Christmas Greetings to You!
We Proclaim Jesus.
Dear Friends and Family in Christ,
I thank my God and my Lord for blessing His believing people with another glorious opportunity of celebrating the Birth of His Blessed and Beloved Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Indeed, I count it a great privilege and pleasure to be chosen, converted, commissioned, consecrated, cherished by God, and called to be part of His great and eternal family.
For this year's celebration of GOD'S INDESCRIBABLE GIFT to mankind, that is, God, actually becoming man in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit led to ponder His inspired words in Matthew 2:13-15. Oh how rich and relevant this passage is for the times in which we live. It is a passage of vivid contrast. On the one hand it vividly depicts the enemy's desire to destroy the Christ-Child at the First Christmas. On the other hand, it visually describes God's timely deliverance of the Christ-Child from the hand of the enemy.
As I prayed and pored over this passage of vivid contrast, the Holy Spirit powerfully and personally reminded me of the truth that God is always a step ahead of the enemy. He is fully aware of and is able to overturn the evil schemes of the enemies of His believing people in order to accomplish His divine purposes for them. Oh how comforting this is in the troubled times in which we live! Trouble awaits the Christ-Child as soon as He enters into the world. Herod was about to embark on a search and destroy mission. But God was a step ahead of Herod, whose name means, "song of the hero." The account of this Christmas story which graphically portrays the truth that God is always a step ahead of the enemy, begins with the DRAMATIC INTRODUCTION TO THE STORY TO BE TOLD. "Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying..." (Matthew 2:13a). In fact, one can say that the Christmas story is the greatest drama ever staged in human history and it will remain the greatest drama ever performed here on earth. Since Joseph and Mary were part of the drama of the ages, a lot of drama unfolded in their lives. The dramatic introduction of the story to be told is vividly captured in expression, "behold." This term sometimes serves to enliven a narrative by arousing the attention of the hearers and readers. It introduces something new which calls for special attention. It draws attention to something quite extraordinary or dramatic. The Bible is teaching us that God is about to do something dramatic which calls for special attention. He is on the move to defend and deliver the Christ-Child. Such is the God believers have. He is always on the move to defend and deliver His own.
How wonderful of God to give Joseph the privilege of playing an important role in the life of the Christ-Child. However, this privilege comes with a responsibility, as is the case with all privileges. That is why the Bible succinctly spells out the DIRECTIVES GIVEN TO JOSEPH. Speaking with the authority of God, the angel of the Lord spells out to Joseph four directives in rapid succession: "Arise and take the Child and His mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you;" (Matthew 2:13b). The directives given to Joseph are clear and concise. They are divine and definitive. The angel of the Lord, whose name is not mentioned here, was doing exactly what God Almighty had commissioned him to do. You see, holy angels only and always do the will of God (see Psalm 103:20). Since the angelic messenger was doing the will of God, he spoke authoritatively and definitively as if God Himself were speaking to Joseph. Four simple and straightforward directives were given to Joseph. He was to "arise," literally, "rising." Whenever God says "arise," it means "get going now." Second, Joseph was to "take the Child and His mother." Every time the Child Jesus and His mother are mentioned, He is mentioned first (see Matthew 2:11, 13-14, 20-21). This is because the Holy Spirit is giving preeminence to Christ. He is to be worshiped, exalted, magnified, adored, honored, and celebrated, not His mother Mary. Unfortunately, some have exalted Mary to a status God never purposed for her life. How sad! How misguided! Third, Joseph was told to "flee to Egypt." Why Egypt? Why escape to Egypt which had been particularly cruel to the infant sons of Israel-whom Pharaoh ordered to be cast into the Nile to perish? The answer, when God chooses, He can make the worst of places serve the best of purposes. Oh our God! His ways are not our ways. Fourth, Joseph was commanded "to remain there until I tell you." Joseph was to stay put in Egypt until God gives him his next marching orders. Please understand that all the directives given to Joseph are actually an expression of God's protective care and personal concern for His own. The same God who expressed His protective care and personal concern for the Christ-Child is willing to do the same for you. Turn to Him. Trust Him. Take Him at His word. He will not fail you.
