2nd Sunday after Christmas - Matthew 2:13-23 - January 3, 2016

Order of Service - Pg. 15
Hymn #116 To the Name of Our Salvation
Hymn #273 Sweet Flowrets of the Martyr Band
Hymn #123 O God, Our Help In Ages Past

Readings
Isaiah 42:1-9
1 Peter 4:12-19
Matthew 2:13-23

Collect for the 2nd Sunday after Christmas
Almighty and Everlasting God, direct our actions according to Thy good pleasure, that in the name of Thy beloved Son we may be made to abound in good works; through the same Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end.

Sermon on the Holy Gospel

Grace and peace be unto you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

1)         The incarnation of the Son of God is a mystery to human understanding and imagination. Human reason does not want a God who assumes human flesh and dwells among the masses. We’d much rather have a God that is either transcendent or domesticated. Humanity wants a God that is transcendent, dwelling far away from us and never interfering with the world or they want a God who is domesticated, a God who is controllable and containable, who does what we wish. In the incarnation God, who is above all and in all, assumes humanity and dwells with humanity. The God who is everywhere is contained in a human body, the fullness of the Godhead dwelling in the Christ child. The doctrine of the Holy Trinity is often labeled the most mysterious article of the faith, but in reality, the Incarnation of the Son of God is just as mysterious, unexplainable, and ineffable. To add to the incarnation’s mysteriousness, the God who assumes human flesh then conceals Himself under the cross. God the Father hides His Only-Begotten Son under the shade of suffering. This too is offensive to human reason and imagination. One would assume that if God dwelt on earth He would have a life of relative ease. After all, By Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him (Col 1:16). As King of Kings and the Lord of Lords His life ought to be one of comfort and privilege. Today’s Gospel lesson shows this is not the case.

2)         The text picks up after the Magi from the East have left. They have offered the Christ child their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, gifts of great worth. Once the Magi depart, the Angel appears to Joseph in a dream and says, Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him (Matthew 2:13). The joy of receiving the Magi and their gifts is extinguished by the words of the angel. Kings from the East have worshiped Christ, being drawn to Him by faith. The local king, Herod, will soon seek the child, though not in faith. Herod will do anything to preserve his ill-gotten throne. Herod wasn’t a Jew. He was an Idumean, an Edomite, whom Rome had placed over the province of Judea. The Jews resented Herod for this and Herod knew it. This drove Herod to the point of madness, thinking that there were plots to overthrow him left and right. “Over the years he killed two of his ten wives, at least three sons, a brother-in-law, and a wife’s grandfather.” Before his own death Herod made a plan to round up the leaders of the Jews and have them slaughtered in the Jericho arena at the moment of his death. This way there would actually be weeping and mourning at the time of his death, even if it wasn’t for his demise. Herod would, and did do, anything to keep his throne. Such is the way of the sinful world and ungodly rulers. Since they do not rule by God’s authority they must secure their authority by any means necessary. This includes order the slaughter of the holy innocents in Bethlehem and its surrounding villages, so as to snuff out this child who has been born king of the Jews.

3)         What is most mysterious about this our understanding is that the Christ child is not spared from this terror. The Only-Begotten Son of God isn’t exempt from the psychotic machinations of heathen kings. It is as the psalmist prophesied about the Messiah in Psalm 2. The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, Against the LORD and against His Anointed, saying, "Let us break Their bonds in pieces And cast away Their cords from us" (Psalm 2:2-3). God the Father does not stay the hand of Herod to protect His Only-Begotten Son in the flesh. Herod is not struck dead for His persecution of the Christ child. The Father allows this evil to happen because it is as Joseph told His penitent brothers, As for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive (Genesis 50:20). Herod and the wicked world intend evil for Christ. And the Lord allows such wickedness to be brought forth from Herod. But the Lord even uses the will of wicked men to carry out His purpose. The flight to and from Egypt fulfill the Scripture, demonstrating that as Israel was God’s first-born son by adoption, Jesus is God’s Only-Begotten son by nature. And although many infants lost their lives, it was revealed as part of God’s good and gracious will that they be taken to the Lord’s presence, away from the harsh world of sin. But that isn’t seen at the moment. Joseph isn’t told all of that. He is only told to go to Egypt and to remain there until the angel brought word to return. Even as a child the world rejects Christ.

