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Sunday reflection 11 December 2016 – Surprised by joy

Reading: Matthew 2:13-23 (following the Christmas play)

(3rd Sunday of Advent when we light the pink Christmas candle of joy on the Advent wreath).

CHRISTMAS REFLECTION 

At Messy Church / Messy Christmas this month we had a story which had this key line in it: Keep Calm and Carry On. And the people responded each time: It’s Messy. Christmas.

And it doesn’t get much messier than this today.

  • Jesus on a mad King’s hit-list.
  • The massacre of the innocents – all those little boys slaughtered.
  • Jesus the refugee – anticipating perhaps the 65 million refugees in the world today.
  • A dad with international travel plans that appear out of nowhere – virtually overnight (in a dream). (Joseph, you could have given us some warning!)
  • Settling in Nazareth! What a strange choice…. Nazareth! Can anything good come out of there? (John 1:46 – the words of Nathanael).

So how much JOY do you think they “enjoyed” in those early years?

Great question really. I’m not sure they were in it for the joy ride. (Like the people in “Jingle Bells” laughing all the way on their sleigh).

It speaks to our lives – when they are not ordered and predictable, when God is at work stirring us up to listen to his voice, open ourselves to dreams, and being willing to be sent where He wants us to go. To speak to the people He wants us to speak to. To be vulnerable. Even ostracised. To live a roller-coaster life – which is the closest it gets to a “joy ride”.

How are you doing when it comes to being flexible for God’s plans?

What kind of Joseph or Mary would you have been? How would your marriage have coped? Would you have gone off in the right direction? Or headed for a port to escape like Jonah did?

And would you children have been obedient like Jesus?

Remember the one thing said about him as a boy.

Two things matter actually – his words about being in his Father’s house, and the gospel writer Luke’s words about the boy Jesus.

Listen to the whole passage – he had been “lost” but not really in the story in Luke 2.

Luke 2 ends with this: Luk 2:49  “Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” Luk 2:50  But they did not understand what he was saying to them. Luk 2:51  Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. 

Luk 2:52  And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and men.

Will you grow in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and people in your future? Especially you young people who are the age Jesus was when that was written.

If you grow like that – you’ll know real joy.

Christmas joy does include the yummy things and great presents. I “enjoy” the carols too.

But nothing beats the deep joy in our hearts when we are listening to God and going where He wants us for His purposes. Being who he wants us to be.

The Joy of the Lord will be our strength, said the prophet Nehemiah in 8:10.

King  David wrote this:  God will fill our hearts (lit: You have filled my heart ) with greater joy than when their grain and new wine abound in Psalm 4:7.

Knowing the Creator is always far better than knowing even the joys of his creation. God’s gladness invaded David’s heart.

And that happens when obedience is the goal, not the joy itself. When we have a true undivided heart for God.

What is in your heart then?

As C. S. Lewis points out, we will never know joy by seeking it.

Joy or gladness comes as a side-effect of the presence of the living God.

When Lewis became a Christian, he was in his words “surprised by joy.”

May you too be surprised by joy. This Advent and beyond.

May a pink candle be lit in your life every day!

Amen.

 

Sunday Sermon 4 January 2015 – The Way of Humanity versus the Way of God!

Sermon ― Bill Davey ― Elder at BBP

 Reading:  Matthew 2: 13 ― 23 – New International Version

13        When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get  up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”

14        So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt,

15        where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had  said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”   (See: Hosea 11:1) 

16        When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi.

17        Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled:  (See: Jeremiah 31: 15)

18        “A voice is heard in Ramah,  weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children  and refusing to be comforted, because her children are no more.”               

19        After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt

20        and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for              

those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.”

