New Year’s Day Sermon

Text: Matthew 2:13-23

As a father of young kids, I can’t help but think about Joseph in this passage.

Here’s a man thrown into—let’s be honest— pretty frightening situations.
And everything seems to be happening at once
His newborn son is being proclaimed as the savior of all people
How does a dad even respond to that?
I mean sure, every dad is proud of his kids
And let’s be clear, he wouldn’t be the first dad to consider his first born “God’s gift to the world”
But this is legit Messiah activity here—
This is prophecy-fulfilling type action!

People are coming from all over to worship him—
And it’s not like this is typical behavior in Joseph’s world
he was a simple carpenter
not some king—
A craftsman
Whose existence is so humble that his pregnant wife has to deliver their first born child in the midst of animals and lay the child in a feeding trough
Not exactly the Hilton
I can just imagine Joseph feeling completely unequipped for the circumstances presented to him.
I know I would feel the same way
Wouldn’t you?
But Joseph responds to the circumstances in the way I believe is a model of faith.
Obedience.
And courage.

Because Joseph recognizes that somehow, someway God is at work
But it hasn’t been easy

First, he learns his fiancé was already pregnant, which even for today would have been a scandal- more so even in those days. And rather than follow the Jewish customs of the day (which would have spelled BAD NEWS for young Mary) he decided he would divorce her quietly to honor her dignity and frankly, save her life.
Few realize that this was actually breaking the law at the time.
So not only was he protective of her, but he’s also non-protective of himself!
Courageous indeed.
Joseph obediently trusts in God and agrees to marry her.

THEN

His boy is finally born and in the midst of all this newfound fame and fanfare, learns that the current king is so threatened by him that he has ordered him to be killed.

So In yet another dream, God tells Joseph to take Mary and the baby Jesus and flee to Egypt for safety.
So Joseph
courageously
obediently
trusts in God and does as he is told.

Because Joseph recognizes that somehow, God is at work

It’s a long journey to Egypt
All to protect his bride and young child
Approximately 429 miles.
lets think about this—
I learned that it takes an average person about 20 minutes to walk a mile, which is about 3 miles an hour.
Let’s assume they walk 8 hours straight a day—
No easy task—
That would mean they would cover about 24 miles a day.
So that would have meant to get to Egypt- under IDEAL circumstances, would take about 18 days.
honorable for sure
And all to be obedient to God who is sending these messages to him

In my imagination I think of the long days and long nights hiking to Egypt
Frightened at what could happen if they’re found by Herod and his soldiers
And not just that
In these days, robbers frequented the well-traveled roads, preying on parties just like this one- most likely vulnerable
and most likely weary
And I imagine they were also traveling with everything they owned
At the very least everything precious to them

So I envision Joseph laying awake at night on the side of the road as they camped
Likely tucked away out of sight
with hopes of safety
His little boy and his wife sleeping
Their breathing soft and rhythmic—
He’s tired but unable to sleep,
wrestling with the fears many men wrestle with
Those fears that keep us up at night
How do I protect my family?
How do I provide for them?
What if it’s not enough?
What if I’m not enough?

Sometimes we dads feel like the weight of the world is on our shoulders.
And not just dads- all of us.
Moms-Brothers-Sisters
Aunts- uncles, Grandparents
Cousins- friends
I think all of us— at one time or another— get overwhelmed with the responsibilities of life
How are we going to make it work
How are we going to take care of the people looking to us for provision and protection

But just like with Joseph, God is always at work

behind the scenes
helping guide us and protect us

Just to recap—

God warns the Magi to return home by a different way to avoid the murderous efforts of Herod

then

God protects Joseph and his family by urging him in a dream to flee to safety to Egypt.

And then, Once in the clear, God, again in a dream, intervenes and advises Joseph to return to a different town upon hearing that danger still awaited him at the hands of another oppressive ruler.

God is always at work.

This isn’t the first story of God intervening in daily lives to deliver God’s people.
In fact, this story recalls an earlier Joseph in the bible
Whom God spoke to in dreams
and whose guidance delivered God’s people to safety
The first Joseph in the book of Genesis (46) helped deliver God’s people from Egyptian slavery
And ironically, this second Joseph finds Egypt a place of safety.

God is always moving on our behalf
urging us to safety.
We aren’t always able to see God at work
and frankly there are times when we don’t think God is active in our lives at all.
Lousy things still happen to us

And just like Joseph we might even be fearful of the world
A world that seems to be turning toward the same type of violence which threatened this early family
Many around the world live in the fear Joseph and his family lived in
Where tyrannical rulers lash out violently at the perception of threat
There are dads just like Joseph out there right this second
Frightened
And anxious to keep their families safe
to feed their hungry children
and comfort them

I’ve been touched recently by news articles detailing the plights of recent refugees

There is one about a 35 year old Syrian refugee dad who was selling pens on the street of Beirut, Lebanon to provide for his two young children.
A photographer took a picture of him selling his pens while his daughter slept on his shoulder.
And you can see in his face the fatigue and anguish of a man trying to make it happen for his family
The scene appears hopeless

But God is indeed at work
Behind the scenes.

How?

Well, the photographer who took the picture of the refugee dad started an online fundraising campaign for him that raised $190,000
The man used the money to open not 1 but 3 businesses- a bakery, a kebob shop, and a small restaurant which not only allowed the man and his two young children to move into a safer apartment, but also allowed him to employ 16 other fellow Syrian refugees.

Our God is at work.

Today is the first day of a new year.
For some, 2016 was a year of joy, accomplishment, and good cheer.
For others, it was a tough year.
Maybe you lost someone you love
Maybe your career fell apart
Maybe you learned of an illness that has sent you reeling
Maybe you are just so weighed down by the cares of the world that you can hardly imagine the next day
or week
let alone the next year.

But remember friends
God is at work
Just like God was at work with the first Joseph
and the second Joseph
guiding them to safety
We are not in this alone

God is at work redeeming the world
often through us—
Moving us to act in solidarity with those like refugees
who are feeling oppression and fear.

God is at work
We are never alone

We just celebrated the Christmas holiday which reminds us of Emmanuel- God is with us
God taking on human flesh to live among us and to walk with us
Experiencing everything we experience

the joy and sadness
the pleasure and the pain
All of this we share with the God who is with us

We are not promised to come out without any scratches
no
But we are promised that we are never alone
that God is at work
behind the scenes

And just like Joseph emerged from the darkness of life to the safety of the other side
We too will emerge
We don’t know what that will look like
or when it will happen
Joseph didn’t know how long he would be in Egypt
he certainly never expected to be there in the first place
But we do know that with God with us
We are ever alone
and that ultimately all will be well.
that’s the comfort of our faith

Yes, today is the first day of a new year.
It is ripe with potential
pregnant with possibility

As you begin this year
Moving forward
Step by step into the unknown of which a new year offers.
Rest assured that God is with you
Just like with Joseph
you are never alone
And that behind the scenes
God is active at work on your behalf.
Guiding you and walking with you

Thanks be to God.

Amen.

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