January 4, 2018
MATTHEW 2:13-15; 19-20 (NLT)
13 After the wise men were gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up! Flee to Egypt with the child and his mother,” the angel said. “Stay there until I tell you to return, because Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”
14 That night Joseph left for Egypt with the child and Mary, his mother, 15 and they stayed there until Herod’s death. This fulfilled what the Lord had spoken through the prophet: “I called my Son out of Egypt.”
19 When Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt. 20 “Get up!” the angel said. “Take the child and his mother back to the land of Israel, because those who were trying to kill the child are dead.”
At just six years old, I knew what was in the big box. I couldn’t wait. So when I woke up in the middle of the night, I figured it was a good time to open presents, and tore off all the wrapping to my new Star Wars Death Star. Then I opened another. Then I opened one of my little brother’s. Then my father woke, mad as Darth Vader. It’s the Christmas story my mom tells me every year.
Since Jesus’ birth is the first Christmas, imagine the story his mom told him every year: When you were born, they tried to kill you.
I have three daughters, ages nine, seven, and three. So I’m certain the child Jesus would ask Mary over and over again, “Mommy, why did they try to kill me?”
As we saw yesterday, Jesus was born because death exists. So of course they were trying to kill Jesus, because violence and death is the fullest expression of the curse from our mission failure in Eden. After all, the first thing that happened in the story after Adam and Eve left the garden was a violent killing:
1 Now Adam had sexual relations with his wife, Eve, and she became pregnant. When she gave birth to Cain, she said, “With the Lord’s help, I have produced a man!” 2 Later she gave birth to his brother and named him Abel.
When they grew up, Abel became a shepherd, while Cain cultivated the ground. 3 When it was time for the harvest, Cain presented some of his crops as a gift to the Lord. 4 Abel also brought a gift—the best portions of the firstborn lambs from his flock. The Lord accepted Abel and his gift, 5 but he did not accept Cain and his gift. This made Cain very angry, and he looked dejected.
6 “Why are you so angry?” the Lord asked Cain. “Why do you look so dejected? 7 You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.”
8 One day Cain suggested to his brother, “Let’s go out into the fields.” And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother, Abel, and killed him. (Genesis 4:1-8)
But it’s not just murder. Violence means a force used with the intention to hurt or damage someone. That includes everything from jealousy, passive-aggressiveness, gossip, and trolling… to physical abuse, dropping bombs, and ending a life. So, in one way or another, we all suffer under the curse Jesus was born to reverse.
Remember how we started at Advent? Early on we asked how the arrival of Jesus is good news in dark places like Aleppo, where children know someone is trying to kill them.
Is the birth of Jesus good news for the daughter sitting next to her dying mother in hospice?
Is the birth of Jesus good news for refugees forced from their homes and land?
Is the birth of Jesus good news for the teenage girl trapped as a sex slave?
Is the birth of Jesus good news for the lands decimated by consumption?
Is the birth of Jesus good news for the father with depression trying every medication?
Is the birth of Jesus good news for race relations?
Is the birth of Jesus good news for the pastor with a porn addiction?
All of these questions, and the thousands of others we could ask, are rooted in some form of violence… some form of sin and brokenness hurting or damaging humanity in a way that leads to spiritual and/or physical death.
But my friend Molly Just points out a connection I never noticed: Eve’s firstborn son brought murder into the world when he killed his brother out of jealousy and anger. Now, Mary’s firstborn Son will reverse the curse by being murdered on the Cross out of holy love.
What do our stories tell about the reverse of the curse? As we come to the close of the Christmas season, God’s people must be able to tell why the story of Jesus’ birth is good news. And we must tell it well, beyond the season.
But there’s one thing more, and that’s how we’ll end the season.
To be continued.
Until then… come, let us adore him.
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