We are used to the Christmas story, it's a comfortable story, but we end it at the visit of the Magi. The story actually continues beyond that. Herod wanted the baby dead, but we found that God is in control, He's greater than the struggles that may come.
This message is based on Matthew 2:13-23. To read it now, click here.
Do you ever feel a little let down after Christmas? I know that sometimes I do. It’s not that you don’t get what you want, or what you were hoping doesn’t come – it’s just that so much preparation goes into it, and it flies by so quickly, that when it’s done and things get quiet again, it’s almost a let down. And it doesn’t matter how good the day is, in fact I think the better your Christmas, the more of a let down you might experience afterward.
That’s true after every big event – not just Christmas. I feel the same after a big wedding. So much preparation goes into the planning, so much time with the couple, that when it’s over, it’s almost anti-climatic.
I remember in the insurance business, we had an annual meeting each year, and I was responsible for presenting the report for the claims department. This was such an important meeting, and so much work went into the preparation of this report, and the presentation of it, that when it was over, the same thing happened, it felt a little anti-climatic, and I would feel a little down afterward.
I wonder if Mary and Joseph felt the same way. We know that often after a birth, the mother might feel this way. We have a name for it now, post-partum or post-natal depression. A down time after the birth. So much preparation, so much energy goes into it that afterward, there is an experience of being down. And the demands of a newborn infant make it so much more so.
We know that after the census was completed, most of the people in Bethlehem went back to their home villages, but Mary and Joseph settled in Bethlehem. We know this from verse 11, which we didn’t read this morning, but it talks about the coming of the Magi, and it says, “On coming to the house, they saw the child…”
So Jesus was not only born in Bethlehem, but they settled there after the birth, at least for a short time. Probably not wanting to travel again so soon after the birth, they got a house, and began to settle in. They had some down time. It was at this time when the Magi had found them.
But remember, before coming to Bethlehem, the Magi went to Jerusalem. Jerusalem was a capital city, where else might you expect such an important child be born? They assumed that a King of kings would be born in a capital city. So they inquired of Herod, who was the King of the region of Judea.
Herod didn’t know anything about a new King being born, and he was a little alarmed when he heard of it. So he called the chief priests and teachers of the law, and inquired of them. They indicated that the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem, so Herod sent the Magi on their way to Bethlehem, asking that they let him know on their return trip where he was.
We know that the Magi were warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, so they went home another way. We know that Herod was so upset that the Magi didn’t return to him, that he gave the order to kill every baby boy in Bethlehem 2 years old and under. And we know that Joseph was also warned in a dream to gather his family and leave Bethlehem, so the child was safe in Egypt when Herod brought his terror to Bethlehem.
What can we learn from this passage? First, let’s note that Herod felt threatened by Jesus’ birth. Herod was the king, appointed by Rome to govern over Judea. When he heard of another being called a king, even though it was just a baby, he was very threatened, and he felt he had to get rid of that baby.
Now that Christmas is over, what will you do with this baby in the manger? Will you put him away for another year? Or, will you let Him grow, and listen to Him, and let Him rule over your life. For some of you, this may feel very threatening – for some of the same reasons it was threatening to Herod. Jesus wants to rule over your life. And we are used to doing that ourselves.
As we consider Herod in this story this morning, do we see a little of ourselves? Do we share some of his concerns? Are we willing to give the throne of our lives over to Christ, or are we going to do whatever it takes to continue to sit there ourselves? Are we going to resist Jesus, to protect the things we’ve gotten so used to, to protect our feeling of being in charge of our own lives? Or will we give Jesus control? Will we surrender our lives to Jesus, and let him be King and have authority over us? We balk at Herod, at how foolish he was – but are we doing the same thing he did?
A second lesson from this passage is the realization of how ugly sin can be. Whatever Herod’s motivation was, whether it was pride, arrogance, jealousy – whatever it was – it was sin. And it lead to the slaughter of every boy two years old and under. Our sin might not lead to something that horrific, but it’s just as ugly. Let me suggest that Satan is behind sin. It is Satan’s way of trying to stop Christ’s work of salvation.
We can see that when we look at Jesus’ life, and the opposition he faced throughout his life. Perhaps we can see this opposition in the evil in the world today. Satan will do anything to try to stop Christ’s work. And he uses sin to do it. Sin in our lives makes us ineffective in our faith, and God can’t use us.
Every sin is Satan’s way of trying to stop Jesus. And when we give in to sin, that’s Satan using us to try to stop Jesus. That’s why it’s so important for us as people of faith to stand against sin, and to eliminate the sin in our lives. Because sin in the life of a believer gives Satan a foothold, and not just against us, but against Jesus. Make sure you’re not giving in to Satan. Stand firm in the Lord and resist sin with everything you’ve got. Our faith is precious to us, don’t give Satan a foothold against it.
A third lesson we can see here is that God is in control. He is still calling the shots. He led Joseph to leave Bethlehem and avoid the terror that was coming, to bring them to Egypt where they would be safe. Perhaps the significance of them going to Egypt is as a way of identifying with Israel, and their being in bondage in Egypt. As Moses led them out of Egypt as a young nation, so Jesus comes out of Egypt as young child. God was in control then, protecting his people in the desert, God was in control leading Mary and Joseph out of Egypt, and God will protect us now. God is in control
His plan for Jesus and for His church will succeed. In Matthew 16:18, Jesus is giving Simon his new name, He tells him, “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”
In Revelation 17:14, it is talking about ten kings who will wage war. It says, “They will make war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will overcome them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings – and with him will be his called, chosen and faithful followers.”
If God was in control then, and God will be in control at the end, we can know that God will be control all the way through. That God is in control now. And that God’s plans cannot fail.
As we wrap this up this morning, remember that Christ completed His work here. He did what he came to do. Despite incredible opposition, He finished what He was sent to do.
And let us realize that for us, as we set our hearts on Jesus, that there will be opposition and let downs for us. The important thing for us to remember is that God is in control, He has a plan for our lives, and when we let him work, and when we join Him in that work, we will persevere through the opposition and let downs.
Christmas is over. We may feel let down. We may feel alone. Let’s remember our mission as followers of Christ Jesus, and be prepared for the task ahead.