Dec29

Without a Home

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First Sunday after Christmas

Without a Home

Grace, Mercy and Peace to you from God our Father and His only Son, Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen.

        Here we are, the first Sunday after Christmas. Did you get lots of presents, or maybe you received one or two big presents?

        I am sure, that as all good Christian people, you remembered the true meaning of Christmas. I’m sure that you gave thanks for the greatest gift God gave to us during this celebrated time. I have no doubt that God’s mercy was on the top of your lists of most wanted items both to give through His Word of Christ and to receive through His grace.

        I am sure you all counted your blessings as you sat in front of the living room fire wearing a warm sweater, your fuzzy slippers and drinking your hot cocoa. Yet I wonder; what would it be like to lose everything? What would it be like to have to leave everything you owned behind without the assurance of recovering your former life?

        From time to time, I think about some friends of mine who survived their house burning down. It was at this time of year. It happened very quickly and in the middle of the night. One of the two people in that incident told me that he woke up to the smell of smoke and the next thing he remembered was lying on the front lawn with a firefighter shoving an oxygen mask on his face.

        The aftermath was not pleasant either. I discovered that smoke and water damage after a fire pretty much ruins everything in the house. Your clothes cannot be cleaned of the smell of smoke. Furniture and other items are damaged from the gallons of water soaking them. Even the surviving walls and beams need to be checked for water damage and may need to be replaced.

        As you can see, it is a double hit; you not only have no home in which to live, but you have only the clothes on your back, if you’re lucky. What is worse, is if you have no family or friends on whom to rely, you are at the mercy of strangers.

        Not that you would ever want to, but do you think you could abandon everything you have worked for all your life? Could you wake up one morning and walk away from your house, property, food and clothing only to live on what was on your back? Some of us probably could have survived if it happened at an earlier time in our lives when we were young and full of vim and vigor. Some of us could probably survive now if we were alone and had no responsibilities to spouse and / or children.

        Think about it. Now let’s add another level of difficulty. You not only have to leave everything behind and care for a young mother and child, but your only safe place to go is in a foreign land far away. You do not speak the native tongue, and while there may be others there that speak your language, they might not necessarily be happy to help or even able to help you.             Not only that, but if you return to your home, you will be killed; and if you are found out in your new land, you may be forcibly returned to be executed. Basically, you and your family are fugitives with no idea of when or if you will be able to return.

        Where would your faith be then?

        This scenario makes me think about how every person, at one time or another in their life is faced with the decision to give up their old life in order to follow a new path. It is often painful to leave that old self and that old lifestyle. Yet sometimes, we may have no choice; it is either live or die.

        The divergence of our path in life may not be extreme, dramatic or life threatening, but they do exist. Unlike Joseph, we have not been visited in a dream, by the angel of God, and told to flee to a foreign land. Certain death is not following us. We have never been responsible for the safety of the Savior of the world. Yet through all our great adventures, we do have the comfort of faith.

        I believe that the Holy Spirit is with us from our baptism. I believe that God does not forsake His people. However, unlike Joseph, we have not always followed the command of God.

        It is during the times when we decide what is the best for us, and ignore what God wants for us, when we feel the most afraid. It is not until we remember the Lord that our hearts are given peace. Recall what the prophet Isaiah wrote:

     I will recount the steadfast love of the Lord,

the praises of the Lord,

                 according to all that the Lord has granted us,

and the great goodness to the house of Israel

                 that he has granted them according to his compassion,

according to the abundance of his steadfast love.

                 For he said, “Surely they are my people,

children who will not deal falsely.”

And he became their Savior.

                 In all their affliction he was afflicted,

and the angel of his presence saved them;

                 in his love and in his pity he redeemed them;

he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old. [Is. 63:7-9]

        Joseph had faith in the Lord. Joseph obeyed the commands of God. Joseph took Mary and the child to Egypt. After all the trouble and suffering the Israelites had endured in Egypt before the exodus, it might seem like a strange place for Joseph and Mary to go with the Christ Child. But it was not strange at all. First of all, we need to realize that Egypt had been a traditional place of refuge. Abraham had gone to Egypt during a time of famine (Gene­sis 12:10). Jacob and his family of 70 souls took refuge in Egypt for the same reason (Genesis 46), and they became a mighty nation there. They remained in Egypt until God led them out under Moses some 400 years later. Jeroboam fled to Egypt when Solomon tried to kill him (1 Kings 11:40), and Uriah also fled to Egypt (Jeremiah 26:21-23).

        There were many Jews in Egypt at this time, so Mary and Joseph could feel quite at home and secure there. They prob­ably used the costly gifts from the Magi to finance their jour­ney and their stay in Egypt.

        Furthermore, Matthew informs us that the flight to Egypt (and the return to the land of Israel) fulfilled a prophecy of Hosea (11: 1). God brought the Israelites out of Egypt, and their exodus foreshadowed the calling of God's Son from Egypt. Matthew directly states that Hosea was not only recording an event in Israel's history; he was also foretelling an event in the life of God's Son, the Messiah.

        Our Lord Jesus Christ has come into the world to redeem us from all our sins. He comes with all the power and might of Our Father in heaven. He cannot be defeated by sin. He cannot be defeated by death. Jesus Christ has the power over life and death. The infant child who came into our lives was in danger of being murdered but not as a child.

        The grace of God was for His only begotten Son to be sacrificed on a cross and buried in a tomb, carrying the full weight of the sins of the world – our sins. At the death of our sins, our Lord and Savior with the power over life and death raised himself up on the third day.

        Death and sin are now vanquished. When Christ arose from the dead, He left all sin buried in the grave. Anyone who believes in Him will be saved. Anyone baptized in the blood of the Lamb will be cleansed from all unrighteousness. Anyone who has faith and believes will inherit the kingdom of heaven, because God sent his Son, born of woman, to redeem those who were slaves to sin so that we may no longer be slaves but children of God.

        Our new family is in the body of Christ. We are now heirs to the kingdom of heaven. Through Christ, we have left our old lives behind and we now live through Him. This new life may be a bit frightening because we can no longer rely on our old ways. The path is new with new challenges every day.

        Rejoice in the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ. We are set free from sin and death. His death was the death of our sin. His life is ours in eternity.

Amen.