The Feast of the Nativity of our Lord and these Twelve Days of Christmas have brought to the forefront of our attention the central and absolute importance of Jesus the Christ, our Savior and our God. And perhaps the Season has in various ways rekindled your desire and commitment to live as a faithful Christian and to keep “the Christmas Spirit” throughout the coming New Year.
Such resolves and good intentions will not save you, but it is truly meet, right, and salutary that you should live your entire life in the faith and love of Christ Jesus. And to that end, it is by all means necessary that you know where and how to find Him — although, in fact, it is always Christ Jesus who must first of all find you! Indeed, if He does not find you and reveal Himself to you, then you never will be able to locate Him; far less will you be able to live according to His Word.
Of course, that murderous tyrant, King Herod, was also looking for Jesus, in order to destroy Him; because Herod felt threatened by the coming of the Christ and feared for his throne. Herod did not want to be found first, nor to be found out, so he thought he’d just take matters into his own hands. That was Herod, such as he was. But let us rather look for Christ Jesus according to His Word, and so receive Him and embrace Him as our true King, and as our Savior from sin, death, and hell.
So the question is, “Where do you find Jesus?” And the Gospel has provided the answer for you.
To begin with, you find the Lord Jesus under the Cross, persecuted by the world from the first to the last. Even if you don’t normally associate His Cross and Passion with the stories of Christmas, the Cross is surely right there. It is painfully displayed in Herod’s slaughter of the Holy Innocents, as we also remembered here at the Lord’s Altar yesterday morning, on the Fourth Day of the ChristMass. His wicked desire and desperate attempt to destroy the young Christ-Child was thus vented against everyone associated with Him, even if only be the proximity of age and birthplace.
That must always be the reaction of this fallen and perishing world to the presence of the Lord and His children — fear and rejection, hatred and animosity, and outright execution of the innocent.
Have no doubt that our Lord could easily have avoided all that violence and suffering, and readily dispatched His enemies by the force of His divine power. After all, Herod was nothing in contrast to the King of kings and Lord of lords, who has all the legions of angels at His beck and call. But our dear Lord Jesus Christ came into the world with the intention to sacrifice Himself upon the Cross, to suffer the persecution of wicked men, and to lay down His own Body and Life and shed His holy and precious Blood for the forgiveness and salvation of the very world that hated Him!
So also to this day, in this world you will always find the Lord Jesus in, with, and under His Cross. As He was surely with our fellow Christians who were martyred this past week on Christmas Day.
It is not in worldly power and might that you find the Lord Jesus, far less in worldly pomp and circumstance, but in humility and meekness, in poverty and weakness, in suffering and death. Not as though He were thereby defeated, but because His power is made perfect in weakness, and because the Cross and Crucifixion of Christ Jesus are the height of His divine power and glory — manifested in tender mercy and compassion. And for all of that, this old world with all its sinful bluster and bravado will never be able to comprehend or tolerate the presence of God in Christ.
Now, therefore, in taking up the Cross and suffering the persecution of the world, the Lord Jesus has taken the place of His people and identified Himself with their pain and sorrow. That is to say, He has come to share your suffering and death — which is all that you deserve on account of your sins; but He has come to share your death, in order that you might share in His divine, eternal Life.
Indeed, the Son of God has become true Man for this very reason and purpose, that you might become a son of God in Him, by adoption and by grace, through your Holy Baptism in His Name.
So it is that St. Matthew indicates something rather profound and unexpected in this poignant Holy Gospel. He records that Jesus and His Holy Family fled into Egypt, in order that God should call His Son back out of Egypt in fulfillment of the words of the Prophet Hosea. But if you were to look at those words of the Prophet Hosea, you’d be hard-pressed to know that he was referring to anyone other than the Old Testament Sons of Israel in their Exodus from Egypt under Moses. And yet, it’s not really an either-or. It’s rather that the Lord Jesus assumes the captivity of His people, in order to rescue and release them, and to bring them out of that captivity in and with Himself.
By the same token — in spite of the fact that, in the case at hand, it would seem as though the Holy Innocents were the ones to suffer death instead of Christ Jesus — it is ultimately the case that Jesus is the One who has suffered and died for all of them, and for all the sons of Adam and daughters of Eve, in order to rescue all of the children of man from eternal death and damnation.
Indeed, the blood of all the holy martyrs — including those little boys of Bethlehem and those Christians in Nigeria this past week — signifies and points to the shed Blood of the Son of God, our Savior, Jesus Christ. In every case, He identifies Himself with His people in their suffering and hardship under the Cross. And thus, by His own Cross and Resurrection, He takes you and all His people with Himself through death and the grave into His eternal Life and Salvation.
