Printable PDF: 12-29-2019 Christmas 1
Vicar Jason Lindemann ~ December 29, 2019 ~ Christmas 1 ~ Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23
God Goes to Great Lengths Even After Christmas
13When they (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.” 14So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, 15where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”
19After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt 20and 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.” 21So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. 22But 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, 23and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets, that he would be called a Nazarene.
Batman or Ironman or Superman finally figured out the bad guy’s plans, had their big showdown, and heroically saved the day. The imminent crisis was avoided because of the hero, and the city was safe once again. But they need to come out with another movie, so trouble comes again, and once more the hero has to spring into action, even though he just cleaned up that mess. We have something bigger than a blockbuster movie on which to focus today. By now you have extensively reviewed the great lengths that God went to in order to bring Jesus into the world. It didn’t end there. God went to great lengths even after Christmas. God protects the Christ-child from a powerful enemy and familiar dangers.
- God protects the Christ-child from a powerful enemy. (verses 13-15)
The Christ-child, Mary, and Joseph faced a powerful enemy in King Herod. Herod was the king in Israel, including Bethlehem. He was a ruthless king. The Jews despised him, but they were also terrified of him. Rightly so, look what he was going to do, “Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” Even the most hardened criminal must recognize the coldblooded evil of executing a baby. But that was Herod’s plan, because of what the Magi told him. The Magi came to worship the King of the Jews, and it wasn’t Herod. Ruthless Herod would go to great lengths to try to be the only King.
His plan, although ruthless and bone-chilling, was foolproof. Kill the new king while he’s vulnerable. Jesus was a sitting duck. The one who came into the world miraculously, through a virgin, the one who would save the world, was being protected by the arms of a young mother and the security of a simple carpenter. What lengths could they go to against a King with an army, who was infamous for killing entire households, even his own wives if he felt threatened? And no one even knew his plan. He said that he wanted to find the new king to worship him, but he really wanted to find him to kill him. The Christ-child’s chances of surviving were none.
But God’s plan would prevail. He saw through Herod’s foolproof plan. Even though Herod’s plan was hidden, God sent Joseph an angel to reveal it. Even though Herod’s plan was powerful, God sent the Christ-child and his family to a place outside of Herod’s power. Even though Herod’s plan was foolproof, God made Herod the fool.
And Joseph’s faith in God was put into action as he escaped to Egypt with his family. What great lengths God went to! That was a close call…or was it? And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.” God was in control the whole time. He was so firmly in control that he predicted ahead of time how it would happen. Matthew shows us that 700 years ahead of time, Hosea proclaimed that the Christ would come out of Egypt. God protected the Christ-child, because it was not his time, yet. God’s plan for the Christ could not be stopped, even by powerful Herod.
As powerful as Herod was, you and I have an enemy who is even more powerful. Behind the attacks of Herod is Satan. The devil teams up with evil people like Herod to try to destroy us. Satan will team up with anyone to overpower us. Around the world, he teams up with governments who hate Christianity to torture and kill Christians. Right here, he teams up with people who disguise themselves as friends to tempt you to ignore God’s commands and are even willing to sin with you. And he teams up with your sinful flesh, your sinful way of thinking that makes you fall again and again into the devil’s trap of sin.
The devil sees us as sitting ducks, and we are. What defense do we have against the devil? Satan has been tricking and trapping people in sin since the beginning of time, and all we have is this weak flesh that always falls into sin.
But God sees through Satan’s plan. Even though Satan’s plan is tricky, God reveals his plan. Even though Satan’s plan is powerful, God sent his son, the Christ-child, who would overcome Satan’s power. Even though Satan’s plan is unbeatable by us, God’s plan prevails.
God’s plan is to protect you. That’s always been his plan, he tells us in the Bible. In the beginning, when Satan tempted Adam and Eve into sin, God promised to protect them from the devil, by sending a Savior. Throughout Israel’s history, God protected them from kings and armies to preserve the line of our Savior. Here, God protected the vulnerable Christ-child from a powerful king. God protects you now, because of what that Christ-child would do.
