28 December 2010

For You and for Your Children

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

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. Therefore, all His children, in the same Lord Jesus Christ, will return from the land of the enemy to the Lord’s own territory, to His good land.

But here 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 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 — picture Cillian Grobien and Evan Horner — and did they have to be sacrificed for the sake of some 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, for no one takes His life from Him, but He will lay it down willingly, in faith and love, when the time has come. And then He will take it up again.

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

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

As before, another Joseph now brings his Father’s family into Egypt, lest they perish, in order to preserve the world from death. In the midst of the story, in the middle of the night, he has no way of knowing how events will unfold, and he has nothing to guide him or go on except the Word of the Lord, His warnings and His promises. With that, he goes in faith, and everything ensues and is fulfilled in accordance with the Scriptures.

In other words, the situation then was not so very different from your own. In the middle of living your life where God has placed you, caring for the neighbors He has entrusted to your love, working the job He has given you to do, and suffering the Cross He lays upon you, your eyes cannot see, your heart cannot feel, and your mind cannot imagine where things are going. 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 the Lamb wherever He goes.

That can be downright scary, can’t it? Only do not allow your fears to master you, neither in the violent anger of Herod, nor the inconsolable weeping and mourning of Rachel for her children. Both hatred and despair flow out of fear — not the fear of the Lord, which is the beginning of wisdom and is always coupled with love and trust in Him — 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, even to lash out in violence, is at once to make of yourself a false god and at the same time to demonstrate 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 toward us poor miserable sinners.

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, nor any reason to go on, is to live as though there were no God, no Savior and no Lord.

That is the false belief, despair, and fear that reside in your sinful heart and in your mortal flesh. Therefore, the Lord your God lays the Cross of Christ upon you — not to atone for your sins, for Christ has already accomplished that by His 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 you, in your heart and mind and body and soul, unto faith and life in His forgiveness of your sins.

He puts you to death, in other words, 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 this at your expense, but at great cost to Himself for your benefit and profit. Nor does He destroy your children for the sake of teaching you a lesson. But He may, in love, allow your children to suffer and die — under the Cross — in order to break your idolatry and call you to repentance — and at the same time, to call 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 Jesus.

So did God put Father Abraham to the test, when He commanded him to sacrifice his 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.

It is far too easy for you to make false gods of your children, or of yourself as their parent; or of your spouse and marriage; or of your job, your house and home, your family and friends. All of these are good things, blessed gifts of God’s grace, but they are to be received in faith, in the fear, love and trust of the one true God above all else.

Therefore, you are to love and care for your children as God has commanded, putting their needs ahead of your own comfort and preferences; as St. Joseph cared for the Christ Child and His Blessed Mother Mary, and as pastors are likewise given to care for the Lord’s Church and His children of all ages. For the Lord’s providential care of His people is exercised through His creation, through earthly ways and means and “masks,” through those who are His messengers and servants in faith and love. So does He give you to serve your neighbor, and so does He give 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 your future and your hope. That is the great reward that 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 fear, His comfort in all your sadness. Because the Exodus of Christ Jesus — through death into life by His Cross and Resurrection — is your forgiveness and your righteousness, your innocence and holiness, your eternal bliss and blessedness. So does He wipe 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.

No tyrant is He, but a most gracious and benevolent King. He cleanses you and your children, and your children’s children, with His own Blood, shed for you upon His Cross, and poured out for you here at His Altar, for the forgiveness of all your sins. And He clothes you, likewise, with the pure white robes of His beautiful 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. In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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