Todd A. Peperkorn, STM
Messiah Lutheran Church
Christmas 2 (January 4, 2009, revised from 2003)
For an audio MP3 of this sermon, CLICK HERE
TITLE: “The Flight of the Christian Life”
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. Our text for this morning is from Matthew chapter 2, the flight of the Holy Family to Egypt.
Many, many years ago God called a man named Jacob to go to Egypt. Jacob was an old man, he was tired and hungry, and there was no sign of rest for his soul. His soul had been restless and in pain since the loss of his son, Joseph, so many years before. Imagine what it must have been like, to believe your favorite son was lost and killed all those many years. No father should ever have to bury his own son. And there they were, left in the land of Canaan, in the midst of a famine. No food, enemies on every side. Where should they go?
Egypt. That is where God commanded that they go. It was a foreign land, a land of pagans and strangers to the Lord God. And yet that is where God sent them to go. Jacob didn’t know that his son Joseph was the governor of Egypt. Joseph was really their protector, and he was the one that God would use to keep his father Jacob and all of his brothers’ safe, especially Judah. But God is always taking strange circumstances and bringing about great blessings.
Thousands of years later, another son of Jacob would go down to Egypt, but this son of Israel was not fleeing hunger. He was fleeing the wrath and hatred of Herod the Great. Herod could not bear the thought that their might be a King in Israel. He couldn’t stand the idea that anyone but he would be in charge and in control of his little kingdom. His hatred for Jesus ran so deep that Herod ordered every male child under two years old in Bethlehem be murdered.
It’s hard to imagine that kind of hatred for the Prince of Peace, isn’t it? This is the part of the Christmas story where most people kind of want to close the book. What could be so threatening about a little infant? Would he start a rebellion? Would he lead the people to go against King Herod? What could he possibly do to deserve such hatred?
That’s the thing about Jesus. For Herod, Jesus represented everything that was wrong in the world. Herod could not understand the concept of forgiveness, or that God would pay the price for our sins. It was unfathomable, unthinkable that God would pay for our trespasses. He must have something else in mind! He must be trying to take away my power as the king, or so Herod thought. But Herod did not, could not understand, just like the world cannot fathom the depth of God’s love in the Gospel today. The world cannot understand God’s love, and so the world rejects Him.
So Jesus fled to Egypt, just like his father Jacob did so many years before. And just like his great-great-great-grandfather Jacob, Jesus was protected by a Joseph, this time His foster-father. God used one Joseph to keep the family line and the promised Messiah coming so many years before, and he again used another Joseph to protect this little infant King and his mother. You see, this is all about timing for our infant King. His time to die had not yet come. God protected Him now, but there would come a time when God would unleash His own wrath upon His only-begotten Son, so that your suffering would have an end.
We’re getting a little glimpse into Jesus’ life here, and already we see that this life is not an easy one. Born amidst the animals, no place to lay His head, this little one will do battle for your soul His entire life. But the battle He fights will not be fought with swords and guns and weapons. No, His weapons are poverty and weakness. He survives on the charity of strangers, but that charity will run out. He does all of this because of His great love for you, His wayward children.
So what does this mean to you? What Jesus does this morning is teaches us how to understand our lives of suffering and hardship. St. Peter tells us in our Epistle that if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter. In order for us to understand this suffering, though, we really have to see ourselves in Jesus’ life. He left His home for a foreign land, and God saw Him through. The foreign land to which He traveled, though, was not finally Egypt. It was death itself. For truly, what could be more foreign to the eternal Son of God that the road of death?
Yet that is the road that He took for you. His journey is the road to death, so that your journey does not end in death, but life. That is the miracle of Jesus’ birth into our flesh. The real miracle does not lie in how humble was His birth, or the beauty of the scene, or any of these things. No, the miracle lies in the reality that when He takes on our life, He gathers all of our hurt and suffering and sorrow into Himself. So when you look at His life, that is your life in Him.
As we near the close of this Christmas season, this is an important lesson for us pilgrims here on earth. When we talk about the Christian life here on earth, God calls us to look at it through the lens of Jesus’ life. God does not call you to a life of perfection, victorious living, happiness and fulfillment. That is what Satan falsely promised Adam and Eve in the Garden. No, God has bigger plans for you and I. He calls you in Baptism to a life of suffering and trial, but a life that is shaped by the cross of Jesus Christ.
This is a far greater life, because it is a life of sacrifice that is lived in God. Only God can bring this about in your life. You and I just don’t live lives of sacrifice by nature. You and I are inward focused, self absorbed and possessive, not unlike our friend Herod from our text. That is how you live. But by your Baptism, God creates you anew, and gives you this life that is lived in Him and in your neighbor. You are Joseph and Mary, taking care of the Christ child. It’s a strange though, isn’t it? And yet that is the reality of Jesus’ birth. Jesus puts His very life into the hands of sinners like you and I.
His own life is wrapped up in yours. When you hurt and suffer, He hurts and suffers. When He lives the perfect life of obedience to the will and Word of God, you live that perfect life. And when He finishes His great journey to the cross and the empty tomb, your pilgrimage is complete.
Oh, to be sure, we still have these trials and hardships here on earth. But look at this babe fleeing in the arms of His mother. If God can live such a harried and difficult life for you, don’t you think He’ll take care of you here on earth? That is the gift that He brings to you this Christmastide that goes beyond all understanding. He gives you the gift of peace, peace that He is in charge. Peace that He has suffered all things for you. And peace that will bring you eternal life. Believe it for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
The peace of God, which passes all understanding, guard your hearts and minds in true faith, unto life everlasting. Amen.