A Christmas Story
December 26, 2021
If you have your bibles, you can turn to Matthew 2 this morning.
While your turning there, I want to say that I hope all of you had a great Christmas yesterday, whether or not that was with family or by yourselves.
You may have been like me and my wife, who spent our Christmas away from family due to some of our family having COVID. Which is not fun. But, we plan to all get back together and celebrate Christmas once all of this stuff calms down and we all get healthy again. Anyways, it doesn’t have to be December 25th for us to celebrate the birth of Jesus, amen?
Let’s look at our text in Matthew.
Matthew 2 beginning in verse 13 says,
13 Now when they had departed, 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.” 14 And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt 15 and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.” 16 Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men. 17 Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah: 18 “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.” 19 But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, 20 saying, “Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.” 21 And he rose and took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there, and being warned in a dream he withdrew to the district of Galilee. 23 And he went and lived in a city called Nazareth, so that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled, that he would be called a Nazarene.
Do you remember Christmas time as a child? That was fun right. All of the anticipation of Christmas and all that it brings.
When you are a child, you cannot wait until Christmas morning. If you were anything like me, it wasn’t because you were looking forward to spending time with family, or celebrating the birth of Jesus, it was just because you wanted those presents, right?
I remember just begging to open presents early and not have to wait until Christmas Day. I’m like, gosh, can we just make it Christmas already?!
I know a lot of you were like that as a child, and I can also tell which one of you never really grew out of that, it just looks a little different now that you're an adult.
You know how you can know if that’s you? If you are one of those crazy people who put up Christmas decoration before thanksgiving, that’s a tell tell sign that you were one of those kids.
For a child, the best day of the year is Christmas, so much so that you want to make it happen early, but maybe the most deflating day of the year is the day after Christmas… Why? Cause Christmas is over…
And that’s sad… But I believe there is one thing that we can all agree we are happy about once Christmas is finally behind us: Hallmark movies…
If you’ve never seen a hallmark movie, and you feel like your missing out; no worries. I can summarize every hallmark movie ever made for you right now.
Here’s how it goes: Cindy is from a small town called Cheersville, Ohio. but she’s living in New York City working for a fortune 500 company, focused solely on her career while not remembering the value of her family back in Ohio.
While on a date with her soon to be fiancé Tom, who is the CEO of a different fortune 500 company, she gets a call from her mother who is the owner of a small bakery. Her mother is no longer able to run the bakery by herself due to a health issue and old age, so she asks her daughter to come back and help her get through the holidays by helping out at the bakery.
She comes back, and meets a man named Chase in a red sweater (which he will wear the entire movie)…. Cindy is torn between the lights and glamour of New York City which is symbolic of Tom, and the feeling of warmth and family which is symbolic in Chase….
Cindy falls in love with Chase and breaks up with Tom… But then, It turns out that Chase has a secret…. The reason the bakery was failing was that Chase accidentally sold the secret cookie recipe to the competing bakery across town… Cindy feels betrayed.. She tells Chase to get lost… The bakery announces they are closing up shop….
And then……. At the end….. Santa Claus comes in and saves the day… The bakery is saved, and to celebrate they invite the whole town over where they all light candles and sing “We Wish You A Merry Christmas”…
Just then, Chase asks Cindy to marry him, and she says yes… Santa officiates their impromptu wedding right there at the bakery in front of all of Cheersville, Ohio… And they live happier ever after….
I don’t know who directs these films, probably the same guy.. But a good director produces a story that goes like this…
The plot of the story is given, and through the whole story everything is set up to ruin that plot. But in the end, all that was put in place by the director just to get the audience to play right into his hand…
In Genesis 3:15 we see God give the plot of the Christmas Story right after the serpent deceived Adam and Eve to sin, when God says to the serpent,
“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”
And ever since God gives the promise of Jesus right here, the enemy has tried by everything such as governments, sin, strife and division, and everything imaginable to ruin the plot…
But, as we’ll see today… The director of the Christmas story just uses all of it to play right into his hand.
