Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Prophesies of Christmas - Out of Egypt

Hosea 11:1-5 “When Israel was a youth I loved him, and out of Egypt I called My son.  The more they called them, the more they went from them; they kept sacrificing to the Baals and burning incense to idols. Yet it is I who taught Ephraim to walk, I took them in My arms; but they did not know that I healed them. I led them with cords of a man, with bonds of love, and I became to them as one who lifts the yoke from their jaws; and I bent down and fed them. They will not return to the land of Egypt; but Assyria--he will be their king because they refused to return to Me.”

Matthew 2:1-15 “Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him."
When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. Gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born.
They said to him, "In Bethlehem of Judea; for this is what has been written by the prophet:
Then Herod secretly called the magi and determined from them the exact time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, "Go and search carefully for the Child; and when you have found Him, report to me, so that I too may come and worship Him."
After hearing the king, they went their way; and the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them until it came and stood over the place where the Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.
After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned by God in a dream not to return to Herod, the magi left for their own country by another way.
Now when they had gone, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, "Get up! Take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him." So Joseph got up and took the Child and His mother while it was still night, and left for Egypt. He remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: "OUT OF EGYPT I CALLED MY SON."

Hosea - Hosea is the first of the minor prophets, of which there are 12. They were often collected into one scroll as a unit, comparable to the major prophets of Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel. He was the only one of the 12 from the northern kingdom of Israel, and his prophecy is primarily directed to that country. In Chapter 11 we see a glimpse of God’s love for Israel in a reference to God bringing the nation out of bondage from Egypt. We read that passage earlier, and then the one where Matthew, under the inspiration of the Spirit, applies it to Jesus. Just as Israel, as an infant nation went down into Egypt, so the child Jesus went there. And as Israel was led by God out of Egypt, so also was Jesus. We don’t think Jesus was there long, but we know that they did not return until King Herod died, which was 4 BC. That is why scholars suggest that Jesus was born around 6 BC. There is a spiritual application here found in the fulfillment of this prophecy. I want to go on a slightly different track and suggest we focus on the journey itself. Mary and Josepph, with baby Jesus walking down to Egypt and back, carrying what they could. When Heather was a few weeks old we had to move. It was very hard, and the place we moved to was only temporary so much stayed packed. It was about having to leave a place more than going somewhere else. It was hard, and I imagine it was really hard for Mary and Joseph to make that trek.

Luggage - Whenever you see someone in a movie trying to rush with a suitcase you know it is going to fling open at a most inopportune moment. You hear stories of luggage coming down the ramp all taped up or in a sealed plastic bag because they got mangled in transport. We are off to Toronto for 4 days on the 28th and I hope our luggage stays with us rather than taking a scenic route. I remember dropping my brother off at the airport in Montreal in 2000 - he was headed with his family to Cameroon. He had shipped some stuff ahead, but he had these big tubs with straps wrapped around them, doing his best to make sure everything stayed in one piece on the long trip. On the journey of life we pick up luggage and baggage. Some of it is good, some of it not so good. Our attitudes and outlook are shaped by events and people in our lives, so that when we look at ourselves we are rather complex people. You see me as a simple, handsome pastor; but I am a twin, born last of 5 children, lived in 3 provinces with various experiences in post secondary education and relationships both deep and shallow that have come and gone. I have been on a journey with ups and downs for 46 years; and I have luggage with me. As I try to follow Jesus with all I got, sometimes I have to adjust it. A bag slips off my shoulder and interferes with something else I am doing. Sometimes our luggage is about how we perceive ourselves - our self esteem.  Sometimes it is about emotions we carry with us, like anger or compassion. Sometimes it drives us to be mean, or to be nice. And God calls us out of Egypt. He calls out of normal, complacent life, out of bondage to be on a journey with Him. We need to be cognizant of the luggage we carry with us. Maybe we have arrived, maybe not. Let us take a few moments today to consider some of the people in the Christmas story and the luggage they carried on their journey. Maybe we can relate to some of their luggage and be reminded of how we can lighten our load.

Joseph - In 2003 Bonnie and I moved from Ontario to Alberta. In early June of that year I was having a conversation with a guy I was doing some yard work for. I had been talking to him about my inability to find a job and the sense that maybe we would look out in Alberta where Bonnie’s parents lived. He said he was leaving in 4 days with an open flatbed trailer to pick up an antique car in Vancouver and that he could take some stuff out to Stettler for us. Ben was just over 2 and Heather was 4 months old. By the time we had made the decision we had 3 days to pack and load a trailer; and so we travelled to a distant land. We had little time, but the opportunity was there. Joseph had the burden of a baby and new wife from the get-go. He had to look after a family, when he had been thinking he had time to live a little with his new wife. And then when the baby is young, he is told in a dream to go to Egypt. The Bible says they left that night. They had no time to pack. Up, out the door with what you can grab, and on the road. In a very real sense he had very little luggage; but he had the care of his young family - a big responsibility. What did he do with his luggage? He left it before God, and when God said move, he did. He trusted that God knew his situation and left it all in God’s hands. When God spoke Joseph responded with obedience. This Christmas season, what is God speaking to you about? God already knows what is in your luggage, all the stuff that goes with you. He accepts you and calls you as you are. Don’t delay - follow Him in obedience. He’ll help you with your luggage.

