Sermon for the Second Sunday after Christmas, AD 2021

Matthew 2:13-23

Has God forgotten us? The Magi’s visit to the Christ child is great with their expensive gifts, but it means that now Jesus, the true King of the Jews, has come under jealous Herod’s radar. It seems every time things are going well Satan comes to throw up a brick wall. Is this all for nothing, the travel, the manger, the shepherds, the Magi? Will Joseph and Mary’s family end so soon?

Of course not, God has not forgotten this family. The Lord has remembered them by providing His Word through the angel. There is no other way they would know Herod’s plan. The Lord has remembered them by providing Joseph to care for them. For they did not only need the Word of God, but needed a believing father to listen to that word of God and follow it. Joseph is the example of the believing father. He is called a just man. For more important than how much money a father makes, how well-regarded he is in the community, how much he has achieved, is that a father hears and obeys the Word of God. To do this he must hear the Word preached, read it, and meditate on it.

The father who hears and knows the Word of God forms himself by the wisdom of scripture. He understands that children are not a burden, but a blessing given by God. He is aware that money is more of a burden than a help. When difficulties come, because he knows the promises of God he can trust in them instead of losing faith by only seeing the circumstances around him. The father who is a true guardian for his family, like Joseph, does not need to be the strongest, smartest, or most clever. He leads as a steward of the family God has given him by following the Word of God.

So Joseph does, without questioning, and takes his family to Egypt until the death of Herod. Here St. Matthew does a bad job of keeping us in suspense by letting us know that Joseph’s family is kept safe, and Herod dies. Literally, the end of Herod. So while Joseph successfully protects his family by hearing and obeying God’s word, Herod, who is hardened against God’s Word, however rich and mighty he may be, comes to an end. The devil attempts to put up a wall against God’s plan, and the plan of God is still fulfilled as Christ will return from Egypt, just as it was prophesied.

It is good that Matthew does not keep us in suspense. We need to know that Herod comes to an end, that evil men are not immortal, for Matthew will flashback to the actions of Herod that Joseph was warned about. As Joseph and his family flee to Egypt, Herod becomes like Pharoah in the days of Moses. Furious and fearful to keep his own position, he orders all the baby boys in the region of Bethlehem to be murdered. Unlike Joseph, who hears the Word of God and preserves those under his care, wicked Herod kills those he is supposed to protect. Such wickedness Satan loves, killing children and killing saints. This same satanic spirit is in those politicians today who endorse and encourage the killing of children in the womb through abortion. Like Herod, they would rather hold their own position than protect those most vulnerable. If they do not repent, they too will come to an end like Herod.

For God does not allow wickedness to last forever, but brings it to an end. Herod came to an end. The killing of those baby boys in Bethlehem did not bring victory to Satan, but was used as part of God’s plan to fulfill what had been spoken by the prophets. It was an evil, terrible act, and God did not cause it to happen. God uses these evil acts for good. And the sacrifice of those martyred boys, the sweet flowerets of the martyr band, heralded the coming of their savior. Those boys who died in Christ are now safe in God’s care, and even though their mothers wept for a time, those who believed would see them again. For the coming of the Savior means wickedness and weeping will not last forever.

Nor does the exile of Joseph and his family last forever. Fulfilling what he was sent to do, Jesus returns to Israel with his family when Herod dies. Yet another Herod is in control in Judea, the region of Bethlehem and Jerusalem, so instead the family goes north to Galilee. Satan may have tried to thwart them with another Herod, but Jesus does not come to reign in Jerusalem or live in Bethlehem. Instead as the prophet foretold he would live in Nazareth and be called a Nazarene.

What does it mean that Jesus is called a Nazarene? It means that he’s a nobody, from nowhere in particular. Unlike Jerusalem and Bethlehem, Nazareth probably didn’t even exist in the Old Testament. Nobody important comes from Nazareth. So when Jesus makes any claims about himself, the doubters will reply, “isn’t this man from Nazareth?” He’s not from Jerusalem, where the kings live. He’s not even from Bethlehem, the city of David. He’s  just some Nazarene from Galilee, claiming to be important.

This scoffing at Jesus again will be used by God for good. The accusation of Jesus as a Nazarene only helps scripture to be fulfilled. For Jesus will be the one who is rejected by his own people. He is the one who suffers scoffing and scorn. He will be no stranger to suffering, this child who had to travel to Egypt lest he be killed. He will take on many sufferings and know grief. His own people will not receive him, and even his disciples will abandon Him when He is arrested to be crucified. Jesus takes all the scorn of sinners, and he dies for them. He takes the punishment deserved by those who rejected him so he can save them. As he says with his dying breath, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Because Jesus died and rose and has made peace with God, we receive all benefits we have in this life through Him. We do not deserve good protective fathers like Joseph who hear and follow God’s Word, but because of Christ’s merit, God gives us fathers. Nor does any father deserve the family he has, but it is given to him as a gift of God, and the wisdom and strength to lead them comes from God. So God provides our protection and peace from some suffering in this life.

Yet when suffering does come, we can remember that Christ has defeated death and Satan in his resurrection. Like Herod, all wicked men will die. No evil times are eternal. God has set the time for everything. Evils now will eventually end. Evil itself will fully end when Christ returns. Even though weeping may tarry for the night, and there are times like the women in Bethlehem we may not be comforted, we know in Christ that there is ultimate salvation and end to weeping for all who believe.

In those times of pain and weeping, remember that even as an infant, Jesus suffered. As a man, he was scorned and mocked. He knows all the pain you go through. He is with you for comfort in your suffering. Like his suffering, yours will lead to a better day, a resurrection day, when all sighing shall flee away and with Joseph and the little boys of Bethlehem all your tears will be wiped away and you will see God face to face.

For now let us entrust our souls to a faithful creator, knowing that no works of the devil can thwart his plan for your salvation. He works all things for your good. He has not forgotten us. Amen.






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