“Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him.”
When he arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt, and was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, “Out of Egypt I called My Son.” Matthew 2:13-15, NIV
This Christmas morning I would like to ask you to consider how God does things versus how we wish He would do things. As we read the Bible… study human histoy, and look at present events in our world and our own lives, we have to keep reminding ourselves that God does not do things the way a man or imaginative hero would.
I believe that many folks miss the point of Christmas and disavow the Christian faith because they have the wrong idea of who God is and how He has performed in history and life today. I want to encourage you today and this coming year, to increase your faith by having a better understanding God’s nature and how He does things in our lives and the lives of those we love.
You’ve heard this many times, but consider again the manner in which God brought His Son into the world. First, He selected good parents——the best man and woman possible, that would love that little baby, care for Him, teach Him a practical skill and look after Him with their very lives. I think we can take from this that this is what God desires for every child born to every woman. He wants a stable home when a good father and loving mother puts the care of that child first. I am not attempting to be dramatic, but surely you can see that our societies are moving away from that standard.
It looks like many mothers and even more fathers don’t take the joy and responsibility of having a child into account when children are conceived. Babies are born and then quite often abandoned to someone else, or worse, left to the state or an institution to raise. And more and more, in our nation, we seem to be electing officials that authorize the state and counties to tell parents how to raise the children … and if they fail to comply, social workers are happy to put them under their secular care. That’s not the way God intends for a family to work.
God created man to be dependent upon woman and vice versa for our species to continue on the face of this planet. It’s His plan, regardless of what we might prefer. God intends for a father and mother to raise a child—-together….united…devoted and focused upon each other, their child and the protection of that family unit. Today, as I speak, nearly 500,000 children live in foster care with 40,000 in juvenile jails and even more permanently locked away in special facilities because the state has determined they cannot function in a normal home. Can we agree that this is not good for our nation and certainly an aberration of what God wants?!
I am a single parent to three young men. That’s not ideal and not what God intended. It’s less than what my sons need——I am cognizant of that. Praise God that I am a part of a church, and I am surrounded by friends, that are providing the nurture and love to my sons I fail to show at times. But a single parent is far better than children being bounced around from foster home to foster home—-of that I am certain.
But think for a moment about how Joseph conducted his life, knowing that Jesus was not his own, but divinely sent by God. Now, you and I might think that Joseph reckoned: “Well, there’s nothing to worry about. God will send angels to protect this little baby—-I can relax and let God do all the heavy lifting.. After all, this is His Son.” But that’s not the way it is when God gives us a gift, a calling, a son or daughter, or separates us to be holy.
Joseph had to listen to God and obey. Herod wanted to kill Jesus, and there’s no suggestion in the Bible that angels were there to prohibit Jesus from suffering as a child….or later as an adult. God told Joseph to get up and get out of Bethlehem before Herod found Jesus and murdered Him. Joseph obeyed, headed to Egypt and stayed there till he was given permission to return. Herod got furious and killed dozens of little boys two years old and younger.
God does not always stop suffering! These little boys left behind in Bethlehem and their parents were innocent of Herod’s wrath, but they were butchered anyway. God lets evil men to evil things. It’s happening right now in Russia, China, North Korea, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Venezuela….
When Jesus came evil did not stop, it appears to have accelerated! And as evil expands, God does not prohibit us from sinning, from listening to Satan or from giving in to temptation. Yes, bad things happened in Bethlehem, at calvary, in Rome…and are happening right now in Kyiv, Washington, DC, Raleigh, Dobson and Danbury. But God did not bring about evil—-only the fallen angels and unenlightened men do that. We live in a time and in a nation where we are still free to take command of our lives, and demand righteous living from those we elect or those that work for us in the civil government. But are we?
Joseph did something about the threat to His step-son: he left Bethlehem and took Him to a safe haven. He could not fight Herod and prevail, or elect a better rulers or legislators and judges, but he could move. Every day of the week I receive an email from some soul all over the world begging for the chance to come here, to the USA, for a chance to live, free from tyranny and the corrupt rulers of their sad nations. I get texts and phone calls each day from friends asking for special prayers as they suffer from desperately broken hearts or the excruciating physical pain of disease or ailments. God sees this! God loves them! And for His own purpose and divine plans He allows this temporary anguish to continue. I don’t know why—-but it’s not new to Christian history! But what am I doing about suffering and pain? What could I be doing that I am not doing? Praise God for real men like Joseph that DID something.
God did not shield Jesus or others that He loves from pain—-read the book of Job. God does tell us what to do to avoid destruction and trouble, but we live in a fallen world. In the Book of Joshua, the Israelites were told to go into the promised land and take it over. But they had to do the work! They had march around Jericho, fight with swords and spears go to battle against their enemies. They had follow God’s directives precisely. When He calls us to do something hard, beyond our means, He goes before us, but we still have to do the work. And that’s the point today. We can pray, fast, avoid all sin, and never go to places where we might be tempted, but the work of God’s Kingdom will not happen place unless we roll up our sleeves and do the work.
Last night 48 people joined the youth at my home for a dinner and little party. It was nice—-and I am so glad our guests came. Many of the guests have been praying for our youth and children, and their prayers are essential for the success of our efforts with the youth, but their prayers notwithstanding, there would have been no party last night, if the men of the church had not picked up tables and chairs from the church…. if women of the church had not picked up the youth and brought to the house three hours early… if parents had been too busy to bring other boys help cook we could not have pulled it off. The youth cooked, set tables, learned how to make espressos, swept and cleaned up and got it ready. They had to do the work or there would have been no dinner.
If Noah did not pick up a saw or hammer there would have been no ark. If David had not selected the right, smooth stones, Goliath would have prevailed. Praying for the foreign people is great, but if we don’t donate, generously, as we did last week with the Lottie Moon offering, the word will NOT be spread.
God has determined to put us on this planet to work. Did you know that? Before Adam feel into sin, he was STILL intended to work. There’s a purpose for God requiring us to work, and there’s a great spiritual lesson to pass on to our children when we require them to work——and there’s a great dis-service we burden them with when we shield them from chores and a life of labor. Mankind was meant to work, and Christians should be the most industrious workers in the world.
Why all of this today on Jesus birthday? Think about this, when the composer, John William’s longtime collaborator and friend, director Steven Spielberg, showed him Schindler's List, and asked him to write the music score for it, the John Williams felt it would be too challenging to score. He said to Spielberg, 'You need a better composer than I am for this film.' Spielberg responded, 'I know. But they're all dead!'
Joseph and Mary are dead. So is David, Paul, Peter and John. Moses is long gone and so are all the other heroes of the Bible and the first 2000 years of the Christian history. The truth is that God does not need you and me in order to complete His purposes——He can find someone else. But He does use people, just like you and me. to accomplish His purposes. We’re free to accept or hide from the call. In some cases, as with Jonah, Moses and Paul, He might get do something dramatic to get our attention, but we ignore His unction at our own peril!
Joseph didn’t look for a special step-son….God sent him that Son. Moses didn’t seek out God for the tasks of leading the Hebrews out of Egypt….God’s hand was upon him for the task. I did not wake up one day and decide I wanted to be a pastor…God called me, when I was 15 years old, during a revival; it was not my choice or dream—-it was His. So it should be with a youth leader or worship leader—-they’ve set apart by God for the task!
God will use you and me in 2023 for His purposes—-great and small. Or He will find others to do the task. I hope that when He speaks to you, you will shout with joy—-“Here am I, send me!”