Let's open our Bibles to Matthew 2 and walk through an amazing story.
Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. About that time some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him.”
As you might recall from last week, the importance of that first sentence becomes greater and greater the more you think about it.
King Herod was deeply disturbed when he heard this, as was everyone in Jerusalem. He called a meeting of the leading priests and teachers of religious law and asked, “Where is the Messiah supposed to be born?”
It's interesting to note here that both Mary and Herod had the same response to the news of the arrival of the king. Although, Mary responded out of love, while Herod responded out of fear.
“In Bethlehem in Judea,” they said, “for this is what the prophet wrote: ‘And you, O Bethlehem in the land of Judah, are not least among the ruling cities of Judah, for a ruler will come from you who will be the shepherd for my people Israel.’” Then Herod called for a private meeting with the wise men, and he learned from them the time when the star first appeared. Then he told them, “Go to Bethlehem and search carefully for the child. And when you find him, come back and tell me so that I can go and worship him, too!”
I'm guessing the wise men where, well --wise, and knew that Herod had no intention of worshiping the baby that he thought could one day dethrone him. I could only imagine their conversation when they left the king and started making their way towards Jesus. Did they talk about what they would do if/when they found this newborn king? Their curiosity must have drove them forward, but their fear of Herod's response had to have worried them. I guess when you seek truth, nothing can stop you.
After this interview the wise men went their way. And the star they had seen in the east guided them to Bethlehem. It went ahead of them and stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were filled with joy! They entered the house and saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
Poor little baby Jesus. What could he do with gifts like that? No Baby Einstein or Veggie Tales DVDs? No XBOX? Not even a Nintendo DS? That's pretty weak for a first Christmas.
When it was time to leave, they returned to their own country by another route, for God had warned them in a dream not to return to Herod.
I can imagine them waking up the morning it time to leave. "Did you guys have any crazy dreams last night? --Maybe we should take the long way back."
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.” That night Joseph left for Egypt with the child and Mary, his mother, 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.”
So here is something I never thought about until Blake brought it up last Sunday. How did Joseph pay to get them to Egypt? It's not like Air Egypt had a special Holiday rate. And, we just saw Joseph and a very pregnant Mary taking the cheap route to Bethlehem. They couldn't even afford decent transportation to go visit Joseph's homeland. If you recall, they just received a pretty generous gift from some wise
guys men. Apparently, it was a good first Christmas because those gifts were probably enough to get them to Egypt and set them up with housing until Joseph could find work. I believe the term we use for that now is, "a God thing."
Herod was furious when he realized that the wise men had outwitted him. He sent soldiers to kill all the boys in and around Bethlehem who were two years old and under, based on the wise men’s report of the star’s first appearance. Herod’s brutal action fulfilled what God had spoken through the prophet Jeremiah: “A cry was heard in Ramah— weeping and great mourning. Rachel weeps for her children, refusing to be comforted, for they are dead.”
You're too late Herod. You lose, again. I know a lot of this stuff had to happen to fulfill prophecies and all, but that really sucks for Bethlehem. I mean, they were a small town, just trying to survive. Now, all of the sudden, they lose so many babies. And who wants to be remembered as one of the soldiers that was part of that massacre in Bethlehem? Herod must have had some kind of grip on them to get them to go kill babies. I would have been like, "On second thought, I don't think I want to be a soldier. I'm just going to head off into the desert and hope for the best."
When Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt. “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.” So Joseph got up and returned to the land of Israel with Jesus and his mother. But when he learned that the new ruler of Judea was Herod’s son Archelaus, he was afraid to go there. Then, after being warned in a dream, he left for the region of Galilee. So the family went and lived in a town called Nazareth. This fulfilled what the prophets had said: “He will be called a Nazarene.”
If this story were happening in modern times, do you think it Joseph would get text messages from angels rather than dreams? I like to think so. "...an angel of the Lord posted on Joseph's Facebook wall, 'All clear. Head towards Israel.'" Perhaps they'd be called Heavenly Notifications. It's incredible how God knits together these stories. The way he uses unlikely people always amazes me. It gives me hope, that despite my attempts to run from him, I can still be part of his story. Even the soldiers, those poor soldiers, who were forced to kill innocent children are now forever part of the story of God. That might make you question God's goodness, or it might reinforce that idea that God can use any of our worldly decisions for good. Either way, the truth is the truth. God entered our lives because we needed him to, and because he wanted to repair the relationship we broke. He did it in a way that we could relate to, and he did it despite our attempts to stop him. He is Love. He is Peace. He is Hope. Join us again as we continue out series on the King.