This is an awful Christmas text. It is heart wrench and not at all in the saccharine mode of modern Christmas. In the words of Doctor Who – ‘its half-way through the dark.’
So far I’m finding Matthew tougher that either Luke or Mark to preach from. I think that is because of a couple of impressions of mine.
1) This could be take the wrong way, but I generally think that most Christians today, even those who claim a high view of Scripture, have a low view. When it comes down to it, we really question or hold suspect if the Bible is the Word of God. If we did think it was the very Word, we would struggle with it. We would argue over it. We would have bibles worn out. Fact is we don’t. The opposite of love isn’t hate but indifference. My impressions of Mark and Luke were that their stories stood on their own a little more. They were more about ‘Jesus is Lord’ which is a theme that can be made within the context of Jesus’ life. Matthew, as this sermon will talk about, has some different themes like ‘Jesus is the Son of David’ and ‘Jesus is the Nazarene/Suffering Servant’. Those are intensely biblical. If you don’t have a high view of scripture, and you don’t have a good knowledge of the basic salvation story, then Matthew’s “proofs” are meaningless.
2) Mark is supposed to be the gritty one, but Matthew in the infancy is the one that looks at the abyss. Matthew is the one that gives us our sin in all its horribleness – a tyrant killing babies. When one of your proofs that Jesus is the messiah is that he is the Nazarene/Suffering Servant, Matthew so far has some darker colors on his palate.
Here is the money portion or emotional payoff of the full sermon…
The closest I can come to seeing it, is Matthew’s last “proof”. In order that he would be called a nazarene. That Jesus would be despised among men and rejected. A man acquainted with grief.
Sometimes, in fact in this sin crippled world most of the time, what we can do and accomplish is nothing. Sometimes the tyrants are too strong – including that tyrant sin within us. Sometimes there is no Egypt to run to. Sometimes there are no angels instructing a righteous step-father Joseph. Sometimes all we can do is bear witness. Bear witness that God is not the God of the philosophers distant and far off. God is not the cleaned up and sparkly God of the marketers and Christmas cartoons. We bear witness that God is one of passion.
That the babe in the manger grew up to a cross. That the God revealed to us in his Word does not spare us from life, but came to give us life. Right now, that life includes sorrow, it includes passion. But it also includes a God, a savior, who has felt it and knows it all. A God, a savior who remembers. A God, a savior who will comfort Rachel in the only way possible. Her children that are no more – will be. Because that savior bust the gates of death.
Now we might be Nazarenes, despised and rejected. Now we might be standing a Rama – the place of leaving for exile. But now we have hope – a God, a savior who is Christ the Lord.