28 December 2018

The Lord Is for You and for Your Children

The promise is for you and for your children.  There is hope for your future.  Your work will be rewarded.  For out of Egypt God has called His Son; and so shall all of His children return from the land of the enemy to His own territory, to His good land, in His incarnate Son, Christ Jesus.

But here before us is another story — and another big question — for those who wonder and ask why God allows such evil in the world.  If there is a good and all-powerful God, why doesn’t He simply prevent sin and put a stop to all the wickedness?

Why must His Son flee to Egypt in the first place?  And why on earth is Herod permitted to slaughter all those innocent baby boys?  They were just little children, infants and toddlers!  Did they really have to be sacrificed as some kind of object lesson, or to make some dramatic point?

Be sure of this, God is not the author of evil.  But neither did any of these events happen outside of His providential care and permissive will.  Nor does He suffer lightly the death of any creature.

The Lord Jesus goes into Egypt because He has come to save His people from their sins.  He escapes the tyrant’s sword because no one takes His life from Him, but He will lay it down willingly, in faith and love, when His Hour has fully come.  And then He will take it up again.

As His God and Father calls Him out of Egypt when the tyrant has died, so will His Father likewise raise this same Son Jesus from the dead when that last great enemy has been defeated.  For death itself will be defeated by the Lord’s own sacrificial death in human flesh and blood like your own.

So do the little lambs of Bethlehem follow this Lamb of God through death into life, because He is their Salvation, His Cross is their Passover, and His Resurrection is their Exodus into Life.

As before in the history of God’s people, another Joseph now brings his Father’s family into Egypt, lest they perish, in order to preserve the world from death.  But as this story is unfolding, in the middle of the night, St. Joseph has no way of knowing what the outcome of these events will be.  He has nothing to guide him or go by except the Word of the Lord, His warnings and His promises.  With that, he goes in faith, and everything ensues and is fulfilled according to the Scriptures.

Which is really to say that his situation then was not so very different from your own.  As you go about living your life where God has placed you in this world — caring for the neighbors He has entrusted to your love; working the job He has given you to do; and suffering the Cross that He lays upon your body and soul within your vocations — your eyes cannot see, your heart cannot feel, and your mind cannot imagine where things are going or what you will face on any given day.  Yet, you do know where your life story is written, with its happily-ever-after in Christ Jesus.

Both His Cross and His Resurrection are yours.  So you also follow this Lamb wherever He goes.

That can be downright scary, can’t it?  Only do not allow your fears to master you, neither with the violent anger of Herod nor with the inconsolable weeping of Rachel for her children.  Both hatred and despair flow out of fear — not the fear of the Lord, which is true wisdom and bears both faith and love — but, no, hatred and despair flow from the fear of death, which is the fruit of idolatry.

To lose your temper, to rage and storm at your neighbor, to lash out in violence at others, that is to make a false god of yourself, and yet, it also demonstrates your weakness, fear, and insecurity.  The almighty power of the one true God is not found in such uncontrolled anger, but is chiefly manifested in His tender pity, mercy, and compassion for all of us poor and sinful mortals.

In light of such grace, mercy, and peace from your God and Father in Christ Jesus, to throw up your hands in hopeless despair, or to give yourself over to wailing grief and mourning, refusing to be comforted, is to reject the Lord who loves you in favor of atheism.  To act as though there were no hope or any reason to go on, is to live as though there were no God or Savior at all.

That is the false belief, despair, and fear that reside in your sinful heart and in your mortal flesh.  It is especially for this reason that God the Lord lays the Cross of Christ upon you.  Not to atone for your sins, which Christ has already accomplished by His sacrificial death in your place, but in order to crucify and kill the idols that reign as tyrants in your heart, and to work repentance in your heart and mind, your body and soul, unto faith and life in the Lord’s forgiveness of all your sins.

In other words, the Lord your God puts you to death with all your sinful unbelief, ungodly fear, violent rage, and desperate sorrow, in order to call you out of Egypt as His own dear son.

He does not do all of this at your expense, but at great cost to Himself for your benefit and profit.  Nor does He suffer your children to die for the sake of punishing you.  It may be, however, that in love He allows your children to suffer and die under the Cross, for the sake of breaking your idolatry and calling you to repentance — even as He calls your children from this vale of tears to Himself in heaven.  For He is their true God and Father, who loves them more than you do, who cares for them far better, and who is Himself their everlasting Life and eternal Salvation in Christ.

So it was, for example, that God the Lord put Father Abraham to the test, when He commanded him to sacrifice his long-awaited son, his only son, Isaac, whom he loved.  But so did God spare Isaac and sacrifice His own dearly-beloved only-begotten Son, Christ Jesus.  It is in such love, with His own Self-sacrifice and Self-giving, that God the Father deals with you and with your children.

The truth is that it is far too easy for you to make false gods out of your children, or a false god of yourself as their father or mother; or a false god of your spouse and marriage, of your job, your house and home, or your family and friends.  All of these are the good gifts and blessings of God, but they are to be received in faith, in the fear, love, and trust of the one true God above all else.

You are to love and care for your children, therefore, as the Lord your God has commanded, putting their needs ahead of your own comfort and preferences (and ahead of their own desires).  Just as St. Joseph cared for the Christ Child and His Blessed Mother, St. Mary, and just as pastors are likewise given to care for the Lord’s Church and His children of all ages and stages of life.  For the Lord’s providential care of His people is exercised through His creatures, by earthly ways and means of grace, and so also through those who are His messengers and servants in faith and love.

So it is that He gives you to serve your neighbor, and He gives your neighbor to serve you.

Proceed in that calling of faith and love, in the confidence of Christ Jesus.  In accordance with the Holy Scriptures, God has called Him out of Egypt, the Father has raised His beloved Son from the dead.  That is now your future and your hope.  That is the great reward which you also receive for His good work of Redemption.  It is His sure and certain promise to you, and to your children.

It is His Peace to calm your anger, His security to calm your fears, and His comfort in all your grief and sadness.  The new and greater Exodus of Christ Jesus — through death into life by His Cross and Resurrection — is your forgiveness and your righteousness, your innocence and your holiness, your eternal bliss and blessedness.  He thereby wipes away every tear from your eyes, so that even now, by His grace, through faith in His Gospel, you behold the Promised Land flowing with milk and honey, and the Lamb who was slain upon His throne, alive forevermore, reigning in love.

He is no tyrant, but a most gracious and benevolent King above all kings and Lord above all lords.  He cleanses you and your children, and your children’s children, with His own holy and precious Blood, shed for you upon His Cross and poured out for you here at His Altar for the forgiveness of all your sins.  He likewise adorns you with the pure white robes of His perfect righteousness.  And He feeds you from His own tender hand, with His own holy Body.

Though you are very little, weak, and small, do not be afraid.  Rest here from your labors in the Peace of Christ, under the shadow of His wings and the shelter of His Altar, until He shall call you from this vale of tears to the Resurrection of your body and the Life everlasting of His Paradise.

In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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