When God’s plan was ready, he sent his Son like he promised. God was and is in control. He predicted ahead of time just the way he would send him. When the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law. The reason the Christchild came in such a vulnerable, lowly state was to save you vulnerable, lowly sinners. He would not die at Herod’s order, but he would lay down his life for you, according to God’s plan, because he loves you and protects you.
God surely goes to great lengths for us. He protected the Christchild from powerful enemies, but not all the dangers we face take us by such overwhelming surprise. Some are dangers like the corner of that cabinet that juts out into your headspace – they are familiar dangers. And God protects the Christ-child from familiar dangers as well.
- God protects the Christ-child from familiar dangers. (verses 19-23)
He protected the Christ-child from Archelaus. A few years later, after bloodthirsty Herod gave his best effort to secure his kingdom by killing anyone in his way, he died. And the angel again appeared to Joseph, to tell him to go back to Israel. So Joseph again, followed God’s plan and took the family back to Israel. But on his way back, he ran into a familiar danger. Archelaus was a son of King Herod and the person that started ruling after Herod’s death. Herod was gone, but now his sons had split up his kingdom and were ruling there. Like father, like son – Archelaus was also ruthless. Joseph trusted God’s instructions, but he was struggling with his choices within God’s plan. Was it really right to take the vulnerable Christ-child back to death’s doorstep? Where Jesus would be the only boy in Bethlehem in the age group that was wiped out to secure the throne? So God stepped in again, and allowed Joseph to go to a different part of Israel – the land north of Bethlehem, the land of Galilee, to Nazareth. Nazareth is where Jesus grew up. He was known not as Jesus of Bethlehem, or Jesus of Egypt, but Jesus of Nazareth. Matthew tells us that this was all part of God’s plan, too. This surely was the Christ, whom the prophets foretold.
What amazing lengths God went to for this family. There were so many dangers along the way. Not only a pregnant mother traveling across the country with no suitable place to stay, not only the Son of God taking on the frailty and vulnerability of a baby born to normal people, but a blood-thirsty king out to kill him, an international flight for his life, and then returning to the land where he would have death threats. And God rescued him from each one of them. He went to great lengths to keep him safe and to show us that he is in control.
This story makes us marvel at God’s power. We often marvel at God’s power when Jesus feeds 5000 people or makes the blind see. We just marveled at God’s power when we heard about his amazing birth. And now we marvel that God is so powerful that he doesn’t need to protect this baby from his enemies with walls and armies. He can protect the most important baby who existed with a young mother, a humble father, and his omniscience.
And this same God goes to great lengths for you, too. We have plenty of dangers that we face. Traffic dangers – who hasn’t had or come close to having a car accident? Every day we face this familiar danger of being a few feet from catastrophe. Financial dangers – will I have enough to retire? Or afford school? Or stay in my house? Depression dangers – every day society, the Internet, my friends, and my own voices tell me that my life doesn’t measure up. And our most familiar danger – our sinful nature that pops up every day to tempt us to sin. The Lord knows your dangers, and he rescues you from them all.
God has great power and great love for you. So much power and so much love that he sent his Son to rescue you, and his Spirit to overcome that sinful nature in you. And he works all things out for your good. How many times hasn’t your God rescued you from those familiar dangers, when there was no way you should have been safe? Yes, sometimes those dangers do harm us, but you can be sure that the all powerful, ever-loving God uses those for your good, too. Even if it feels like you’re having to run for your life like Joseph, or live in danger like the Christ-child, God is using his power to guard your soul, because he loves you as he has shown us through his Son.
God saved the day, and he does it again and again. Whether it’s Herod or Satan, God protects his own from these powerful enemies. Whether it’s Archelaus or the world, God protects his own from these familiar dangers. Take comfort in the fact that your God is in control. Thank and praise him that through Jesus, God’s plan is to protect you. Amen.