Monday, December 28, 2015

God's deliverance is not the same as an easy life

Holy Innocents, Martyrs

Out of Egypt I called My Son.  Matthew 2:15 

TODAY, St. Matthew tells us exactly what kind of world Jesus was born into: a world of jealousy, of hate, of sorrow, of deception, of anger, of inconvenience, of trouble, and of fear; or in other words, the world with which we are all too familiar, for do not all these wounds plague you too?  They are the fruits of sin; the sin that continues to make this world quite a different place when compared to what it was created and meant to be.  Remember this?  

"And God saw everything that He had made, and behold, IT WAS VERY GOOD. ...and on the seventh day God finished His work that He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work that He had done.  So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation."  (Genesis 1:31-2:3 ESV)

But God did not get His rest.  Man sinned and God's rest was undone.  Man sampled the low hanging forbidden fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil:  fruits that tempt us still today; fruits that look so good and tasty and just what we need, but once we sink our teeth into them, they produce nothing but evil, nothing but bitterness, strife and sadness.

You know it.  Think about it.  The last time you exploded in anger, did that solve your problem?  Really?  The last time you seethed in hatred, did that make things better?   The last time you burned with jealousy, did you get what you wanted?  The last time you stewed in resentment, did that satisfy you?  Yet how often do we do these things, and keep doing them, or have them done to us, causing sadness, causing division, causing fear, and causing so much hurt?

After man's fall into sin, Satan cringed every time a boy was born of a woman.   When Christ was born he switched gears and went after Him with a passion seen most clearly in the slaughter of Bethlehem's boys.

Jesus comes into this world.  He doesn't enter into a peaceful rest with attending angels, shepherds and wise men.  No, He gets our world.  He goes through what we go through, what you go through.  Whatever sin has stung you, Jesus has felt it too.  That is what we hear from Matthew today.  These Bethlehem boys gave their lives so that God, hidden as the Baby born of Mary, could get away for a time to Egypt.  Many years before, God's people went to Egypt to save their lives.  God's people went to Egypt, so God the Son does, too.  His people are brought out of Egypt by God; Jesus too.  They couldn't go home right away, however; Jesus too.  They lived in the midst of their enemies; Jesus too.  They live in the midst of sorrow and death; Jesus too.  The first few years of life for Jesus were spent in travelling and fleeing, living in strange and unusual places, and in fear for life itself.

The Holy Innocents' mothers wept and mourned like "Rachel weeping for her children, refusing to be comforted..., because they are no more"  (Jeremiah 31:15).  All this so Jesus, "begotten of the Father from eternity" could live until the proper time when He would in weakness and humility, give up His life for all sinners, including the Bethlehem boys.

Merry Christmas!  Well, yes, actually!  This is, in fact, what makes our Christmases merry: that God came to be with us in all this, that Jesus came to protect and rescue us from all this; from all the sin that plagues us from without and from within!

The truth is God never promised you an easy life, that He would keep all trouble from you, give you all you want, and make you better off than everyone else.  Maybe that's true for you; maybe not, but what He has promised you is what we hear today; that whatever happens to you, He will be with you through it all, and so it is Merry CHristmas!  He is Immanuel:  God with us.

You have heard this haven't you?  Nothing can stop what God has ordained to be.  The beginning of Jesus' life is not trouble or worry free, but He is protected and preserved.  This should tell us something when a few years later, suddenly Jesus is not protected and preserved; when a few years later, one of His own turns on Him, He is arrested, beaten, treated as the worst kind of criminal, and then hung up to die a criminal's death on a cross, a Roman warning to the world:  do not be like this man or this is what will happen to you.  This too then is God's will.  This is the plan:  everything to fulfill God's Word, everything to fulfill God's will.

Immanuel and fulfillment are inseparably linked to Jesus.  Jesus, our Immanuel, is not an accident.  He comes not by chance or fate.  He is God for you, God saving you even if that saving doesn't happen exactly as you think it should.

Those martyred children of Bethlehem remind us that the peace Jesus came to bring is a peace for your heart and for your mind and for your conscience before God.  It is not an earthly peace that frees you from trouble.  In fact, because of Jesus, many people have suffered just because they bear His name.  Just because they are followers of Christ, they are tortured and killed, and it still goes on today. 

What made the Innocents holy is not what they were or what they did but the Holy Trinity.  The Holy Trinity serves us Christians today by making us holy through Jesus Christ in Holy Baptism.  He "has redeemed me, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil."  (Second Article, Meaning)  Each baby was special to Him, each one a child for whom He died.  They are holy because they are His.  You, too.  He died for you.  You are special to Him.  He's not ever going to forget what He did for you.

Now let's make application to your life.  Hold on God, now is not the right time.  This is not the right place.  God, you are not making sense to me!  Lord, I really don't need this cross right now.  Shush!  REPENT!!  You are sounding like Adam and Eve.

Jesus, your Immanuel, has been busy delivering His children for a very long time.  Remember?  God divided the Red Sea.  Moses came back down the mountain with the Word of the Lord.  God provided food and water in the desert.  God defeated those big, bad people in the Promised Land.  God  came as a baby.  God hung on the cross. God died for you.  God rose from the dead for you.  God gives you His Spirit.  God baptized you and made you His child.  God forgives you.  God feeds you here with His Body and Blood.  God gives you parents to protect and raise you.  God gives you friends to help and care for you.  God gives you your body and life and all you have.  God gives you a family and a church.  God is Immanuel, God with us, still.

Not exactly what you had in mind?  Maybe that's a good thing!  You think maybe you've tried your own way long enough?  Maybe it's time to try love instead of anger, confession instead of excuses, forgiveness instead of revenge, gladness instead of jealousy, service instead of selfishness, prayer instead of spite, receiving all this from Him who came to be with us in our sin, and then giving all His forgiveness to us and to those He sends to us now, for as St. Paul said, because of Jesus we are sons of god, through faith in Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:26).

Yes, Jesus, your Immanuel has fulfilled His Father's plan once and for all.  Now He fulfills it in you.  Amen

~  S.D.G.

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