So does the Church confess in the face of death and the grave; and so do we mourn with Dave and Karin, with Aaron & Annalise, and with their families, not as those who have no hope, but as those who abide and rejoice in the sure and certain hope of the Resurrection. And that is the case, not only when your loved ones have passed from this vale of tears to the nearer presence of Christ, but in all your struggles under the Cross in this body and life. You find Christ Jesus precisely there, in all your troubles, because He has come to find you and to abide with you there, before you ever even knew to look for Him. He has come to sojourn with you, that you should also be called out of “Egypt” by His God and Father in heaven, and that you should also be a “son of God” in Him.
Along with that — on the flipside, as it were — as the Lord Jesus has associated and identified Himself with His people in the midst of this fallen and perishing world, so do you also find the Lord Jesus Christ, in the flesh, in and with His Church on earth, and not apart from His Church.
St. Matthew has made that plain in this Holy Gospel, in the way that he has described the Christ-Child always with “His Mother.” Over and over again, it is “the young Child and His Mother.” Not only in this Holy Gospel, but also in the Visit of the Magi that precedes it, as we shall hear on the Feast of the Epiphany. It is St. Matthew’s way of indicating and stressing, as Dr. Luther also stressed, that one should not look for God — nor will you ever be able to find the one true God — anywhere else than here, in the flesh and blood of Jesus, the incarnate Son of God, born of Mary.
Which is also to say that you should not look for God — nor will you ever be able to find Christ Jesus, the incarnate Son of God — except in His external Means of Grace, that is, in the preaching of His Holy Gospel, in His spoken Word of Holy Absolution, in the washing of the water with His Word in Holy Baptism, and in the Holy Communion of His Body and Blood, given and poured out for you to eat and drink with your body in repentant faith and with thanksgiving. For these bodily Means of Grace are where and how the Lord Jesus Christ is present and available for you and for the many. These are the lap of His Holy Mother, wherein and whereby His flesh is given to you.
Along the same lines, the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God-in-the-Flesh, is also understood in the Holy Scriptures to be a living icon of the Church on earth. And that makes perfect sense. For in much the same way that dear St. Mary conceived and gave birth to the Son of God — by His Word and Holy Spirit, according to His gracious choice and mercy — so does the Church on earth conceive and give birth to the children of God in Christ by the same Word and Holy Spirit.
Thus, the Church is your Mother in Christ Jesus, even as God is your true Father. And you never will find the Christ-Child Jesus apart from this Holy Mother, His Church of the Gospel–Word and Sacraments. Seek and find Him there, nestled and nursing, laughing and playing in that Mother’s lap and arms. Just as He is here for you this morning, in this place — the Only-Begotten God, the incarnate Son, who has come from the bosom of His Father to the bosom of His Church on earth.
In each and every case, you find the Lord Jesus where His Word has directed you to find Him. As we have heard over the course of Advent and in the accounts of the Christmas story from St. Luke, so have you heard again this morning that everything happens according to the Word of the Lord.
St. Matthew clearly indicates that every event in this story of the Holy Gospel was in fulfillment of the Old Testament Holy Scriptures. And that is revealed to be the case even in ways that we would surely not have guessed or figured out for ourselves. For example, you’ll never be able to find any specific Old Testament Prophecy that says the Savior would be called a Nazarene. But in the Hebrew language, the root word for “Nazareth” and “Nazarene” is the word for “root.” And it certainly was foretold in many and various ways that the Christ would be the “Root” of Jesse, that is, from the house and lineage of Jesse’s son, King David.
And so it is in fulfillment of that Word of God, St. Matthew concludes, that you will find the Lord Jesus in the little burg of Nazareth (and not, as others might expect, in the royal city of Jerusalem).
Again, you never will find Christ Jesus apart from His Word. But in and with His Word, He first of all comes to find you, as He is causing His Word to be preached to you this morning. And by His Word He directs you and leads you to find Him, your Savior, your God in the Flesh, here in His Church — and within your vocations and stations in life, as you live to and from His Church, whether in Egypt or in the midst of your sojourn through the wilderness. His Word reveals to the eyes of faith that He is, in fact, already with you. For He is indeed “Immanuel,” God-with-us — He is God-with-you in the flesh. And behold, He is with you always, even to the close of the age.
With those precious Words and Promises of God in Christ ringing in your ears and going with you from this place, be encouraged by and emulate the good example of St. Joseph in heeding the Word that God the Lord has spoken to you by His Son. Not only in obeying His Commandments, as you are surely called to live the new life in Christ throughout this coming New Year. But, above all, in receiving and believing His precious Word of the Gospel, whereby He forgives you all your sins and gives you life and health and strength in both body and soul, unto the Life everlasting.
So does your God and Father call you out of Egypt and save you by His mighty deliverance, by the humility and meekness of the Cross and Resurrection of His Son. And so does He reveal and give to you that same Son, Jesus Christ, your Savior, that you should live and abide with Him forever.
In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.