St. Matthew 2:13-23
December 29, 2013
Grace, mercy and peace be unto you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. AMEN! Our text for this morning’s sermon is taken from St. Matthew’s gospel account the 2nd chapter.
Beloved in the Lord,
Joseph Attends to God’s Word – He flees
Behold the Holy Family. Joseph a righteous man watching over his beloved and the infant Christ. Mary, virgin pure and mild cradles her firstborn son, nurses him, warms him in the cold, dark night. The infant Jesus, the one come to save His people from their sins, like all children He is at the mercy of His parents, totally dependent on them for everything; clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, whatever he needs He is given to receive it from Joseph and Mary.
Behold the Holy Family and note that such holiness isn’t flowing from their moral character but their moral character flows from their holiness, a holiness they hold in their arms, the Christ child lying in their midst. He makes them holy even as He sanctifies the whole earth with His presence. Joseph and Mary receive this by faith, faith in the word and promises of God connected to the miraculous birth of this child. They believe and they no doubt rejoice.
Behold the Holy Family for it is time for them to depart Bethlehem. Not everyone is singing “Joy to the World.” King Herod seeks to destroy the child’s life and thereby preserve his own. Thus, the Angel comes once more bringing Word to Joseph and Joseph being a just man receives that Word and faithfully and dutifully obeys. He obeys because He believes. His faith follows God’s Word. God’s Word is always for our good even when it means packing up and moving south, leaving the promised land, and fleeing Herod. With Joseph goes Jesus. With Jesus going so goes the gospel. Where are you going?
Herod and the World persecute Jesus
Herod is pursuing the child – not to worship, not to adore, not to pick him up and cradle the messiah in his arms or his heart. Herod pursues in order to kill. He and his henchman go after Joseph and Mary to get Jesus dead. This ought not be too surprising for this is how far people will go in order to preserve their lives, or should I say lifestyle.
Herod sees Jesus as a threat – a threat to his dominion, his wealth, his status, his power, his happiness. The world we live in is no different. Christians are persecuted around the world – put to death, crucified, burned alive, raped, murdered, and bombed. We expect that over there amongst those people. But the intention is no different than what we find over here among our people. People will go to great lengths – even kill, even kill their own babies, to preserve their self-esteem, social status, economic viability, popularity amongst friends, or even for reasons as vain as their “girly figure” and thus tilt the balance of this world’s favor toward themselves. Trying to save themselves and their trivial treasures, the world enacts Herod’s decree again and again and again as they hurt one another, abort their children, and follow the forked tongue of the serpent against holy families and the holy one of God.
Even we Christians struggle as our Old Adam wrestles with the Spirit of God. The good we want to do we don’t do. The bad we don’t want to do, that we do. We sin against God and our neighbor. We fail to follow God’s Word and rather than imitate this Holy Family in our text we often look more like the unbelievers with whom we share this mortal life. We do what they do. We say what they say. We go where they go. We love what they love. And they do not love our Lord, they do not go to Church, they do not pray in His Name, nor do they live and act justly. Look at the brokenness of our lives; broken families, broken promises, broken hearts, broken children, broken minds. Broken! Broken! Broken! Everywhere we look, especially the depths of our own hearts we have been party to a rebellion, a battle against the Spirit of our God and the Gospel He gives through this child Jesus. And what does such a life of revolt give us? Nothing! In fact, we lose. We lose the gospel as Jesus departs from us. God moves the storm cloud of His Word to lands that receive it with thanksgiving and praise.
Out of Egypt I have Called My Son
That first Christmas, Israel did not know what God was doing, and those who did made every attempt to crush it in the cradle. The sons of Bethlehem surrendered their lives while the Christ child is swept away to Egypt. Jesus departs for a time because the time of His departure is not yet. As the Word made flesh Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old Testament, the promises of God incarnate. His departure and subsequent return fulfill the prophecy. “Out of Egypt I have called my Son.” Jesus departs that be called out. He departs for Israel’s good and for yours. Jesus goes to Egypt as Israel went to Egypt. Jesus leaves the promised land as Adam left Eden. He does this because Jesus embodies Israel and all the sons and daughters of Adam. He goes for you and me and all people, even those seeking His life. He goes out in order to come back in bringing with Him all the saints.
His going out and coming in relives our exodus from God and neighbor. He does for us what we cannot do for ourselves. And He does it perfectly, with no spot, stain or blemish. He is without sin for us sinners. He is the pure Lamb for us spotted sheep. He is redemption for the slaves, health for the sick, and life for the dead and dying. Thus, being called out of Egypt and back to the land of Promise Jesus becomes a slave, a suffering servant for you and me. He offers His health in exchange for our infirmities. He sacrifices His life that all who believe on His name are born again, born from above, born that man no more may die. His wounds bind up broken hearts and broken lives. In His cross is my death. In His resurrection is my eternal life. Thus His going out and coming in saves me and all believers from sin, death, and hell.
The Death of Herod and the Old Adam
Thus, beloved, with the world we called to repent. Rachel weeps for her children for they are no more. Let us shed tears of repentance. The life we needed at times we reject because it is too simple, too humble, too common, too easy. Jesus bids us to follow after Him and to die. With Jesus there is always death and resurrection. In Baptism the life I thought I needed to preserve is put to death. Under the water I die the death I didn’t want to suffer. Old Adam is put down and with Christ the New is raised up. Returning to the water of baptism I am returned to Christ. He is returned to me. Sins are forgiven. Wounds are healed. Hearts are quickened. Love abounds and the warmth of a living faith floods body and soul towards God and my neighbor. I am no longer who I once was. But baptized into Christ I am new, I am forgiven, I am truly alive and will live forever in paradise with Christ because Christ departed paradise to rescue me and you and the whole world.
Joseph attends to God’s Word – He Returns
Beloved in the Lord, behold this Holy Family in our text and this Holy Family in our midst. Mary and Joseph cradle Jesus and go wherever he goes. When Herod was know to be dead, Joseph followed the angel’s Word and returned to Israel. We who bear the Christ Child’s name in our baptism do the same. With the Old Adam dead and drowned we are His family, His mother and brothers and sisters for as Jesus himself says, “who are my mother and brothers? My mother and brothers are those who hear the Word of God and do it.” (Luke 8:21). We are His Holy Family in this very hostile world. No matter what the circumstances we must be like this Holy Family in our text. We must go where Jesus goes. We must heed the Word of God and put that Word into action for our neighbor. For where Jesus is there is paradise. And wherever the Word gives its instruction there is God’s will for our lives and the lives of those around us. The good we want to do, the gospel empowers us to do it. The bad we don’t want to do the gospel empowers us to not do it. And when we fall, when we fail, when we hurt or are weak, as is inevitably the case until the day of our resurrection, we are then called back to the waters of life, to repent and believe the gospel receiving from Jesus mercy and forgiveness, light and life, holiness and righteousness. God grant us to answer this call today. AMEN!
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your heart and mind through faith in Christ Jesus. AMEN!