosea 11 vs. 1. And it further gives proof 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 a chip off the old block. Perhaps that’s why he survived long enough to follow his father Herod to the throne. Politics in those days was a blood sport—literally. Anyway, Joseph avoids this vile man and goes back north to the backwater town of Nazareth. He and Mary came from there originally and no one would question their return.
The key point is that phrase: “He will be called a Nazarene.” The word Nazareth is derived from the Hebrew word “Nezer.” It means: “a root, a tender shoot, a sapling which grows back from a cut trunk of a tree.” Isaiah, Jeremiah and Zechariah also spoke of Jesus in these terms. Matthew’s readers would have known this. So, once again we see that every single prophecy concerning the Christ-child was completely fulfilled. God always keeps His promises.
Why Are You Here Today? Because you needed to be reminded of these universe-shaking truths. And what has God promised to each of you? Of prayer: “Ask and it will be given.” Of baptism: “Baptism now also saves us” as Peter writes. Of communion concerning the consecrated elements: “Given and shed for you for the remission of sins.” Concerning the only way to be saved by God Jesus says: “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 shall be saved.” Of strength amid temptation: “God will not test you beyond what you can bear. And if you are tested, He will always provide a way out.” Of humbleness: “God’s power is made perfect in your weakness.” Of eternal life: Christ adds: “I go to prepare a place for you”—in heaven.
So, we all got out of bed for a variety of reasons that have all ended up centering around a glorious truth: at Church God fills our hearts with joy and happiness in the Baby Jesus. Yes, even our newest Christian, Weston, has received the gift of saving faith from the Christ-child and like you now lives under the umbrella of that most comforting of Godly promises from Christ: “Call upon Me in the day of trouble, I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.”
WHY ARE YOU HERE TODAY? BECAUSE THERE’S NO BETTER PLACE TO BE!