First Sunday after Christmas
December 30, 2007
Text: Matt. 2:13-23
Israel came to Egypt to escape famine and certain death. He came because his son, Joseph, was second only to Pharaoh, and with God’s guidance had led Egypt through seven years of plenty to plan ahead for the seven years of famine, so that there was enough grain to sustain them. Joseph’s brothers had sold him into slavery to Ishmaelites bound for Egypt. But what they intended for evil, God intended for good. He had been brought to his high position for such a time as this. The people of Israel settled in Egypt, in the land of Goshen, and enjoyed the blessing of God.
But it was not long before a new Pharaoh came to power, one who did not know Joseph or his God. This Pharaoh enslaved the children of Israel, subjecting them to hard labor. For 430 years the people cried out to God for deliverance. The Pharaohs gave them no relief. The people were kept in subjection. One fateful day the order went out from Pharaoh: Every male child born to a Hebrew woman was to be put to death. And then you know the story. One particular Hebrew boy was born to Amram and Jochabed, placed in a basket of woven bulrushes, and floated down the Nile into the unsuspecting arms of Pharaoh’s daughter. She named him Moses and raised him in Pharaoh’s court. He had been brought into this position for such a time as this. As he learned of his Hebrew heritage, he forsook the royal palaces of Egypt for the hardship of his own people. God called him through a burning bush to be His holy prophet. God spoke to Pharaoh through Moses: “Let my people go!” God heard His people’s cries for deliverance. He sent a deliverer, Moses. He sent Moses to deliver the people from bondage. Through Moses, God led them forth from Egypt, through the Red Sea, through 40 years of wilderness wandering, and into the Promised Land. Out of Egypt, God called His son.
These things were a shadow of the things to come. Our Lord Jesus Christ is Israel personified. He is the fulfillment and completion of Israel’s history. King Herod had to keep the children of Israel in subjection. So one fateful day, on the basis of the wise men’s report, he ordered every male child two years old and under in Bethlehem to be slaughtered. But just in the nick of time, “behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him’” (Matt. 2:13; ESV). How foolish is King Herod if he thinks he can foil the reign of God’s Anointed. The blood of the Holy Innocents is on his hands, but the true King of Jews has slipped through his murderous fingers.
The mothers in Bethlehem weep as they hold the lifeless bodies of their infant sons. “Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah: ‘A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they are no more’” (vv. 17-18). Our Lord Jesus was to be among their number. It was to kill Him that Herod killed them. But it was not yet our Lord’s time. He would die. He had been saved for such a time as this. He, too, would shed His blood and join His brothers in Bethlehem. But not yet. For now, He escapes, and their martyr blood cries to God from the dust. He will not be gone for long, however. Herod dies in 4 BC. Joseph is told to take his family back to Israel. The Savior is to be raised among His own people. He is the King of the Jews. “This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, ‘Out of Egypt I called my son’” (v. 15).
Israel was called out of bondage in Egypt to serve YHWH as His own people in the Promised Land. Our Savior, Jesus Christ, was called out of hiding in Egypt to serve His Father, YHWH, as His own dear Son and the Savior of the world in that same Promised Land. But this is so much more than an interesting history lesson for you. Did you know that you are in bondage? Did you know that you are enslaved? Did it ever occur to you as you read these stories or heard them preached that these events speak not only of Israel and Jesus, but of you as well?
I’m talking about your bondage to sin and death. You have sinned, and the wages of sin is death. You cannot help but sin. I know that’s not a politically correct thing to say. I know it isn’t nice. But it is the truth, and you came here to hear the truth, even when it isn’t pretty. Beloved, you are born blind, dead, and enemies of God, every one of you. You are born with a will that is bound, that cannot love God or serve God or choose anything but sin. You are born in bondage to the devil. Now that’s a truth we don’t like to dwell on. Believe me, as one eagerly awaiting the birth of his first child, I don’t like to think of my little girl as having anything to do with the devil. But she is in bondage to him. She is his hostage. She is a sinner. Her will is bound. She cannot love God. She cannot serve God. She is enslaved. That is her lot as a daughter of Adam and Eve. She is totally infected by original sin. Until the day she dies she will commit all manner of actual sins. It breaks my heart to say it, but she’s a slave! And so are you outside of Christ.
But here’s the good news. God is calling you out of Egypt! He is calling you out of slavery! He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, for such a time as this. He has sent us a deliverer, a Savior. God is calling you to be united to His Son, Jesus. This is why Baptism is so important. Baptism is the Red Sea through which your new and greater Moses leads you out of the Egypt of your sin. It is the means by which you are united to Him. It is the means by which His death and resurrection become your own. It is the means by which you also become a child of God… by which the prophecy also applies to you: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”
God-willing, in a few short weeks my daughter will be brought to this very baptismal font to be drowned and brought to new life. It is really a violent thing, Baptism. But it is life-saving. The Lord will do an incredible thing to her here in your sight. He will cast out the devil and cast off her chains to sin and death. He will call her out of Egypt. He will cover her with the blood of atonement. He will crucify her flesh. He will breathe His life into her and make her a new creation. He will make her His own child. No longer enslaved to the devil, she will be enslaved by her love of Him. She will serve Him not because of the threat of hell, but because that’s what love does. For the first time her will will be free. For the first time her will will be holy. But what happens in that moment will not be momentary. It will last her a whole lifetime, a lifetime of repentance and faith, a lifetime of wandering in the wilderness of this world, believing that the Promised Land of heaven and the resurrection are her future lot. And in the moment we see her undergo this transfiguration, we, too, will behold once again our own Baptism into Christ. All the things that are true for her are true for you and for me as well. Every Baptism and every baptismal font takes us back to our own Baptism. Out of Egypt, God has called His son. He has called you. He has called me. “So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God” (Gal. 4:7).
For our ransom price has been paid. The Lord Jesus has taken all your sins and all of my sins and all the sins of the whole world to the cross. There He who knew no sin became sin for us. Sin has been crucified. Sin and death are dead. But Christ is risen. Therefore you are free. You are free from the sin that so easily entangles you. That is the gift of Christmas. You are forgiven. You are free with perfect freedom. Have you been enslaved to gluttony this Christmas season? In Christ, you are forgiven. You are free. Have you been enslaved to pornography or illicit sexual activity? In Christ, you are forgiven. You are free. Have you been enslaved to greed and miserliness? Or covetousness? Or lust? In Christ, you are forgiven. You are free. Live in that forgiveness. Go and sin no more. Whatever the sin, it does not have a greater hold on you than Christ. Nothing can snatch you out of His hand. Believe it and it is yours. Out of Egypt, God has called His son. The Church is the Body of His Son. You are the Body of His Son. In Christ, God has set you free. You are free to be His own, to love Him and serve Him. For He loves you. And it is for you that God became flesh and has made His home among us. Merry Christmas! In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.