And so, we can and should celebrate the Christmas story.
In our text I believe we see 3 reasons we can celebrate the Christmas story.First, I believe we can celebrate the Christmas story because….
1. JESUS BRINGS THE NEW EXODUS
Look at our text in verse 13,
13 Now when they had departed, 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.” 14 And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt 15 and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”
It’s important to know that Matthew here is writing this gospel specifically with the Jewish people in mind who would read it.
A people who would know all of the stories of the Old Testament by heart.
Now, the text here says that an angel of The Lord tells them to “flee” to Egypt.
The word “flee” there in the greek is the word “pheugo” which is where we get our word “fugitive” from…
So Jesus and his parents are fugitives on their way to Egypt.
The distance from Bethlehem from Egypt was about 75 miles to the border, and then another 100 miles after that to get to any meaningful population.
As special as this story is, a jewish family seeking asylum by going to Egypt was actually not that rare back then.
Alexander the Great established a home of sorts for the Jews in Alexandria, the Egyptian city that he named for himself. Some believe that at least 1 million Jewish people inhabited that city.
This would lead to what would take place in the third century when a group of Jewish scholars in Alexandria produced what we call “the Septuagint” which is the translation of the Old Testament from Hebrew into Greek.
So, while it seems strange, Jewish people fleeing to Egypt was actually quite normal back in these days.
Now, you may be saying, “Alright, Noah, we don’t want a history lesson. Give us some application. Something we can apply to our lives.”
Well, here’s some application: Some of us need to re-consider how we talk and think about immigrants and refugees, because our savior was one..
But that’s probably a sermon for another day….
Matthew goes on to say,
“This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”
Now, there’s something interesting about this idea of Egypt when we look a little deeper into things.
So, Jesus has to flee because of Herod wanting to destroy him, and eventually ordering the killing of all male babies in Bethlehem.
But this means so much more than Jesus and his family running away, so don’t miss these parallels.
Usually, when we think of Egypt in context of the Bible, we usually think of a guy named Moses, because he led the Israelites out of Egypt, right?
Do you remember Moses as a baby?
Look what Exodus 1:22 when Pharaoh is concerned about the nation of Israel becoming too large for him to rule when the text says,
“Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, “Every son that is born to the Hebrews you shall cast into the Nile, but you shall let every daughter live.”
And many of us know the story of how baby Moses was able to escape his own death.
Matthew is making a connection that all of the people reading this would have picked up on.
Matthew is saying to the reader, “Jesus is the new, and better Moses”
Or in other words, In The Old Testament God saves his people by their deliverance from Egypt, and in the New Testament God saves his people by bringing their deliverer from Egypt.
Just as Moses would one day deliver the people from Egypt, Jesus would grow up and deliver humanity from their sins.
But this new Exodus that Jesus brings is far superior to the old one.
That’s why the writer of Hebrews, who also wanted to drive this idea home to those from the Jewish background, says,
“Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession, 2 who was faithful to him who appointed him, just as Moses also was faithful in all God’s house. 3 For Jesus has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses—as much more glory as the builder of a house has more honor than the house itself.
I love what one commentator says about this when he writes,
“Israel’s deliverance from Egypt anticipates the greater saving work of Jesus. Moreover, Jesus is God’s “son” in a deeper sense than were the Israelites. They were the redeemed; he is God the Son, the Redeemer himself.”
In simpler words, Moses is amazing; but he can’t compare to Jesus.
And so Jesus brought the New exodus, but we can also celebrate the Christmas story because……
2. JESUS ENDS THE OLD EXILE
Look at verse 16…
“16 Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men. 17 Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah: 18 “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.”
In order to understand this, we have to do a little background on this as well.
The woman who is referenced here is Rachel. And if you have any background knowledge in the Old Testament you know who Rachel is.
Rachel was one of the wives of Jacob, and is often referred to as the mother of Israel.
