12th Day of Christmas – Matthew 2:13-23
Merry Christmas! Today is the twelfth and final day of Christmas. For those of you who have taken down your tree, put it back up, it is not supposed to come down until tomorrow, which is Epiphany.
For these past twelve days of Christmas, we have gone with the shepherds to see what the angels have told us about, God coming down from heaven to earth to dwell with his creation. Christmas is about heaven and earth, Creator and His creation, joining together as one. Jesus is our Immanuel, our God with us, never leaving us, never forgetting about us. He opens His hands to richly and daily providing for us. Christmas is about God becoming flesh, born of the Virgin Mary, taking the image of man as His own. God wants to be like us. God wants to be with us. Jesus is our Savior. He has come to save us from sin, from death and from the power of the devil.
Christmas is about Jesus and the work He has done, is doing now and will do for us until He comes again, when He comes to takes us to be where He is, seated at God the Father’s right hand in heaven. Christmas is about Jesus, true God and true Man, coming down from heaven to suffer and die for us. Christmas is about God loving us, that He came to purchase and win us from sin, death and the power of the devil, not with gold or silver, but with His holy precious blood and with His innocent, bitter suffering and death, that we would be His own and live under Him in His kingdom, serving Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence and blessedness.
The events of Christmas have one purpose, to move us quickly to the forty days of Lent and Palm Sunday and Holy Week and Easter. But the devil and the sinful world are doing everything they can to stop this from happening, to keep Jesus from going to the cross, to suffer and die for the sins of the world.
King Herod heard from the wise men that a King has been born. In a fit or jealousy and desire to remain king, he demands that all baby boys, two years of age and younger, be killed in Bethlehem. But an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” And Joseph awoke and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.” When Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, “Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.” And he rose and took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there, and being warned in a dream he withdrew to the district of Galilee. And he went and lived in a city called Nazareth, that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled: “He shall be called a Nazarene.”
Do you see how God works to accomplish His holy desire and purpose, to save sinners.
Nothing will stop this baby, born of the Virgin, lying in a manger, in a stable in Bethlehem form accomplishing our forgiveness, life and eternal salvation. Jesus, the Son of God is faithful, He will gladly accomplish that for which He came, and the powers of hell shall not prevail against Him.
But now, as the Christmas season is coming to an end, the challenge, for us, is that the powers of hell would not prevail against us. Like the devil and the world, our sinful flesh will start to deny that the events of Christmas is important. We will listen to the devil and the world and hate the fact that God is with us, that He loves us. We will fight against the truth that we are sinners in need of a Savior. We will think our neighbor’s sins are worse than our own. We will begin to doubt that God loves us, thinking that He has forgotten about us. We will think that God couldn’t or wouldn’t forgive our sins.
Today, Ryan Nicholson will be confirmed as a Lutheran. Ryan, like each one of us, has been baptized and catechized in the Christian faith according to our Lord’s command and promise. Together, whether Lutherans or Catholics or non-denominational Christians, we have received the Ten Commandments, they are written on our hearts, and we have not kept them as we have been commanded. In faith, we cling to God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, as confess together in the Apostles’ Creed. In Holy Baptism we have received God’s name, we belong to God and He belongs to us. We pray the prayer our Father in heaven has given to us, calling upon Him by name in our time of need, with all boldness and confidence. This is the one true faith that all Christians believe and hold sacred until our Lord comes again to judge the quick and the dead. This is the hope and the strength that we have each received from a faithful God.
Jesus says, “Whoever confesses Me before men, I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.” “Blessed are those who are not offended by Me.” “Blessed is he who is not caused to stumble and fall out of faith because of Me.” “Blessed are you when people revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely because of Me.” “Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven. As the devil and the world attack and persecute you, in the same way they persecuted the prophets who came before you.”
This is why Christmas is important. When we are attacked by the devil, the world and our sinful flesh, to doubt God and His faithfulness toward us, when we are weak and fall into false belief, despair and other great shame and vice, Jesus invites us to come into His presence and eat and drink His very body and blood in His Holy Supper. At Christmas, God became flesh and dwelt among us, here in Holy Communion we eat the very flesh of God and there is life in us. In the forgiveness of sins, that we receive in Jesus’ Holy Supper, we are strengthened to fight the fight of faith, the devil and the world are defeated, they have no power over us. It is in the Lord’s Supper, that our Lord prepares a table for us in the midst of our enemies and we are confident that the goodness and mercy of God are with us all the days of our life. It is in our coming to the Lord’s Supper, that as we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we fear no evil, for God is with us, He is our Immanuel. He is faithful, He will gladly do it. Here, at Jesus’ altar, we boldly and faithfully confess God before men and He will give us a blessed end and take us from this vale of tears to Himself in heaven. Amen.