Christmas Continues: Focus on the Holy Family #1

Title: Christmas Continues: Focus on the Holy Family #1

Text: Matthew 2:13-23

Time: January 2nd, 2005

Christmas day has come and gone, but the Christmas season continues, and so does the Christmas adventure of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. As we watch the news reports of the Tsunami tragedy in Asia, we are reminded again that the world we live in is dangerous. We are reminded of that fact by the passing away of Randy Dunn who attended here. We live in a dangerous world. Death can come quickly as it did to the thousands in Asia, or as it came to Randy in the hospital. What can we turn to? Who can we trust to bring us through the dangers of life. It is only the Lord who can protect us and keep us alive until our appointed time. We’ll see that in the Gospel story I’ll read today. If you have a Bible please turn to Matthew 2:13-23: “When they 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.’ So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where 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.’ When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled: ‘A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.’ After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and 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.’ So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. But 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, and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets: ‘He will be called a Nazarene.’” Jesus has already been born. The shepherds, angels, and wise men have already appeared and left. We pick up the story there. I see a number of important points in this account of the first Christmas that I’d like to call to your attention. If we learn these lessons, it will help us make it through this world on our way to the next life.

First, the world is a dangerous place. Matthew 2:16-18 describes what Herod does in order to kill the Christ child. He wipes out the babies of an entire village. What a tragedy, what a waste of life, what sorrow was brought upon these families and people. We see the images and hear the stories of the disaster in Asia, how the wall of water 10 to 20 feet high hit the land and flooded inland for miles and miles. We’ve seen the pictures of the bodies of people and all the materials like cars and pieces of homes just floating by. Right now the death count is up past 150,000 people and it’s expected to go much higher. Our world is a dangerous place. Life has always been risky. The people of these little villages in Israel 2000 years ago didn’t see the king’s order coming, it took them by surprise. At one moment a mother is feeding her baby, the next moment a soldier is killing that same baby with a sword. It’s not fair, it’s not right, but it happens. Life isn’t always fair. Randy from our church who died this past week, died at age 45, I think. He was a young man. That doesn’t seem fair. But there is no place in the Bible that promises that life won’t be difficult. Some Christians in order to try to make the Christian faith more attractive try to give the impression that when you become a Christian your problems and troubles go away. Yes, many of the problems caused by sin, disobedience, and spiritual and moral rebellion do go away. But there are still enough problems in the fallen world to bother us. This Christmas season seemed to bring more than its share of problems here in Jamestown. Sometimes that happens. We’ve seen major family problems, marriage problems, health problems, problems with rebellious teens, as well as death and destruction. Some Christmas seasons come and go relatively mild, but not this one it seems. But the Bible describes the reality that life is difficult. Are you going through problems, struggles, hardships, sorrows, pains, and frustrations this Christmas season? God knows what you are up against. Don’t be surprised by these things. The Bible gives us this instruction: “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you,” 1 Peter 4:12. There was once an old holy man named Brother Laurence who was famous for going through difficult situations in life and remaining calm through his faith in God. He once explained that whenever he went through troubles he always was amazed that things weren’t actually worse. That puts a good perspective on things. No matter what you are going through always remember, things could be worse. But that’s not the only thing we have to find comfort in; we have the Lord.