One things about Rachel is that she loved her children. So much so, that when she was not bearing children by the time she wanted, she looked at Jacob and said, “give me children or I’m going to die!”
She would eventually give birth to sons who’s offspring would help make up the twelve tribes of Israel.
If you tour the holy land today, you can still see Rachel’s tomb where she was buried in the town 5 miles north of Bethlehem called “Ramah” which Matthew mentions in the text.
Ramah can be translated “on high” which makes sense if you know that Ramah sits as a mountain city, where one could over look the city, and nearby Bethlehem as well.
Ramah was most well known for the place where the Jews would be taken as a deportation center during the Babylonian Exile.
So, when Jeremiah says, “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.” What Jeremiah is saying is that symbolically, Rachel was over looking and weeping at the fact that her children (Israel” were being taken away from their land.
But in this text, we see something else taking place as well. We see what we would call in seminary a “dual fulfillment prophecy” which basically means that the prophecy is going to mean one thing at one time, but then later is also going to mean something else.
And so, Matthew recounts the words of Jeremiah to say that just as Rachel would overlook Ramah and weep at the exile of Israel, so she would look over Bethlehem and weep the deaths of the children to which Herod had killed.
But as we look at the next verse in Jeremiah, we see another dual fulfillment prophecy take place, and this time it’s positive.
Thus says the Lord: “Keep your voice from weeping, and your eyes from tears, for there is a reward for your work, declares the Lord, and they shall come back from the land of the enemy.
On the one hand, the people of Israel did come back to their country. They returned from exile. But Matthew is also signalizing a greater point and it’s this: Jesus will put an end to the true exile — sin and death.
The tears in Jeremiah’s day are climaxed and ended by the tears of the mother’s in Bethlehem. The exile is over, and finally now the Messiah has come to rescue his people.
Jesus shows us that because of him, there is hope in the midst of hurt, and there is life in the midst of death.
Just as Pharaoh could not thwart the plan of God to use Moses to save his people from the slavery of Egypt, Herod could not thwart the plan of God to use Jesus to save his people from the slavery of sin and death.
Pharaoh and all his army could not keep baby Moses from growing up to accomplish God’s will for his life, and Herod could not stop baby Jesus from growing up to accomplish God’s will for His life.
In fact, we see that in pursuit of trying to stop these children, the demise of both rulers came about not very long after.
So, some would say this: It’s safer to be a child of God being hunted by an evil ruler than it is to be an evil ruler hunting God’s child.
Leave it to God to have an infant vs king battle multiple times and the baby always come out on top.
And so Jesus brings the new exodus, he ends the old exile, but lastly, we see that….
3. JESUS LOVES HIS PRESENT ENEMIES
The text says,
“19 But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, 20 saying, “Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.” 21 And he rose and took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there, and being warned in a dream he withdrew to the district of Galilee. 23 And he went and lived in a city called Nazareth, so that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled, that he would be called a Nazarene.
The people at the time would have never in a million years guessed that the savior would be from Nazareth.
Why is that? Cause there’s nothing impressive about Nazareth.
The Gospels even record how strange it is that the Messiah would be from Nazareth of all places.
John 1:45 says,
“45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” 46 Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.”
Nazareth was at the very bottom of the socio-economic scale. There were not really any noble people there. And on top of that, they were pretty much despised by all those around them.
And while we may think that a place like Nazareth would be the worst place for the savior to be from, God sovereignly uses even that to accomplish His will.
Now, Have any of you ever heard of Serena and Venus Williams? They are sisters who have been professional tennis players dominating the sports for a ton of years.
Serena is probably the greatest tennis player of all time. One of her stats is the fact that she won the U.S. Open while 6 months pregnant. Let’s see someone else do that!
If you know anything about the Williams’ sisters' background, you know that although they had massive talent, they were still unlikely to become tennis players.
The reason being: They were from Compton.
Back in the day, Tennis was a country club members sport. It was a sport you played while on vacation at your beach house, or what you signed your kids up for at private school.
