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2nd Sunday in Christmastide — St. Matthew 2.13–23
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Grace to you and Peace, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus.

“behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him.” When he arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt”

This is Your Word heavenly Father. Sanctify us by the Truth. Your Word is Truth. Amen.

Fellow redeemed: The voice of lamentation, weeping, and great mourning heard in Ramah was his mother’s as she lay dying. Many a misstep, challenge, and adventure had passed since that terrible day, when Joseph had been unable to prevent Rachel’s dying, but now God had brought this mother’s son through an unlikely life to a position where he could keep that sound from the ears of many a son, and many were being saved from woe and lamentation as Joseph followed the guiding of the Lord. Most of all, he desired the saving of his own, and this too was brought about, and the sons of Israel at last were gathered into safety in the well-watered lands Joseph received to make their home for many years to come.

Just down the road from Ramah, another Joseph responded to the weeping of the mothers of Jerusalem, perhaps especially of that virgin mother, now under John’s care, and he too would protect the son and Lord of Israel in the only way remaining to him. So taking courage he made audience with Governor Pontius Pilate, in whose authority was given life and death– even the death of One whose Kingdom is not of this earth– and took away from him permission to protect and give care to Jesus, swaddling Him in clean linens, and anointing His tortured body in layers of aloes and spices, at last laying Him in Joseph’s own freshly made tomb, and secured the Lord safely, closing the entrance with a large stone.

This morning, in those wee hours before dawn’s rose red fingers would break the horizon into day, while all was still, and dark, and night, Joseph, warned in a dream, took up his ancient namesake’s great honor and vocation. Unlike the first, or that fellow of Arimathea yet to come, this Joseph had no property or position to boast. He was a builder, too poor to provide the proper sacrifice for his beloved and Child. He did not know the chambers of the powerful men of his land– unless by chance he had been part of a crew to build or repair– but he had suddenly, with Mary found himself entertaining strange kings of the distant east. Now they suddenly departed, by a round-about way too, not to be followed. With the gold they had provided, and such stuff as they could quickly carry, Joseph, angel-warned got his little family on the road too, and they journeyed suddenly that night, and into the following days, till they crossed the border, back into the safe havens once provided to the first protecting Joseph in Egypt.

It has never been easy, to serve the living God and His own. Uneasy, since man knocked himself off-kilter in sin. Like a downspout askew, the life-giving showers of God’s favor which once flowed naturally through and sustained us, now to serve the Lord too often is to place oneself at the receiving end of an uncontrolled torrent– the fault not the finger of God, but but the entire disorder of we sinful dying humanity. But for His eye and the love by which He moves all creation to save us, we would be all of us with the best laid plans of mice and men all gang aft a-glay and in ruin are never more. But God does attend His own, and so His hand shielded Joseph as he sought to protect Mary and the Child, that the sun should not smite them down by day, nor the moon by night, and through many perils, both seen and unseen the faithful protector Joseph was himself protected beyond his knowing till journey’s end.

God is with you too, dear one, as you would take that precious thing entrusted to your keeping, as holy charge and privilege from Him– that Word by which you take up Jesus, the Word made flesh– and carry Him along. Even in the midst of deadly danger, even when your own sinful flesh wars against it, combining with this fallen and disordered world– valley of death that it is– and satan too conspire to persuade, or beguile, or threaten, or force you to abandon the trust you have been given in Christ, even then, especially then know that the Holy One Himself is near you, covering you, uplifting and strengthening you against all alarums and peril. As the Protector of the Holy Family Joseph once acted against all odds to carry Jesus away from the untimely grasp of predatory and evil Herod, and took Him where He wanted to go, so you are called faithful to carry the Word of Christ through every crisis and hardship, letting if needs be, all other things go, but never abandoning Jesus.

For Jesus is taking you, as once He took Joseph and Mary, just where you best should be. And where is that place? We know the often repeated story, how those who would notabandon Jesus, who when challenged at gunpoint yet affirmed and kept Him, have been martyred for the sake of that Name of Names. How then is this to the good of the stubbornly faithful Christian? What then when all we once held dear have been taken, even our goods, fame, child, and wife? What then, when we even dare to let these all be gone? Take heart, dear friend, they yet have nothing won.

In days already ancient as the Holy family trod toward the border, when the first Joseph was taken into Egypt, he was taken stripped of everything, having lost his clothing, and even his liberty. And so he languished seemingly in eternal defeat for decades, being slandered, imprisoned, and without friend or any means whatsoever, but the faith once given. But having lost all, Joseph gained all, and was raised above all other men in the kingdom, and became the protector and savior of many.

This Joseph, protector of Jesus now is not too well remembered beyond this moment in Christ’s childhood, and is missing altogether from Mary’s side when their blessed Son becomes a man, already gone to ground. So your story, and my own may be obscure to a few and unknown entirely to most as the years to come roll on. But the Eye which beholds you now, and the Hand which keeps and protects you as you are kept faithful to protect the Priceless Treasure now entrusted to you– the Grace of Jesus– the God who Lives knows and marks your path well, and He shall remember you without fail. He even knows the hairs of your head, when they fall, and He marks your every footstep along life’s way. He is by grace bringing you where you belong.

Jesus came in Grace, out of love for sinners He was born and dwelt among us. In His suffering and dying it is Jesus who truly protected those who would protect Him, whether Joseph, or Mary, or those who would care for His body in laying Him to rest in the tomb, or you, as you refuse to abandon His Word today. Jesus is the Great Protector and makes of us all His holy and eternal family, grafting us through His wounds and realigning us from sin and death into His forgiveness and life without ending. Be faithful then, for Christ Jesus is faithful to you before you knew Him, and will be faithful forevermore. Jesus now forgives your sins, sets your feet on the way to go, and is bringing you in the end to Himself. Be at peace, even though the world round your head is howling, be at peace. You are in Christ, and His eye always sees you, His hand always shields you, His Word is your bread of life, and like a spring of living water forever.

The peace of God which passes all understanding is guarding over your heart and mind through Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.


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