The Sunday after Christmas – New Year’s Eve December 31, 2017
Text: Matthew 2:13-23 3 Year Series A 17:2043
Theme: Our Savior’s Flight into Egypt
I. A few hours of happy celebration, then back to the way things were – vv.13-15
No Christmas is without its share of tragedies. Fire ravages a New York City apartment building. 12 people die, 4 of them children. In the north people succumb to hyperthermia from exposure to the bitter cold. In Egypt a shooting kills many Christians leaving church after worship. No Christmas is without its share of tragedies. Such eveents have become so common place that perhaps we have become almost numb to them.
It seems to us that Christmas with its joys and merriment, and death with its heartbreak and sorrow just do not belong together at this time of the year. Even for those whose Christmas has not been touched by personal tragedy and grief, the thought is often expressed that it is too bad that right after Christmas one has to go back to the ordinary business of living in this world with all its worries and uncertainties. A few hours of happy celebration, then its back to the way things were. If we think that it is too bad that we must go back to a world where the lights are not always bright and the songs are not always merry, then we need to remember what happened immediately after the first Christmas.
Even that Christmas which heard the angels sing glad tidings of great joy was followed by sorrow and pain. A week went by and baby Jesus was circumcised according to the O.T. law. There He shed the first drops of His precious blood for us. A few more weeks went by and the Wise Men came to offer their gifts. But that happy occasion was followed by the tragic events which we will hear in our text. To avoid those events, the new-born King of kings fled to Egypt to escape the hatred of an evil king. That was a bad world, too, into which the Christ-child came to live, a world that hated the Son of God, a world where lbabies died, a world where adults wept in the pain of their loss. After a few hours of happy celebration, the world was back to the way it had always been.
As we go back to the ordinary world after Christmas, we can find a great deal of insight for our own lives and struggles in this story of Our Savior’s Flight into Egypt. But first we join in singing our next hymn: CW 42 st.1-3; TLH 90 st.1-3.
II. Surely if the Son of God lives in a home, things will go well – vv.16-18
A few weeks, maybe some months after Jesus’ birth, the Wise Men came and brought their gifts. Soon after their departure an angel of the Lord came to Joseph in a dream, telling him to take the mother and child and flee into Egypt. Such a flight was necessary for the safety of the young child for King Herod wanted to destroy Him. How might this sad turn of events affected Mary and Joseph, who till now had experienced more joy and wonder than sorrow or anxiety?
They knew this child was the Son of God. The angel had appeared to both and told them this. So had the shepherds and the Wise Men, too. But now they were commanded to get up quickly and flee lest they perish. If Jesus were really heaven’s eternal King come to earth, then surely there would be no need to fear Herod. Herod a threat to the Son of God? It didn’t make sense. But Joseph did not argue. He did as they angel told him.
Here is already a foreshadowing of Jesus’ life on earth. Shortly after His birth, the Son of God is already persecuted. He was not safe in the land which He had chosen to honor with His birth
Neither were Mary and Joseph for they also had to flee because Jesus had come live in their home. We might expect that if the Son of God lives in a home, things will always go well for the people there. Yet, after His birth, the family had trouble and grief because of Him.
So also the town of Bethlehem experienced sorrow and pain with the Son of God living among them. Soon after the angels had spoken tidings of great joy, Bethlehem became a place of bitter tears. Herod killed their children in order to get at the Christ.
We, too, even though we have celebrated a happy Christmas, even though we have found great joy in the Savior’s birth, must also expect to experience many sorrows and trials as through faith He lives in our homes. Such things happen as a result of our attachment to Him.
The New Year that lies ahead will be like all other years. It will be a year in which there will be funerals. It will be a year in which we will need to pray continuously for the sick and sorrowing. It will be a year in which we each will experience our own share of inexplicable difficulties and tears as Mary and Joseph and Bethlehem experienced. When the glad tidings of the Savior’s birth have gladdened our hearts, it is by no means a foregone conclusion that only joy reigns there. No. Rather, those same hearts in which Christ has made His manger bed, will often be broken by grief. We have no guarantee that the year which lies ahead will be free from pain and sorrow.
But, with Mary and Joseph we can face the New Year with confidence because the Son of God still lives with us and promises that all things will go well as He turns everything out for our good. For in spite of all outward appearances:
– the Lord Jesus is still the ruler in Israel;
– He is still the supreme God;
– He is still the King of kings and Lord of lords;
– He still rules the universe;
– He still is Immanuel, God, our Savior, and no one can stop Him.
We join in singing the hymn: CW 91 st.1-2; TLH 131 st.1-2.
III. Yet, in such weakness we find our hope and comfort in Him – vv.19-23
No one can stop the Savior’s path. Jesus’ flight into Egypt proves it. Although at first appearance such a flight seems to speak of weakness and humiliation, it actually shows us the opposite. In the midst of apparent weakness, there lay strength and majesty.
It is true. Herod had soldiers heavily armed, sent out to kill the Christ. But the Christ-child had servants far more powerful than the soldiers of Herod. They protected Jesus from the rage of a bloodthirsty king. And unlike the soldiers, the angels did it without shedding anyone’s blood.
Before Herod could move, one of the angels told the wise men that they should not return to Herod. Another angel told Joseph where to flee. So Herod, in spite of his earthly power, in the end was helpless to do what he really wanted to do. God knew what was in the wind and did what was needed to be done.
We, too, can be sure that the Lord knows what needs to be done and will send His angels to see to it. For it is written, “Are not all angels ministering spirits, sent to serve those who will inherit salvation” (Hb.1:14). The Lord knows what needs to be done and will send His angels to watch over us. No one can stop Him.
No one could stop God from sending His Son to bear our sins. No king could stop God from protecting His Son so that He could send that Son to the cross to die for us. And no one can stop God from doing what needs to be done for the eternal welfare of His children. Others could harm us physically, as Herod hurt those children. But none can harm us eternally when we find ourselves in Him. In that we find our hope and comfort when this life’s sorrows strike.
It is just for such a world as this:
– a world full of problems and difficulties;
– a world that knows no lasting happiness on its own;
– a world that experiences the truth that “after much laughter comes weeping”;
– a world in which we do not know what tomorrow will bring;
– a world in which we come face to face with sickness, pain, and death;
– a world that is filled with heartache;
…it is just for such a world as this that Christmas and the Christian faith are so important. We have a Savior to whom we can flee for refuge. He is ever strong enough to save, no matter the circumstances. We may not always understand why things have to be the way they are. But we are assured that He loves us always with an everlasting love. And just as Jesus came back from Egypt to His native land, so God, for Christ’s sake, will finally bring us out of the Egypt of this world to our heavenly home. God grant it to us in faith for Jesus’ sake.
We join in singing our next hymn: CW 46; TLH 92 st.3&4
Prayer: O God, our Father, who by the birth and infancy of Your Son sanctified and blessed childhood, we commend to Your love all children, and ask You to protect them from every hurt and harm. Lead them to the knowledge of Yourself as God and the obedience of Your will. Receive into the arms of Your mercy all who lay down their lives for Your sake, and prepare us by Your grace to be ready at all times to live and die for You; through Jesus Christ our Lord….Amen.