Not too many tennis courts in Compton. Yet, the fact that the Williams sisters were from Compton makes the story that much more interesting.
And so does the reality that the savior of the world would come from Nazareth.
A town where people were despised, rejected, scorned, mocked, and marginalized. And even in that, Jesus fulfills prophecy.
Isaiah 53:3 says of the coming Messiah,
“He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.”
God would actually use the people despising him as a means to play into his ultimate plan for Jesus, which was for him to be a sacrifice for mankind on the cross. People don’t usually crucify people that they like.
But when it comes to Jesus loving his enemies, let’s not just make that about the ones who charged him with false crimes and put nails in his hands.
You see, when making a list of Jesus loving his enemies, we have to put our names in there as well.
Before we had faith in Christ, the Bible says that we were not at peace with God, rather we were enemies of his. Yet, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
The three areas we saw today on why we can celebrate the Christmas story were that Jesus brings the new exodus, ends the old exile, and loves his present enemies.
And that can relate to us in a modern-day context like this: Jesus gives us new life, erases our old one, and we don’t deserve it..
Finally, and then we’ll get out of here this morning….
Do you remember the plot of the Christmas story we discussed earlier?
How God would bring about a savior out of his own people to right the wrongs that took place in the garden?
The enemy tried to use Pharaoh to keep the people enslaved so that the plot would be ruined, even so much that Pharaoh would order the killing of a sub-group that Moses was in…. And it backfired on him…
The enemy tried to use the exile as a means to keep the savior out of Israel and wipe away any chance of his demise… And it backfired on him…
The enemy tried to have the savior killed by using Herod to do so…. And it backfired on him…
When that failed, he tried to have the savior so despised that the politically and religiously powerful people would hate him…. And it backfired on him….
I love how the fourth Psalm speaks of this when it says,
“Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? 2 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying, 3 “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.” 4 He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. 5 Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, 6 “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.”
I can’t use this for any of my seminary papers or I’d flunk out, but listen to how the message bible translates that passage.
Here’s what it says:
“Why the big noise, nations? Why the mean plots, peoples? Earth-leaders push for position, Demagogues and delegates meet for summit talks, The God-deniers, the Messiah-defiers: “Let’s get free of God! Cast loose from Messiah!” Heaven-throned God breaks out laughing. At first he’s amused at their presumption; Then he gets good and angry. Furiously, he shuts them up and says: “Don’t you know that I’m the king of the universe?
The bible is teaching us here that Satan thinks that he can use kings and governments and rulers to thwart the plan of God, and God basically views that as nothing short of comical.
Not only that, but as we’ve established, even the attempt to ruin the plot serves as a means to bring about the promise of it.
Maybe the smartest preacher alive, and in my opinion the best Christian writer since C.S. Lewis, Tim Keller, has an amazing quote on this.
Listen carefully to this and I promise it will bless you.
"God only allows Satan to accomplish the very opposite of what he wants to accomplish. He only gives Satan enough rope to hang himself with it….”
So friend, just as sure as God’s plan we’ve looked at today cannot be thwarted by evil, know that God’s plan for your life can’t either.
So whether 2021 has been the best year or your life, or the worst, hold on to the promise God makes to His children that he will work all things together for our good.
You may be here today and you want to hold on to that promise. And in order to do so, there’s only one thing you have to have, and that’s a relationship with His son Jesus Christ.
If you are here and you don’t have a relationship with Him, what better way to celebrate the Christmas season than by starting your walk with him and accepting all that he has done for you.
If that’s you and that’s something you want to do, all you have to do is exactly what the Bible says and call on his name, and He will save you. You don’t have to pray any special words, or anything like that. You just reach out to him, and he’ll take care of the rest. And if you do so, please let one of us know before you leave so we can help you on your faith journey…
For the rest of us, let’s close out this Christmas season by remembering that because God sent His son, we have salvation and abundant life that we couldn’t without him…
Merry Christmas, and have a Happy New Year.
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