Second, faith makes a big difference in going through problems. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph had a problem but they also had something else – God with them. Matthew 2:13-14, 20-22: “When they 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.’ So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where 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.’” And, “‘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.’ So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. But 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.” Joseph in particular lived a life of faith and faithfully followed what he understood to be divine direction. He wasn’t alone in a world of problems, and that is what we have to remember and believe. Sometimes we feel all alone, with nobody to help us get through the struggles of life, but if you stop and think about it, if you remember correctly if you are a believer in God you can’t really ever be alone. You may forget about God but he never forgets about you. Joseph was certainly concerned about Mary and Jesus. If you remember, he struggled to find Mary a place to give birth — and that was a little frustrating and stressful because all the places to stay were full up. But he hung in there, didn’t give up, kept praying, kept believing, and lo and behold a stable was available, and they made due with what they had, by faith. So that was a faith adventure, heading into Bethlehem without reservations. I know how it feels to travel some place without reservations only to get there and not find one place to stay, everything full. One year when I was a teenager, my parents and myself headed down to Virginia Beach to pick up my sister at the end of summer on a summer missions project. We didn’t have reservations but thought we could find something when we got there. Wrong. Everything was full. We arrived in Virginia Beach around 3am and there was nothing. Talk about frustrating. Sleeping in the car is bad, hard. I’ve done it but I don’t recommend it. We finally found a campground and I slept under a lean-to tent and my parents slept in the station wagon back section, but it was not fun. Now Joseph was given another revelation from the angel to take Mary and Jesus out of Israel, to flee for their lives. Again, he led the family by faith into Egypt. The faith life does make a difference. I was reading last week in a book that says a survey was done that showed people who prayed and attended church lived longer and were healthier than people who didn’t. The reason? Their faith helped them cope with the problems of life better than people who didn’t have faith. What do you do when things go wrong? Curse, rage against the world? Or do you go immediately into prayer? Do you cling to the promises found in the Bible for hope? If you respond in faith you have God on your side, if you panic and go it yourself alone without God there is no telling what worse thing might happen. I see in this story people of faith dealing with the problems and tragedies of life with the help of God. Let’s learn the lesson of faith from them. But that’s not all.

Third, a unified family makes facing problems in life easier. I see a marriage team working together facing the problems of life together, working together, not working against each other. I don’t have to tell you that marriage and family life today is a mess in our society. How can a husband face the problems of life if his wife isn’t together helping him? How can a wife face difficulties in life without the help of her husband. Some people today don’t think people need husbands and wives, that they can raise kids, have a career, and do all the other things of life without a family team. I’m glad Mary and Joseph didn’t think that. Look at the teamwork of their marriage partnership. First, Mary was taking care of Jesus, and second, Joseph was taking care of Mary. How could Mary take care of Jesus and also take care of herself at the same time? Some people today don’t see any advantage to raising a child in a marriage or just have kids out of wedlock thinking that two people aren’t needed to raise kids. Wrong. Oh, you can get by without husband and wife together raising the children, but it’s harder and there’s greater risk that something will go wrong. Proverbs says, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work. If one falls down, the other can help him up. But pity the man (or woman) who falls and has no one to help him (her) up.” Pr. 4:10. If married couples would think about that before they divorce, they wouldn’t have as many problems in life, they would think twice before casually breaking up a marriage partnership. If we start thinking of a marriage as a life partnership we wouldn’t be as casual in getting married to just anyone or as casual about breaking up the partnership once formed. There are a lot of depressed, lonely, overwhelmed single parents who wished they hadn’t broken up the marriage partnership. They wished today that they had tried harder to make it work. Look at the example of Mary and Joseph. They both worked together. Mary focused on Jesus, keeping the Christ child cared for, and Joseph focused on providing for Mary. How would the story have gone if there had been no Joseph? She would have suffered worse. Life would have been too much. But with Joseph she was able to carry out her assignment from God, and Joseph was able to carry out his assignment. They each had their own role within the marriage team. We need to take marriage more serious today just because our society doesn’t take it seriously. People think they can live together with no lifetime promise, no marriage covenant. No, no, no. If you’ve got no promise, you’ve got nothing. When the going gets tough, it’s “Hasta la vista baby.” But a marriage covenant says “I’m with you for the long haul, through thick or thin.” And don’t get married casually. If you get to pick a marriage partner for your team, take time to pick someone good. I see easy marriages and easy divorces all the time. It’s wrong, it’s sin. You don’t deserve any sympathy if you marry too quickly when things fall apart. Mary and Joseph give us a great example how to deal with life’s problems, even if you are still single.

Let’s ask God now to give us the kind of faith they had to meet the challenges of life.

Advertisements

%d bloggers like this: