Matthew 2:13 Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, "Arise and take the Child and His mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him."14And he arose and took the Child and His mother by night, and departed for Egypt;
So much is happening on Christmas, it is impossible to take it all in, or to appreciate it fully. The trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem, no room, the birth, the angels, the shepherds. God has done a new thing, and something momentous is underway. Next week we will look at the arrival of the wisemen, but today, .... Today we jump to the end, to the events that occurred immediately after the wisemen left.
What we have, is very much like that time after Christmas, when the unwanted presents are returned and exchanged for other things. We know that the angels rejoiced at the birth of the Savior of the World. We know that the shepherds rejoiced in the glad tidings for all men. We know that the wisemen had journeyed far to see this thing which had come to pass rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. But King Herod was not overjoyed, he was threatened. God warned the wisemen, and they did not return to Herod, they did not tell him where the young child was. When the wisemen did not return, Herod was furious, and he sent and had all the young boys of that region killed. And everyone else? I guess they just went along with it.
God sent an angel to warn Joseph, and told them to flee to Egypt, and thus to avoid the coming slaughter. And so they left Bethlehem and went to Egypt and remained there until word came that Herod had died, and that it was now safe to return.
Some may think that this brings Christmas to a close, but in another sense it is only the beginning. You see, in the face of adversity, families pull together. Whatís more, the whole point of this story, is that Christ, and Christmas are for families. God didnít create us to be rugged individual each making their own way through an uncharted wilderness. God created us to be members of a group, working together for the good of all. Think about it - did God create you to be one of the sheep of his pasture, or did God create you to be a lone wolf. Before you even think about saying it, remember that the wolf is a image not used of God, but rather of the enemy of God and his flock.
And thatís what happens to those who listen to Satan, and follow his so called easy way. They are left alone, even though a wolf by nature knows that there is safety and power in numbers, Satan corrupts them so that even natural knowledge is not available, and they soon perish.
So it is that God has put us in families, just as the infant Jesus was in a family, that as he was nurtured and protected and taught the word of God, so might we. And families know that there is safety in numbers, and so families gather together, and support one another, and encourage one another, bearing one anotherís burdens and sharing with one another the good news. And as sheep are gathered into the flock, so God gathers families into the church, a family of families. Because even though King Herod is long dead, there are still many out there who seek to destroy us, and the hope which we carry in the word of promise. That the child born to Mary in Bethlehem of Judea, is the Christ, the Messiah, the chosen one of God who would save and redeem all people.
And as the holy family was warned to flee to Egypt, so we too are warned against standing by ourselves, but instead we are encouraged to run straight to the cross of Christ in which we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. We are encouraged to stand in the grace given us at our Baptism, and to live the new life we were then given and to which we have been called.
If Christmas day is the story of the birth of a Savior for Israel, this the 1st Sunday of Christmas is the story of a savior in family, and a savior for families. God knows that there are enough wolves out there seeking to tear families apart, so we have this hope and promise that the grace of God in Jesus Christ is more than enough to stand up and over come these dangers, and keep families together that they may continue their work of teaching children the way of life, by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, and encouraging one another to live as God has called us to live, as the people of God, God gave us families, and God has gathered families together in the Church. Praise God for his grace, in Jesus Christ.