Saturday, December 31, 2016

Christmas 1

Christmas 1
January 1, 2017
Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23
God’s Promises fulfilled

The Goodness of God – God Protects from Danger – Joseph the friend of children

Isaiah 63:7–14
Galatians 4:4–7
Matthew 2:13–23

The Lord Jesus Undergoes a New Exodus in Order to Save His People from Their Sins

Herod’s efforts to destroy the little Lord Jesus anticipate the cross for which He was born. In response to Herod’s edict, Joseph must “take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt” (Matt. 2:13). Nevertheless, the Lord does not abandon the holy family there. He brings about salvation for all people, just as He “had spoken by the prophet, ‘Out of Egypt I called my son’” (Matt. 2:15).

 With might and strength, God accompanies His people, causing “his glorious arm to go at the right hand of Moses” (Is. 63:12). Now through Jesus, even our afflictions are borne by Christ on the cross. “He redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them” (Is. 63:9). All of this is accomplished by God’s might so that we, too, are claimed as members of His family. For we “receive adoption as sons” in the only-begotten Son, Christ Jesus, even as He became like us by His conception and birth of the woman. Thus redeemed by Christ, no longer slaves of sin and death but beloved children and heirs of God, we pray in Jesus’ name: “Abba! Father!” (Gal. 4:4–6).

The Gospels tell us very little concerning Jesus’ early life. We are told of his birth and his encounter with the elders in Jerusalem when he is twelve. Today’s gospel, of his flight into Egypt and the slaughter of the innocence are all we have concerning Jesus’ early years.

Hymn of the Day: LSB #389 “Let All Together Praise the Lord

Collect of the Day: O God, our Maker and Redeemer, You wonderfully created us and in the incarnation of Your Son, yet more wondrously restored our human nature. Grant that we may ever be alive in Him who made Himself to be like us; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

In the afterglow of Christmas, we confront the trauma of suffering; death-threats, the persecution of the helpless, and the innocent. Each of the Lessons for today remind us of just what kind of world to which Jesus came — a hostile world that not only did not want Him, but tried to kill and destroy Him. In the Gospel, the holy family was forced to flee to Egypt to avoid death by King Herod. Just how bad was Herod? Even the Emperor Augustus, reportedly remarked, “It is better to be Herod’s pig than Herod’s son![1]

The holy family flees to Egypt and returns to Nazareth. Matthew presents Jesus as the second Moses. He went to Egypt and by the direction of the Father was brought back to Galilee. What happened to Jesus was a fulfillment of prophecy.

Joseph proved to be a friend of the little child Jesus. He stands as an excellent example for us as we begin a New Year. Not too many years ago, the popular expression, was put forth in the form of a question, “What would Jesus do?”  Well, we know what Jesus would do. The testimony of Scripture is clear. Often this phrase, was used, as a suggestion, that we poor sinners could interject ourselves into certain situations and insert our own will. As if to say, “In this situation, I would do thus, and so, because - that’s what Jesus would do!”  Really? Who among us has the mind of God? 

May I suggest, instead of asking, “What would Jesus do?  Ask yourself, “What would Joseph do?” And what did Joseph do? He always responds in faith – regardless of circumstances. He took Mary to be his wife, knowing her child was not his own. When he went to register for the census, he was met with derision, rejection and scorn. Raised in a culture of inclusion and hospitality. Remembering what it was like to be a stranger when they were scattered across the globe. Wandering, with no sense of belonging. Joseph came from a people who made an extra effort to invite others who may not have another place to go.  But, in this instance, his own family turns him away. There simply was “no room for them in the inn.” And now, in this instance, Joseph is aroused from sleep, and warned to take the child and his mother and flee into Egypt. How would you react given these circumstances? Again, Joseph remains consistent. He always responds in faith. Despite the circumstances. Regardless of the outcome!  

What would have happened to the baby if Joseph had not been a willing worker for God? Here we see a great and profound truth: the Lord’s concern compassion and aid come through cooperative believers. In today’s world of cruelty to and exploitation of children, the Father is still concerned about the threatened and the oppressed little ones. He works through His obedient servants to be friends to afflicted children.

Today we observe the marks of a friend of children. A true friend of children is one who…

1. Open to God’s guidance – Vv. 13, 19-20 – “When they 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.”   “After Herod had died, an angel of the Lord appear 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.”

Is not fleeing a bad situation and an act of cowardice? Why not take a stand, confront the enemy and fight it out? If Jesus is the Messiah, none other than the Son of God, why should he flee from a worldly king? Does the Father not have legions of angels to protect His newborn Son? In World War II, MacArthur had to flee from the Philippines only to return later to conquer. There is a time to flee and a time not to flee.

