Sermons

Summary: Christmas message based on Matthew 2 where Herod tries to kill Jesus

“Jesus The Refugee”

Introduction:

Washington Post article (Dec 24, 2015) - Infertility, divorce, shame, mass murder, astrologers, injustice and doubt: these are a few of the topics that appear in the birth narratives of Matthew and Luke, but it is unlikely that they will feature in many of the sermons or pageants at our churches during this season of the year.

The 2015 refugee crisis in Syria…

• More than four million refugees of the Syrian Civil War.

• Most of them fled to neighboring Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, and Iraq and across Europe.

• Turkey has become the world's biggest refugee hosting country with 2.2 million Syrian refugees and had spent more than US$7.6 billion on direct assistance to refugees.

• To complicate matters…. Trafficking in fake Syrian passports is rampant.

• In Europe…The largest numbers of refugees were recorded in Germany with over 89,000 and Sweden with over 62,000 in early August.

• More than 100,000 refugees crossed the European Union's borders in July alone.

• Syrians formed the largest group of refugees to Europe.[178]

• In September… 8,000 refugees crossed into Europe on a daily basis.

• The oil-rich Countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.) have refused to accept a significant number of Syrian refugees. ,most are simply extending the stay of those Syrians already in the country.

…and here we are celebrating Christmas in comfortable Canada. Excited about family…excited about Christmas dinner… its the best meal of the year…excited about presents… excited about having some time off work to rest and reflect. As believers, we know who to thank and we know the season is all because of Jesus coming into our world. He came to save us…he came to show us God’s relentless and persevering love.

But how can we celebrate when so many around the world – these refugees in particular languish in tents…travel on foot … and fight against chilly nights, hunger and thirst. Parents worry over the health of children and babies.

It doesn’t seem to fit the Christmas season – and I’m not here to steal away your joy and excitement over Christmas – but I will sincerely pose the question – how do we reconcile the joy of Christmas with the hardship and suffering of so many?

Christmas always seems to highlight the paradox and the contradiction of good and evil; peace and war; love and hate; respect for others and discrimination- even racism. Some terrorist decides to detonate a bomb or blow up an airplane. Someone we know is killed in a car accident or dies of a heart attack – and we remark …” sadness and tragedy invades even Christmas.”

I find it interesting that the Christmas story – as recorded in Matthew dives right into this paradox.

Read text: (Matthew 2:1-8 and 13-18)

No sooner has Jesus been born… and he is quickly visited by the “Magi” from the East – who present gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. But the tranquility of “silent night, holy night” is quickly broken by news of Herod’s intent to kill this baby. “O little town of Bethlehem – how restless you are…”

• Herod was born around 73 B.C., the son of a statesman.

• raised as a Jew.

• As a Roman official he knew all about politics – and assassinations

• During this time …Brutus and Cassius assassinated Julius Caesar in 44 B.C.

• And a year later, Herod’s father was assassinated .

• Herod avenged his father’s death – which led to more political unrest.

• The Roman senate appointed him king of Judea in 40 B.C., and he retook the city of Jerusalem three years later from enemies from the east – the Parthians

So you can see the world Herod operates in…

So Herod was no fool – he survived in the cruel world of politics with a ruthless instinct. Kill anyone who poses a threat to his power. Herod seemed to know more about the promise of the messiah than most. Having been raised in the Jewish tradition he likely connected the dots from Isaiah’s prophecy of a Messiah who would take “the government upon his shoulders.”

Herod wasn’t shy about killing off potential threats.

Herod captured and killed any in Jerusalem who criticized him, and thus turned Judea into a police state where dissenters and opponents could be executed. He had spies and informants all over, and he regularly tortured confessions out of suspects before executing them. Private meetings were banned. In response to one assassination attempt by ten Jerusalemites, he tortured to death the would-be assassins and their associates—and he had their families killed.

Herod was determined to kill any potential rival king. In 35 B.C., he had his brother-in-law Aristobulus drowned in a swimming pool “accident” because he had become popular with the people. Political conspiracies and fabricated rumors bred quickly in Herod’s court {and family}. He had ten wives and eight sons, and the question of who would succeed Herod caused incredible turmoil. … He {even} killed three of his sons, fearing they might assassinate him.

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