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." And he arose and took the Child and His mother by night, and departed for Egypt; and was there until the death of Herod, that what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet might be fulfilled, saying, "OUT OF EGYPT DID I CALL MY SON."
Then when Herod saw that he had been tricked by the magi, he became very enraged, and sent and slew all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its environs, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had ascertained from the magi. Then that which was spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled, saying, "A VOICE WAS HEARD IN RAMAH, WEEPING AND GREAT MOURNING, RACHEL WEEPING FOR HER CHILDREN; AND SHE REFUSED TO BE COMFORTED, BECAUSE THEY WERE NO MORE."
But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, "Arise and take the Child and His mother, and go into the land of Israel; for those who sought the Child's life are dead." And he arose and took the Child and His mother, and came into the land of Israel. 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 by God in a dream, he departed for the regions of Galilee, and came and resided in a city called Nazareth, that what was spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, "He shall be called a Nazarene."
My Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
I've spoken in the last weeks about repentance and forgiveness, about the joy and happiness of Chrstmas, about the blessings God poured out and pours out today, and about blessed Christmas is. There is an opposing view, however. There is a certain group who were none too pleased to see Christmas roll around. I am speaking of Satan and his servants. None of them were particularly pleased to see this promised arrival actually take place. Satan had not lost track of the promise of God made to Adam and Eve in the garden. It had been centuries, millennia, but he still remembered that promise; "I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between your seed and her seed, He shall bruise thy head and thou shalt bruise his heel."
Satan was confident that he could defeat God when he rebelled in heaven. Satan was still confident in the garden. It would stand to reason that Satan still thought he could beat God. Now Satan was out to end the plan of salvation by killing the infant Jesus, and God had to protect His Son.
So we have our Gospel, the flight into Egypt. In the middle of the right, Joseph is visited by an angel in a dream. Is difficult to say how anyone could tell that it wasn't just another dream, but Joseph had no trouble. God made him sure that he was to get up right way and flee to Egypt, and He told Joseph that someone was planning to search for Jesus and kill him. So, Joseph awakened the whole family, packed up, and left right then, in the middle of the night. The next morning it caused quite a commotion to find that the wise men from the east had departed, and the young family, who had drawn such majestic attention were gone too. One night the family was there, the next morning, they were gone.
History and Scripture both record the temper tantrum of Herod, when he learned that the Wise men had left without telling him where the child was. His spies in the city told him that the family in the house which the Wise Men visited were not there the next morning. Herod seemed confident that they had only moved to escape his attention, so he ordered all of the male children two years old and younger to be killed.
But Satan had lost again, and the Christ-child was still safe. God had protected his Son. But God didn't use any special magic to do it. There were no force fields, no mystical disappearances, no pillars of fire to rescue His Son. There was just a word given to one of God's willing servants, Joseph. All of the actual work involved in saving Jesus was done by Joseph. God gave him a job, and he did it to a Tee.
If Joseph had failed, I'm sure God would have worked something else out. He cannot be frustrated in His plan of salvation - except by our unbelief. We would never have heard of Joseph's dream, if he had just rolled over and drifted back off to sleep. But he didn't. He acted. When there were easier, more direct, and probably more effective means to do the job at His disposal, God used a man. He handed out the job assignment, and counted on Joseph to do what needed to be done. That's quite an honor. Lucky Joseph! He lived in the day when God still spoke to His people, albeit through angels (a word which means messenger) but He still gave men specific tasks to do for Him.
Wouldn't it be wonderful to have that same opportunity? Wouldn't you jump at the chance to do a job, given directly to you from God? Think of the honor it would be! You, a servant of the Most High, with marching orders from God! Talk about status! That's the sort of thing that people just dream of! Just like an Old Testament prophet! God's messenger, God's tool! Specially chosen to do His work for Him! The thought is mind boggling!
Lucky Joseph should be as lucky as you! God has important work for each one of you. And he has sent it to you by means of an angel. After all, "angel" means messenger - and I am God's messenger to you, speaking the Word of God to you. God has a job He needs done, and he has assigned it to you. Now, you can wrestle among yourselves for the honor of doing this part, or that part, for the glory of God, But it needs to be done. It is an important job, and God has left it up to you to do it.
