THE WAY OF PEACE AND LOVE IN CHRIST JESUS OUR LORD
A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT THE
HIGH HILL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
27 DECEMBER 1992
By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor
When we think of the coming of the magi and of the other images of our Christmas celebration, we think of a peaceful and wonderful scene.
But not everyone is willing to accept God's Christmas gift to us – Jesus Christ. Some people actually fight against it.
As part of our Christmas Eve service, we read and talked about the coming of the magi, as recorded in Matthew 2:1-12.
But as we know, not every mission of love and peace is accepted by everyone in the world.
Let's pick up where we left off on Christmas Eve and look at what happened
after the magi left, beginning at Matthew 2:13.
13. Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, "Arise and 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."
14. And he arose and took the Child and His mother by night, and departed for Egypt;
15. and was there until the death of Herod, that what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet might be fulfilled, saying, "Out of Egypt did I call My Son."
Why would God send Joseph and Mary and Jesus to Egypt?
Was it just to fulfill His own prophecy?
No! Not at all!
God is much too great to consider such petty things.
He had to have another purpose in mind.
First of all, God wanted to maintain a state of love and peace around this family and His Son, so that people would have trouble finding fault with Him.
Secondly, if they had stayed in Bethlehem, the Lord would have had to fight against Herod’s army in order to protect the life of Jesus; and then, Jesus' coming would have been thought of as having resulted in violence, and not in peace and love.
And why Egypt?
Egypt had a Scriptural connotation of being a land of sin, from which the Lord brought out His people.
God has always had a soft spot in His heart for Egypt, and as we know today, they are still the only Arab nation to fully accept Israel.
Keep your finger here in Matthew 2, and turn with me to Isaiah 19:19-25.
19. In that day there will be an altar to the Lord in the midst of the land of Egypt, and a pillar to the Lord near its border.
20. And it will become a sign and a witness to the Lord of hosts in the land of Egypt; for they will cry to the Lord because of oppressors, and He will send them a Savior and a Champion, and He will deliver them.
21. Thus the Lord will make Himself known to Egypt, and the Egyptians will know the Lord in that day. They will even worship with sacrifice and offering, and will make a vow to the Lord and perform it.
22. And the Lord will strike Egypt, striking but healing; so they will return to the Lord, and He will respond to them and will heal them.
23. In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria, and the Assyrians will come into Egypt and the Egyptians into Assyria, and the Egyptians will worship with the Assyrians.
24. In that day Israel will be the third party with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth,
25. whom the Lord of hosts has blessed, saying, "Blessed is Egypt My people, and Assyria the work of My hands, and Israel My inheritance."
Now, before we comment on these verses from Isaiah, or return to Matthew 2, let's look at Matthew 9:13, and listen to what Jesus said:
13. "But go and learn what this means, 'I desire compassion, and not sacrifice,' for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners."
God sent Jesus and His family to Egypt to let the sinners of all nations know that a Savior had come for them, too.
And Joseph was obedient to the word of the Lord, for he left immediately for Egypt, even during the night.
Egypt did have a personal visitation from their Savior and Champion, even though He was still a child at the time.
And now we are just leaving a season that was to remind us of the personal visitation of our Savior and Lord.
We shouldn't need to be punished for our lack of recognition, as was Egypt, in order that they would see and seek the Lord.
We should know the Lord, and seek Him obediently; for that is what He desires of us all.
But unfortunately, most people in the world don't understand, or don’t want to understand. They are like Herod.
Note what we are told in Matthew 2:16-18.
16. Then when Herod saw that he had been tricked by the magi, he became very enraged, and sent and slew all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its environs, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had ascertained from the magi.
17. Then that which was spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled, saying,
18. "A voice was heard in Ramah,
Weeping and great mourning,
Rachel weeping for her children;
And she refused to be comforted,
Because they were no more."
Herod was a very evil person, and we still have such evil people in the world today.
And because of their evilness, many humans and other animals die, and others are put in distress.
We can see the accounts of this every day on the news.
Christ's coming has not yet put an end to it, for the time of the end is not yet at hand, and won't be until after Jesus Christ returns.
Then where is the peace and love we spoke about?
It is here, too.
Jesus never killed anyone during His incarnation.
He never even threatened to call down fire from heaven to destroy anyone or anything, and even rebuked His disciples for wanting to do so, "for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men's lives but to save them." (Luke 9:54-56)
People destroy people and animals and the environment.
Jesus came to put an end to all of this destruction, and He did it by setting an example for us to follow.
He isn't forcing any of us to do what He wants us to do; He's just encouraging us to do so.
Likewise, the Lord is also allowing evil people to continue to do evil, and if they don't repent of their evil ways, they will go to hell when they die.
Conversely, if a Godly person, who is living in peace and love, is killed or hurt by an evil person, the Godly one will still go to heaven.
But if a so-called godly person rose up and killed an evil person, they would destroy the testimony of Jesus Christ, for the end does not justify the means.
We can't forget what Jesus said from the cross: "Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing." (Luke 23:34)
Surely, when every part of your body is in agony, you have a right to curse; but Jesus set the example that we are to pray for our afflicters, so that they, too, would come to the knowledge of the Lord and live in peace.
Also remember what Jesus told us in His sermon on the mount: "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons [children] of God." (Matthew 5:9)
If we truly believe, we should actually live as sons and daughters of God, here and now.
Sometimes this is hard for us to understand, for there seems to be no place in the world for such a way of life.
But there only seems to be no such place, because very few people really try to make such a place here on earth.
For where these few people really try to live in peace and love, there is such a place – a place which is like a touch of heaven here on earth.
A place where the sons and daughters of God can live in peace and love.
We can make such a place right here, if we want to.
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