When Jesus was grown, friends urged Him to flee from Herod who sought his life. But, Jesus refused to run. In this case, to flee was the right thing to do. There was no way at that time to oppose Herod. But, there will come a day. A day of return. To battle the enemy.

The king was determined to kill the infant Christ. This tells us the kind of world this baby enters. It is a hostile world into which we are born. It is a broken world outside of Eden. Today a child faces “death” in terms of child pornography, child abuse by parents and adults, and incest. It is a rough and tough world with tyrants, murderers, and molesters.

The holy family stayed in Egypt until Herod “was dead.” Rulers come and go But God remains. When ruthless dictators straddle the earth, the day is coming when they are no more.

Where are those who frightened and cursed the earth in the twentieth century — Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, and Tojo? And now, as we are in the twenty-first how do we fare?   “This too shall pass” — things will get better if we have the patience to wait.

Transition: A true friend of children is one who…

2. A true friend of children is one who is aware of the world’s threats – V. 22 - “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…

Jesus was born in a hostile world. Not only was there “no room for them in the inn” at His birth, but before He was two years old, He had to be carried to Egypt to escape death at the order of King Herod. Again, because Herod’s successor, Archelaus, was equally as dreadful, the family had to settle in Nazareth. Ever vigilant Joseph keeps watch. He provides a safe space for the Christ child. Regardless of personal setback or loss. 

Archelaus was the son of Herod the Great. He ruled over Judea and Samaria for only ten years. He too was unusually cruel and tyrannical. Someone even worse replaces someone evil and destructive.  And so, in time, he too was deposed.  Judea then became a Roman province. Administered by prefects appointed by the emperor.

Sometimes things do not get better with time. Today is the beginning of a New Year. Will things get better? We might hope so. But there are no guarantees.  

But the Lord, who entered time and space, does not content Himself live in a fleeting moment of time. Rather, He chooses to remain present with you - despite what may come your way.  Circumstances do not determine the Lord’s concern for you. It is not for you to know times or seasonsMy times are in Your hands.” – Acts 1:7; Psalm 31:15  As the dawn of a New Year stands before us remember this reality – nothing will befall you in this New Year without the Savior’s knowledge and consent. “With the Lord begin Thy task – Jesus will direct it!”

Transition: A true friend of children is one who…

3. One who immediately obeys God – V. 14 - “So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt.”

The prophet Hosea reminds us, “Out of Egypt I have called my son.” V. 11:1, Originally the Lord called the nation of Israel out Egypt in the time of Moses.  However, Matthew, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, apples it also to Jesus. Matthew sees the history of Israel (God’s son) condensed into the life of Jesus. (God’s unique Son)  Just as Israel as an infant nation wend down into Egypt, so the child Jesus went there also. And as the Lord, out of Egypt, led Israel, so was Jesus.

The First Sunday after Christmas seems to tell us that, like Jesus, we are born in a hostile and threatening world. Yet God is with you. He will use even suffering for your good. We know that the Lord works through means. Joseph became the means by which Jesus was protected. Thank God, there are people in our own community, mind you, in this very room, who, like Joseph, watch and work on behalf of others – true friends and guardians of children.

Who are these true friends of children? – The list is endless. They are parents and grandparents. Stepparents; who, by choice, love support and protect children as their own. Foster parents and grandparents. Families, who through the gift of adoption graft children into their family tree. There are schoolteachers and peace officers. Police officers and first responders. – CPS workers. Child advocates. Counselors. Watchful neighbors. Diligent, vigilant prayer warriors. Faithful friends, and the like. These, like Joseph, are the protectors and guardians of children.

The Lord suffers in all the afflictions of His people. Because of His love. He feels what we feel. He hurts when we hurt. He suffers when we suffer. When the Lord called Moses, He said that He heard the cries of His enslaved people in Egypt. He calls His own child Jesus our of Egypt in order to redeem and save. 

No one ever suffers alone. No one ever walks alone. No one ever dies alone. “In all their afflictions He was afflicted…And the angel of His presence saves them.” – Isaiah 63:9

[1] Macrobius, Saturnalia, 2:4:11—the joke being that, since Herod was a Jew, he didn’t eat pork and his pig would be safe.

Words –1,550
Passive Sentences –7%
Readability –77.1
Reading level – 5.4
Image: Schnorr von Carolsfeld woodcuts © WELS for private and congregational use

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