You see, your job is spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Well, it is actually bigger than just spreading it, it includes nurturing it, and doing public relations, and fertilizing it, and training others to do the same work, and running the business end of the operation. There's a task in there for each one of you to do. God has tailored a task to fit each of you somehow. There are singing tasks, and janitor work. There is talking, visiting, sharing, witnessing. We have room for writers. We need people good with math. We need teachers -- and there is on-the-job training available. We need motivators and we need students. There are several openings for examples - you know, people who model the Christian faith, or the Christian life - and there are a number of positions open in the generous giver field. We could use several willing workers, and followers of every kind are needed. There are tasks for the young and the old. There is no retirement age, and you are never too young to do some of the really important work. We also have jobs for women and minorities. We are truly and equal opportunity employer.
What?? You say that all of this is just regular church work? You don't see anything special? And you thought Joseph was lucky! What's so special about running scared across the desert? What is so unique about having a wife and a young child to care for - and that in the least favorable of conditions? All Joseph had was a responsibility and everyday life - everyday life made considerably harder by that angel's message. And he couldn't even talk back to the angel. You ever tried talking back to a dream? You could give me excuses. You could even belt me one if you don't like what I say, but talk back to a dream?
Joseph had a special job. He was the earthly father of the Son of God. It was a very responsible position, and it was probably very difficult. Joseph was called into retirement from that task sometime before Jesus was thirty years old. But Joseph's oh-so-special job was just everyday to Joseph. No one even realized he was doing any special job for God. He didn't get special notice, and he didn't get extra money. If I understand Satan's ways, Joseph probably got a lot of devilish harassment for his trouble.
Now God is giving you a job. He is not offering it. He never does. He has the job and He expects you to fill it. If you choose not to, He may work it out in some other way, perhaps taking some blessings from you, or He may just allow it to go undone here - and bring great disaster to your children and grand children. They may grow up without the Gospel. You see, your job is to be the Church, the sanctuary and safekeeping place of the Word of God. Others have had this job and failed to take it seriously, some have refused even to do it. They had excuses, too, but their churches soon became social clubs, or places where the preachers talked about drunk-driving, or politics, or pretty, flowery poetry, or their churches have died out completely. In any case their families have lost the Word of God and become caught up in the pseudo-religion of feeling happy for the moment, and taking the path of least resistance.
You have a job. For some of you it is to actively proclaim Christ crucified, and Christ resurrected, and the marvelous salvation He brings. It is telling people about the forgiveness of sins, purchased on the cross of calvary, or the free gift of eternal life in Christ Jesus. If you are able to do that.
But, some of you simply cannot. Some of you can only speak to children, like in Sunday School. And so, that is your job. There are those who can sing but not talk. There are some who can write but not sing, some who can help run the business part of the church, some who can help repair the church's physical plant. There are those who are gifted at inviting people to worship, and others who can't do any of those things, but can visit the sick and the shut-in. Maybe you can listen to a person's problems or give a cheerful greeting to others on Sunday. It might be that you can't do any of that, either, but you can live a life so clearly given to the Lord that we can all admire you and draw strength from your example and praise God for men and women such as you! Perhaps you have a faith that could move mountains. But there is one job that you can all do, attend worship every Sunday, and pray for us and the church, and yourself. After all, only a shut-in can't come to church, and only the dead cannot pray.
God is counting on you. There are hundreds of people in our area who need the Word of God. There are hundreds who unknowingly count on you to bring it to them. Our whole congregation counts on your support to make this congregation loving, encouraging, strengthening. All of these are common and unglamourous tasks, but they are tasks which God has given us to do, and they are jobs that give satisfaction, jobs with blessings attached. And they may just go undone if we don't do them.
Joseph had the flight to Egypt. We have the great commission. We each have our jobs to do, given to us by God. Let us be like Joseph. Let us do what God has called us and equipped us to do.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
(Let the people say Amen)
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