Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The Christ-Child in Egypt - The Second Sunday of Christmas

In the Old Testament, in Egypt, Pharaoh set out to kill the one who would rise up and deliver God’s people from bondage. He had the little boy babies thrown into the Nile River to drown them but Moses life was spared. He escaped – was brought into the royal family – and ascended to the right hand of power in Egypt. When the time was right He became God’s agent to deliver God’s people from bondage by striking and parting the Red Sea.

Now in the New Testament there is another Joseph who has strange dreams. There is a new evil pharaoh named Herod – who is plotting to kill the coming Savior. This Joseph is not dreaming about ladders to heaven, skinny or fat cows, but is told by an angel about Herod’s evil plan to destroy Jesus. So Joseph and Mary escape in the middle of the night and begin their long journey to Egypt – the ancient place of bondage – all in order to escape Herod’s murderous plans. But the boys of Bethlehem are not spared. Herod’s executioners storm through Bethlehem and slaughter all the baby boys under the age of two. It’s a horrific and terrifying scene with enough tears and blood to drown the whole village. 

This is part of the Christmas story but I don’t know of any children’s Christmas pageants that go into any bit of detail of this part of the story. That just wouldn't really work. This reading for today comes a week and a half after Christmas to remind us that this world is still ruled by sin, death, and the devil.  

What Pharaoh and Herod meant for evil God meant for good. The boys from Bethlehem died that night so that Jesus would escape and return to die and rise for them. Nothing is as it seems. 
What Herod meant for evil, God meant for good. The babies worshiped God not by speaking but by dying. Those little babies violently stolen from their mother’s breast were carried to heaven to live with God – where there is no crying or sadness- only infinite joy – peace, and gladness. A much happier and brighter place. A place perfectly suited for children – and perfectly safe for them too.

This part of the Christmas story doesn't get much attention but it ought to because this is still the world in which we live. A world from which we still need to be delivered. The streets of Bethlehem were soaked in blood and tears that night and maybe in some way you can relate. Babies are still unfairly stolen from their mother’s wombs. Children are still kidnapped or abused. Herod’s murderous henchmen still roam around. Husbands and wives still fight and children rebel and Pharaoh still works to keep you in bondage to sin – a slave to addictions that hold you captive. 

Like Mary and Joseph, perhaps you too have had to pack your bags for a dangerous journey into the great unknown. A new job. Moving to a new place. Even retirement these days can be far from certain.   

Through all of these things you have a Savior. Moses interceded for the Israelites and brought them through the Red Sea on dry ground. He fed them by bringing them bread from heaven and water from the rock. Like Moses, Jesus was brought out of water at the Jordan to give you a safe journey through the wilderness to the Promised Land. Jesus has gone down to Egypt on your behalf – he descended to hell – the place of slavery to set the prisoners free. He ascended to heaven to lead the way for us all. 

Through the holy cross you have a save passage through this life by the Red Sea of Christ’s blood, poured out from the chalice – forgiving sins. You have eternal manna – bread from heaven. A Passover feast where the angel of death passes over and children are saved. 

Pharaoh, his armies and chariots are all drowned at the bottom of the sea. Herod and his henchmen do not win the day. The Bethlehem babies do not die but they live. And even now Satan and hell’s satanic crew, though they surround you, are stripped of their power and disarmed before Christ our Lord who lives and reigns even now.

As you begin a new year, and a new journey begins, take comfort that this child was born for you. His birth for you. His death for you. His Life for you. His love for you. His victory for you. Who knows what the new year will bring? Maybe it will be your most trying and challenging year yet.

But so what? A Savior has been born. The devil has been tricked. Pharaoh, Herod, and Satan have all been routed. And even your own sin, death, and hell have been vanquished. So what’s to fear?  

Nothing really. The message of today’s readings more than anything is simply to teach us all that God is on our side – no matter what we face. And if God is with us who can be against us? In the name of Jesus. Amen. 

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