The Love of Our Father (Matthew 2:13-18)
Rev. David French
Have you ever noticed how quickly people can forget how things really were in the past? How, with time, they tend to remember or see things as the saying goes through rose-colored glasses. It happens all the time when we’re thinking about the “good old days.” The times we did this or that with this or that couple or family. Those really were good times. We just seem to forget about the this, that, and the other things that caused us to complain about how unfair and hard life was during those same “good old days.”
We see the same kind of thing with moms. I don’t know what it is, perhaps it’s just the miracle of birth itself, but it seems like all new moms have an innate ability to just forget all about the discomfort and pain of childbirth. And that is, of course, a good and, no doubt, useful thing. I mean, if it weren’t for those post-partum rose-colored glasses, even two children in a family would be a rare thing.
As we gather together on this first Sunday after Christmas, it’s with that same understanding of amnesia-like, rose-colored glasses that we begin our meditation this morning. Why? Think about it. I personally don’t know of anyone who looks at Christmas as a sobering or dark time. To be sure, there are examples of seasonal depression. I understand the short hours of daylight, the cold, the money pinch, the family issues that can make this time of year hard for some people. I know full-well that this time of year is very depressing for some people. I get that, but that’s not what I’m talking about.
I mean, no one looks at Christmas the way we look at 9/11 or Pearl Harbor Day. No one ever considers Christmas to be a day of “infamy.” Through our rose-colored glasses, we see only a festive, joyous time, the same way we think about the Fourth of July or Memorial Day, complete with parades and family reunions and festive meals. And, obviously, that includes Christians. But still, I’m not just talking about the commercialized version of Christmas. I’m talking about the theological, churchly understanding of Christmas. It too is all fun and joy and Christmas cheer and the mystical Christmas spirit.
Now you may be thinking, … and what’s wrong with that?” Well, it goes back to what we’ve been talking about this past Advent season. Why did Jesus come to this earth? Why was He conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of a virgin in a dirty stable in little Bethlehem? Simply put, He came because of our sin. This is God’s plan for our salvation. His Son came to live and die for us. He came to pay the debt we owe for sin because we can’t afford the payment ourselves. The truth is, we can’t do anything but add to the debt we owe.
Tell me, do you think Christ’s victory over sin, death, and the devil for you came easy? Do you think Satan just rolled over and played dead when Jesus came into the world? My friends, not only did Satan not roll over and play dead then, but he is still actively roaming and tempting and seeking to destroy the faith and all who are in the faith. No one who confesses Christ as their Lord and Savior is immune from Satan’s attacks.
That’s what I mean when I talk about the rose-colored Christmas glasses we all wear. I don’t think most people, even Christians, know that Christmas time is also supposed to be remembered as a very bloody yet triumphant time in the life of the Church. It’s no accident that our earliest church fathers set aside the three days that follow Christmas Day as special days of remembrance and thanksgiving for fallen, faithful saints, that is, people who suffered and died in the name of Christ Jesus.
December 26 is recognized as St. Stephens Day. You remember Stephen, right? He’s one of the very first martyrs of the New Testament church. He was stoned to death because of his faith. December 27 is remembered as St. John’s Day. Again, you know John. He wrote a gospel, three epistles, and the book of Revelation. He was the one who suffered years of tribulation and pain and exile. Why? Because he was faithful to Christ in a world that wasn’t. And then there’s December 28—the day we remember as “the slaughter of the holy innocents.” It’s hard to imagine, the killing of all those babies whose only crime was that they were born around the same time as Jesus. That, by the way, is why they’re referred to as “innocent,” not because they were without sin, which is how some Christian churches view babies today. The truth is, like you and me, they were offspring of Adam and Eve, and so, born of sin.
So, what does all this mean? Why did and should the church care about these special days? Remember, Satan didn’t roll over and play dead when Christ came into this world. Christ’s victory over sin came with a very high price tag. What most people either don’t understand or don’t remember is that this cost wasn’t just paid on Good Friday.
In Christ, the babe born in Bethlehem, God was already rooting out sin, and so already reconciling His fallen and sinful people back unto Himself. But unfortunately, sin doesn’t die without a fight. It never has, and it never will. The truth is, sin never dies. It’s either bound as it will be in hell, or it’s free to roam as it is on earth. And so, truly, those little ones whose only crime was being born in the wrong place at the wrong time are martyrs, the very first to be murdered because of Christ in the New Testament church.
That’s what we’re called to remember today. We’re called to take off the rose-colored glasses and remember Christ’s victory over sin, your victory over sin, comes at a price. A price Jesus paid in full for all, but that doesn’t mean being a faithful child of God will be easy. It never has been, and it never will be, at least not on this side of eternity.
I heard just the other day that this past year, Christianity was the most persecuted religion in the world. Daily, Christians are being killed because of their faith. But even the idea of dying for our faith is completely foreign and perhaps thought of as outdated to us sophisticated westerners.
My fellow redeemed, as we continue to journey through this Christmas season into Epiphany, take some time to view your reality through the lens of the cross and not through those rose-colored glasses we so often wear. Recognize in humble, penitent faith that Christmas time really is a sobering time. Understand, I don’t mean to say that it’s a sad time. It’s not. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. By grace through faith alone, we know that this really is a time to celebrate. Because of our heavenly Father’s love for you and me, Jesus came to earth and fully paid the price for our sin, and in Him we are forgiven.
My prayer for you this next year and every year that follows is that you recognize this joyous truth in all its fullness. I pray that you recognize the depth of your sin and what God’s gift of salvation means for you. While you will be tempted, it’s not something to be taken for granted. Your salvation came at a price, a price Jesus freely and willingly paid for you, His precious child.
In His name, Amen.