Summary: Here's the problem with Christmas today: the Christmas we know is so very unlike the first Christmas was experienced by the holy family. The joy of the birth of the Christ child was soon dampened by evil. What we need to remember this Christmas is that we
A Scandalous Love Affair: When Darkness Invades
Fireman Edward Cushing tells the story of an old frame house burning on the southside of Chicago. He ordered the hoses to start fighting the fire and then dashed inside and pulled three people out. When the blaze was over, the Chief came over and told him he did a great job but 2 of the 3 people he pulled out weren’t going to make it. “No! They’re all alive!” Suddenly he awoke from the dream in a drenching sweat and his heart racing. It was 4:30 am and it was just a bad dream. He put his head back on the pillow to get some rest before he started his 72 hour shift over the Christmas holiday at the station house. He had an unseasoned crew and just prayed for the God to watch over the city that night. One minute before Christmas, the alarm came in. The fire was a half mile from the firehouse and the old woodframe house was engulfed in flames. When Edward got to the house, he ran inside and found a body lying in the hallway. He bent over and picked up her body and carried her out. As he did, he saw a second body. It looked like a child’s. He ordered a firefighter to get the child as he lay the woman down on the snowbank and checked for a pulse. There was none. He started CPR on her but no response. He ordered the firefighter to enter the house with the hose. The Chief arrived and assessed the situation and told Edward, “You’d better give up on her. She’s gone.” Exhausted and frightened, he silently called out to God: “God, bring her back. I’ve done everything I can do. Only you can help now.” A split second later, he felt the woman’s heart start. And then he remembered his dream: there were three people in the house. He dashed back in the house and up the stairs. At the top, he saw the body of a small child. No pulse. He started CPR as he lifted his body and carried him down the steps outside. After the fire was out and they were putting their equipment away, the Chief returned to the scene from the hospital and informed him that the woman and the child weren’t going to make it. Edward then confidently looked the Chief in the eyes and said, “Chief, no one is going to die.” And both survived. Christmas day, he went by the hospital to check on the mother and ended up telling her about the dream. The woman profusely thanks him for saving her and her children. And Edward responded, “I didn’t save you. God did.”
In our Scripture today, we have the story of another dream which saved a child. In it, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph and told him to take the child and Mary, and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him." So Joseph took the child, during the night, and left for Egypt where he stayed until the death of Herod. Notice his hasty retreat during the middle of the night. It wasn't something they had time to plan for, or get Christmas gifts together; they had to get out in a hurry. It was Christmas interrupted. The holy family spends the next two years as displaced refugees in Africa.
Just a word about dreams. Dreams in the Scriptures were considered to be one of the primary means God’s speaks to us. Most Christians today don’t know or haven’t realized that but it is something we need to reclaim. For God can and does speak through our dreams. In fact, there are 26 dreams recorded in the Bible. Does that mean that every dream is from God? No. But when you open yourself to hearing God’s voice through your dreams, you allow him to speak in a very real and powerful way to us. And when you don’t, you may miss out on a message or revelation that may not only save your life but someone else’s. I remind you that it was because of a dream I had that we discovered Dr. Fortino was getting ready to out his property next door to the church on the market, a property the church had been wanting to buy since 1977. So God can and does speak to us through our dreams, if we allow Him to and can provide direction to us if we listen.
Back to Christmas. Here's the problem with Christmas today: the Christmas we know is so very unlike the first Christmas was experienced by the holy family. The joy of the birth of the Christ child was soon dampened by evil. What we need to remember this Christmas is that we are in the midst of a cosmic battle. Evil is a reality. We are fighting principalities and powers that are not of this world. Evil has many faces and expressions in this world, and one of those in our Scripture today is political. Herod sought to put Jesus to death not because he believed Jesus was the Son of God but because Jesus was from the line of David and thus the rightful heir to Herod’s throne. So Herod orders all children under the age of 2 killed. Evil’s rears its ugly head when the Good News, Jesus Christ, enters the world. So the backdrop of the first Christmas is not warm and cuddly with an innocent baby lying in a cozy, safe manger but evil seeking to destroy the child and the work of God. The birth of the Christ child is immersed in the battle between good and evil. And the result is infanticide, the killing of all male children under the age of two. This causes weeping and mourning amidst the people of Israel. “a voice is heard in Ramah [in Africa amongst those who are refugees] and they are weeping and great mourning.” And they not singing ‘Silent Night, Holy Night.’ The first song of Christmas was filled with weeping and mourning over the death of innocent children. You see the historical Christmas that began with angels singing and the announcement to the shepherds was interrupted by evil and danger.