4)         This is mysterious to our reason, that God would become man and not be shielded from suffering and protected from pain. But this is the reason for which the Father sent the Son, to endure the sting of suffering, the pain of persecution, and the curse of the cross. The only man to not sin is made sin for us so that by faith in Christ we might become the righteousness of God. The one who gave the Law from Sinai’s heights places Himself under the burden of the very Law He Himself gave. The only man who did not deserve the wrath of God both temporally and eternally, hangs upon the cross willingly so that God the Father can mete out His full wrath against sin and the sinner. At the cross we see the contours of the great mystery of the Holy Trinity when Christ says, “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me” (Psalm 22:1)? At the cross we notice again the limitations of our own understanding of things divine when Christ, God in human flesh, expires and gave up the ghost. The Son of God did not assume human flesh to be served. He became man to serve you by taking your sins onto Himself, by living your life under the Law completely and whole-heartedly, and dying in your place under your deserved wrath to atone for your sins. Herod’s persecution was a precursor to the cruelty of the cross which Jesus would endure. Just as the Father did not spare His own Son from Herod’s wrath, so He would not spare Him from His innocent, bitter sufferings and death so save you from your sins.

5)         Dear people of God, baptized in His Triune name, we see in this episode from the life of Christ something that touches each one of us as well. If you are baptized into Christ you are baptized into His death St. Paul says in Romans 6. The Christian is united to Christ is a mystical and mysterious way in Holy Baptism so that all that Christ has is yours and all that you have becomes Christ’s, which is why the Scriptures can say that baptism now saves (1 Peter 3:21), because it washes away your sins and applies Christ’s righteousness to you in faith. Part of this union with Christ is a union with Him in suffering. Don’t think that you ought to be exempt because you belong to Him. Don’t imagine that life should be good because you are called sons of God through Holy Baptism. Don’t imagine that you will escape persecution for the sake of the Gospel and the true doctrine of Christ. You won’t. St. Paul tells you that all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution (2 Timothy 3:12). There are only two ways out of persecution. The first is apostasy, to walk away from the true faith, to compromise on the pure doctrine of the Gospel and the articles of the Christian faith. You can walk away from a godly life, choosing instead to live as the world lives, for pure pleasure. If you want to avoid persecution join a church which tries to earn the world’s favor through entertainment worship and watered-down doctrine. That will make the persecution cease and bring you a better life, at least for the present.

6)         The only true way out of persecution is through it, enduring suffering, trial and cross by persistent faith in the revealed Word of God. This is the example that the holy family gives today. Joseph and Mary do not complain that they should be exempt from this because they’ve have it hard enough already. They understand the Christ and His Gospel is not welcome in the world. So they endure in faith in the revealed Word of the Lord. We must be careful to endure our own hardship that the Lord allows by faith in the revealed Word and not the thoughts of our own hearts and imaginations. The Lord does not give Joseph a hunch to travel to Egypt. The Lord does not move Joseph to action and endurance by a feeling or thought. The Lord communicates with Joseph through a revealed Word and the revealed Word of God is be His rock throughout the entire ordeal. The angel says, Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word. With this the angel gave Joseph the means of enduring up underneath this persecution. The Angel of the Lord directed Him to Egypt and told him to remain there, not indefinitely, not until Joseph gets tired of it, not only Joseph feels the time is right, Joseph is to remain there until the angel returns with a good word. So it is with all the baptized who suffer persecution and cross in this life, we are not to trust in our imaginations about what God might be doing, nor are we to trust our own reason and strength. We are to cling to the Word that God reveals to us. He does not speak to us through angels as He did to Joseph. Instead He speaks to us through the Gospel and the Holy Scriptures. You are to cling only to God’s promises therein.

7)         Verily, this is a mystery, that we must suffer with Christ, not for our sins, for there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus by faith (Romans 8:1). Instead the Christian suffers because he too is a son of God by virtue of his baptism. As God disciplined His Only-Begotten Son through trial, persecution, and cross, so He does to all His sons he adopts in baptism. This too is one of the promises to which you are to cling in times of suffering and cross, whatever it may be. God is your heavenly Father through baptism. Your Father will only give you what is truly good for you, just as He did for His Only-Begotten Son during the days of His humiliation. Neither will your heavenly Father forsake you in your hardships, for He did abandon His Only-Begotten Son for your salvation from sin, death, and all the power of the devil. This is the great mystery of the incarnation of the Son of God, that God becomes man to not to be served but to serve us by winning for us the forgiveness of sins through suffering, trial and cross. Amen.

May the peace of God which surpasses all human understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

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