Christmas In Jeopardy - Matthew 2:13-23
Every year folks sit in their living rooms, dens, or the movie theaters watching specials or movies whose plots hinge on Christmas being in jeopardy. In Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, it is a massive snowstorm socking in the North Pole; in Santa Claus is Coming To Town, there is a two-fold danger of the cold and cruel Winter Warlock and the Burgermeister’s ban on toys and declaring Kris Kringle to be an outlaw; in Disney’s Santa Clause 2, it is the lack of a Ms. Clause; and in Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas, it is evil cunning genius of the Grinch and his desire to steal Christmas away from the Who’s to bring their celebrations to an end. Most of us have our own favorite Christmas specials or movies that we enjoy watching.
However, on Christmas Eve of this year, there were many people who were not at home watching those “Christmas is in jeopardy” specials on television. They were glued to their computer screens, tablets, or smartphones, not because they were watching their specials on Netflix or some other video streaming program, but because they were watching the UPS or FedEx tracking programs watching and waiting for the delivery of last minute Amazon-ordered Christmas presents.
While Rudolph saved the day in the special by his name…a gift melted the Winter Warlock’s hard shell and the Burgermeister’s finally died out of power lifting Santa’s outlaw status and allowing Christmas cheer to Summertown…and a last minute wedding ceremony saved Christmas in Santa Clause 2…many who were watching and waiting for their delivery updates to be marked delivered on Christmas Eve were disappointed when nothing arrived for Christmas.
We might hope that those customers would be like the Who’s, whose singing and rejoicing proved to the Grinch that Christmas was not about the packages and bows, but about something more…but instead the internet and newsfeeds were lit up with complaints like this one…”Amazon has ruined our Christmas”…
What kind of things put our Christmas in jeopardy—threaten to ruin our Christmas? Is it missing Christmas presents? Missing family members? Family arguments? Broken romances? Bad weather? Illness?
The truth of the matter is, there is only one time that Christmas has truly been in jeopardy. It is a story so gruesome that we often skip over it, or at least part of it when reading the season’s Scripture
We didn’t read the of wisemen’s entrance this morning, interestingly enough, if you follow the lectionary, the passage that we read this morning is assigned for today, and the prequel, the story of the wisemen, is not assigned until next Sunday.
To refresh our memory since we have not read of the wisemen, let’s do a quick reflection. The wisemen saw a star in east and began following it after reflecting on the prophecies of the star’s signaling of the birth of a king. They arrive in Jerusalem, figuring that since it was the capital, that the new king would be found there. They decide the best place to start is the palace and question Herod, not knowing that Herod was such a jealous and insecure king that he had some of his own family killed off in an effort to protect his throne. He sends the wisemen on their way, asking them to let him know where to find this new king so that he might pay tribute as well. The wisemen find the newborn king in Bethlehem, and present their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. As they prepare to head home, an angel warns them in a dream of Herod’s dangerous intensions, and they return home another way.
Herod realizes that he’s been tricked. He is furious and he is scared. There is a promised king out there that may take him off his throne and he doesn’t know who it is. He only knows that this little boy is somewhere in the area of Bethlehem. To protect his reign, Herod decides that all the male children two years old and younger to be slaughtered. This would put Jesus in jeopardy. This would put Christmas in jeopardy. No Jesus…no Christmas. More than that it would put God’s plan of saving His people through the Messiah in jeopardy. Could Herod ruin Christmas? Could Herod thwart God’s plans?
Matthew reveals to us that God, who has always been active on behalf of His people, would not be stopped! God did not start the process of saving his people through Jesus by pouring the power of the Holy Spirit upon Mary resulting in her miraculous conception, and then leaving things to run their course. God had a plan to bring salvation to the world, and He took an active role to see it through. When Joseph was about to reject Mary as his wife (a marriage that was necessary, according to Matthew, for Jesus to be understood as a descendant of David—a key prophecy in understanding the Messiah as the fulfilment of the promise of that one of David’s descendants would rule forever), God sent a messenger to change Joseph’s mind. When the wisemen were considering going back and telling Herod where to go and offer his welcome to Jesus, enabling him to kill Jesus outright, he offered a vision to those wisemen to go a different way. When Herod’s decision to slaughter all the children put God’s plans of salvation in jeopardy again, God stepped in again and directed Mary and Joseph to flee Bethlehem and hide out in Egypt, then gave them direction to return once Herod was gone and no longer a threat. God preserved Jesus, God preserved Christmas—not in order for us to have an excuse for families to gather, for groups to have parties, or even for us to exchange gifts—but in order that He might claim victory of the evil that had enslaved His creation for so long.
That’s what this morning’s reading is all about. God is actively at work, even in the face of great evil, to ensure that His plan to ultimately defeat evil, will come to fruition. Matthew wants us to know that there is no doubt that God is involved in protecting His plan, that will ultimately not simply protect Jesus, but bring about the fulfillment of all Scripture—that God would come dwell amongst His people and save them.
What does this mean for us?
It means that for us, Christmas is never in jeopardy! God’s work of redeeming His creation is never in doubt. No broken relationships, no ice storms, no lack of the perfect (or any) Christmas present will stop Christmas from coming. God is actively at work, each and every day, and through Jesus, God has already claimed the victory.
In means that no about of evil that we see in the world should ever make us question whether or not God is present. Evil, like the slaughtering of the innocents, happens; evil, like the bombing of the Boston Marathon, happens; evil, like slaughter of civilians and others in Syria, Sudan, and other parts of the world, happens; evil, like continued suicide bombings around the world, happens; evil, like kidnappings and human trafficking happens; evil, like the death of an innocent man upon a cross, happens…we look around and see evil all around us. Evil happens because God gave each of us the opportunity to embrace Christmas and worship Him or go our own paths. Yet, we can be assured that despite evil, whether observed around the world, in our own communities, or in our own homes, God is present with us and God will be victorious!
My friends, Christmas has never been in jeopardy and never will be—Emmanuel has come…God is with us…and will be with us till the end of the age…that day when we will stand face to face before the very throne of God.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…Amen.