Wise men - The Magi were burdened with stuff… a lot of it. I can’t relate to them. Much of life has been lived from pay check to pay check it seems. For most people, that is life, whether old or young. This economy has shaken things up even more. But the Magi had lots of resources. What did they spend it on? Bonnie is reading a book about the church in the Facebook age. The guy who founded it went from $0 to $3 Billion in 3 years. Can you get your head around it? What would you do?  The Magi didn’t just spend it on themselves, but put it towards pursuing God and ultimately, a new King. They were not in it for what they could get. It wasn’t about “investing” or reserving a place of honour with royalty. They travelled far, found the object of their search, left their gifts and went home. There’s the saying that “wise men still seek Jesus”. They had the baggage of stuff. Stuff is funny. We think we own possessions, but possessions tend to own us. The more we have, the more we have to lose. We hold on to it tighter and tighter. The Magi gave their luggage away. The secret to stuff is to not hang on to it to tightly. I am told when you hold the reins of a horse, you hold them loosely. The same is true with stuff. The Bible says we are just stewards of it anyways. What lasts? What goes into eternity? The only thing is people. Use your stuff then, to help people, to glorify God. In the Muslim community in Waterloo, Ontario, they wanted to build a community center. How did they do that? Half the people sold their homes and went to live with the other half. They gave the money for the church, for their community; and they will stay with the other family until they can get back on their feet financially. They understand that the stuff is just something to be used. Have you ever heard of Evangelicals doing that to build a new church? And how did God use the magi’s stuff? It came right when they had to leave for Egypt. God used it to provide the costs for the long trip and the stay in Egypt. God’s grace works in wondrous ways. Don’t hang onto stuff to hard this season. Enjoy the gifts, but see how God can use them in the New Year.

Mary - Even Mary had luggage? Think about it - raising the Son of God? The Messiah? Talk about walking down a road with a heavy load, a big responsibility! A young mother, probably 14 or so years of age, is told she has the Savior of the world in her arms. A couple days ago the Queen of England surprised travellers when she took a commuter train to the country for a holiday. She had no luggage and a single body guard. A little girl was ready and gave the queen some flowers. How would you be if royalty or deity were suddenly in your care? Some of the luggage we carry is about our self esteem. We think we could never be worthy enough, good enough for the queen let alone God Incarnate. God has reached down at Christmas and raised us up. We don’t have to do anything but respond to God’s unmerited favour, His relentless love. If you are caring that kind of luggage, let it go. It is not worth anything, because it simply is not true. God created you, and though this fallen world tries to mess you and your life up, don’t go down that road. Let the One who created you ignite that spark of wonder at God who does new things. He did a new thing through Mary and Joseph. He wants your life that He paid for in blood because He loves you so much. He wants to refine you so you may be ever more in relationship with Him.

Shepherds - burdened with a message. They had angelic illumination… what do you do with that? A message straight from God’s messengers, just for them! They went and saw what the angel said was true… then what? Back to the same old - same old? Have you ever had an event change your life? I imagine those shepherds were never the same. In their heart was the words that were for all people; Good News for all the people! A Savior has been born! How many years would it take for them to forget those words, that experience of seeing the little baby? How long before the need to tell others the Good News would pass? Each of us has a message about eternity in our hearts. We have had a visitation from God if we are His children and Jesus is the One we follow. When was the last time we shared the message that Jesus saves to someone who has not heard. Jesus gives us opportunities and courage and the words - we need to open our eyes and look for them. We all have a bit of the shepherds in us. Share the Good News that you have been given this season.

Baby Jesus - Luggage? Even Him? Remember where He was before He was born? In the incarnation Jesus took the form of a bondservant, giving up much that was rightly His. He became focused on His mission, so that the wood of the cradle rubs up against the timber of the cross. One of the reasons I believe in free will, that we have a choice, is because I believe Jesus had a choice. The mystery of salvation was that God Himself became the sacrificial Lamb. In the midst of all heaven He turned his back on right and privilege. He carried with Him what could be, maybe even should be, and subjected it to His Father’s will. He prayed, “Not My will but Yours be done.” There is a humility in what He did that He modelled for us.

It is time to let go of the luggage and baggage you have. Follow in the steps of Jesus and pursue Him and His will for your life. What better time than Christmas to renew your life and commitment to Jesus. As we close this service, take the time you need to put Him in His rightful place as Lord of your life.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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