21        So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel.

22        But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father              

 Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee,

Our current Lectionary highlights three elements in our text for clarification:

“The flight into Egypt,”   “The Slaughter of the Innocents,” and  “The Return to Israel”

Before we examine the text let us underpin two principles from the teaching of Jesus:

In Matt. 5: 17 ― Jesus taught:

“I did not come to abolish the Law or the Prophets

 but to fulfill them   (Law  /  Torah ― the teachings of God) !”  (NIV)

In John 10: 10  ― when talking about a “Good Shepherd, Jesus taught:

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy;  I have come that they may  have life, and have it to the full.” (NIV)

A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy; I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.”  (NAB)

In our text today, we find Jesus ― the Incarnate Son of God as a new-born totally dependent on his parents, and upon the super-natural care for his nurture, protection and provision, including that of His parents.

What does our text show and teach us?

It compares the Way of Herod ― in his Humanity with the Way of God

King Herod displays a particular example of his way of humanity!

[Pride / Independence / Deceit]

We find King Herod: ― ever promoting self-interest with evil manipulation and deceit:

―        He deceived the Magi with his lies, claiming a wish to worship the God-child;

―        He then arranged the slaughter of the Innocents,

(all boy children under 2 years of age) in Bethlehem.

the “Slaughter of the Innocents” (Matthew 2: Verses 16 to 18)

“A voice is heard in Ramah,                          

weeping and great mourning,           

Rachel weeping for her children            

and refusing to be comforted,                       

because her children are no more.”  (Jeremiah 31: 15)

During the octave of Christmas the Church celebrates the memory of the small children of the neighbourhood of Bethlehem put to death by Herod.

Sacrificed by a wicked monarch these innocent lives bear witness to Christ who was persecuted from the time of His birth by a world which would not receive Him.

Our Christmas joy is tempered by a feeling of sadness. Our thought goes principally to the glory of the children, of those innocent victims, who are now in heaven following the Lamb wherever He goes.

Those children became known as the “infant Martyr flowers”; the Church’s first blossoms, martyred by the frost of persecution during the cold winter of unbelief.(Sermon of St. Augustine)

Question:  Why is the greatest gift of the unconditional love of God set alongside Herod’s [Pride, Independence and Deceit], acts of extreme cruelty and human savagery?    (Comparison? Paradox?)

The Way of God ― (His Divine Plan)

―        Prophetic links to this New Testament passage when referring to the Messiah.

(See: Hosea 11:1) ― Out of Egypt I called my Son!

(See: Isaiah 11: 1  ― The branch of the stump of Jesse!

“A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;

from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.

The Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him-

The Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,

the Spirit of counsel and of power,

the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD —

and he will delight in the fear of the LORD.”

(and see Micah 5:3) ― when she who is in labour gives birth!

 What can we learn from Joseph and Mary?

―        Two unplanned journeys ― one into Egypt, and then a return from Egypt!

both journeys inspired by God for the protection of His Child (The Son of God),

and marked by super-natural timing in the most testing time of circumstance.

Dreams guided Joseph about the when, where and how to journey to Egypt.        Vv 13-14

Dreams guided Joseph about the when, where and how to return to Israel.          Vv 20-23

Dreams guided Joseph about his decision to go to Nazareth rather than Bethlehem.

―        Joseph ―   Listen to God and pray for guidance even as you obey Him!

―        Mary   ―        Listen to your husband and pray for his guidance!

―        By trusting the faithfulness of God ― We can listen to, and obey God, without question!

Our Church culture traditionally teaches us to:         Know God;   Serve God;  Love God!

Today we have considered how important it is to:    Listen to God;

Obey God; Live ― as if you are in the presence of God ― because you are!

 

To summarize:

We have noted the contrast between the way of King Herod and the way of God:

“Slaughter of the Innocents” and the

“Unconditional love of God ― the Gift of His Son ― Jesus!”

We have identified some key elements of the plans of God:

―        the prophetic aspects of the unfolding truth of the escape to and from Egypt;

―        the detailed dream-inspired decisions of Joseph and Mary;

―        the key examples of Listening to God and Obeying God, without debate.

Important to learn:   How well will I or we listen to, and obey God, in this coming year?

How well do I or we know the way of our Lord?

Let us pray: . . . .

Lord help us to: Listen to you O Lord; Obey you O Lord; and Live ― as if we are ever in your presence ― because we really are!

Amen.

 

Acknowledgement of www.electronicprayerbook.com