Oh how very early was the Blessed Savior in affliction and adversity! His life and suffering as the God-Man began together. Though He is the Prince of peace, He did not have a peaceful and placid Childhood like most of us. This is why the Bible speaks of the DESIRE OF HEROD. The Christ-Child's life is in danger from Herod's hatred and hostility. Notice the Bible says: "for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him" (Matthew 2:13c). Herod's desire is to "destroy" the Christ-Child. Herod, an Edomite, was vicious, violent, vindictive and vengeful. He was cruel, cunning and cold-blooded. He had no problem at all murdering two of his five wives and at least three of his own ten sons. It was this brutal murderer who has now embarked on a search and destroy mission with the goal of adding the Christ-Child to his list of victims. That is why the Bible uses one of the most powerful words to describe the diabolical desire of Herod. It's the word "destroy," "apollumi."- which also means "to bring to ruin, put to death, to destroy utterly." But thanks be to God, Jesus will not be a victim, but the Victor in the midst of this strife! Please mark this well! Rulers/leaders are rarely friendly to the cause of Christ. Here comes the Unique Son of God from heaven to seek and save wretched, wayward, wicked, and woeful sinners, and immediately we are told that Herod seeks to destroy Him. Seldom have kings and rulers and leaders done much to advance the cause of Christ. We are witnessing this in our day. Few are the rulers who have advanced the cause of God, such as David, Hezekiah, Josiah.
The interesting thing in this story is that Joseph had no idea of the danger facing the Christ-Child and how to escape it. In a dramatic and timely fashion, the angel of the Lord revealed the danger and the destination for his escape. Since the directives given to Joseph were urgent and unmistakable, Joseph left immediately. As such, the Bible speaks convincingly of the DECISIVE RESPONSE OF JOSEPH: "and he arose and took the Child and His mother by night, and departed for Egypt; and was there until the death of Herod," (Matthew 2:14-15a). As far Joseph was concerned, this was not a time of procrastination, but of promptness. It was not a time of hesitating and holding back, but a time of hastening and hurrying to do the bidding of God. It was not a time of dilly-dallying, but a time of being decisive in his response to doing what God has clearly made known to him. Joseph made no objection. He simply obeyed. What an example Joseph is to us! Joseph's obedience to God's marching orders was immediate, decisive, and complete, despite the inconvenience his obedience would cause him. More importantly, Joseph's obedience to God was not only decisive, but it was also demonstrative of his love for Christ. Before the Lord Jesus would teach His disciples: "He who has My commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves Me...If anyone loves Me, He will keep My word" (John 14:21,23), Joseph demonstrated it in his life! May Joseph's decisive obedient response spur us to becoming people whose obedient response to God will also be described as decisive and demonstrative of our love for Jesus!
God always has a purpose for everything He does. He is the God of purpose. That is why at the end of the Christmas story recorded in this passage, the Bible confidently and concisely reveals the DIVINE PURPOSE FOR THE FLIGHT TO EGYPT: "that what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet might be fulfilled, saying 'OUT OF EGYPT DID I CALL MY SON'" (Matthew 2:15b). Matthew's Gospel was written by a Jew to Jews about a Jew named Jesus. As such, it is dominated by the theme of fulfillment. This adds much strength and support to his message to the Jews. The prophecy quoted by Matthew is from Hosea 11:1, which originally referred to God's work of calling Israel, whom He also referred to as "My firstborn son" and "My Son" (Exodus 4:22, 23), out of Egypt. Matthew understood by the Holy Spirit's inspiration and illumination that Hosea's prophecy applied to Israel and Jesus. Just as Israel as an infant nation went down into Egypt, so the Child Jesus went there. And as Israel was led by God out of Egypt, so also was Jesus. It is likely Joseph never lived to read the gospel of Matthew to know the divine purpose for his flight to Egypt. Joseph simply trusted God. He simply obeyed God and left the rest to God. Whether or not God chooses to reveal His purpose for the circumstances and trials He allows in your life and my life, my prayer for us is that we will rely on the Holy Spirit to trust and obey God and leave the rest to God. In our world of many dangers, let us remember this Christmas that life was not comfortable and cozy for the Christ-Child. He understands our struggles and sorrows like no one does. Let us also be encouraged with the truth that our God is always a step ahead of the enemy and is more than able to thwart the evil schemes of the enemy in order to fulfill His divine purpose for our lives to the praise of His glory! During this special season of celebrating Christ's Birth, let's not live in fear, but faithfully speak of Christ and share His love and grace to all those God will bring our way-doing so with an abiding assurance, that by the grace of God, we are victors in the midst of the strife, not victims.
With much love in Christ,
Joseph Ametepe, a bond-servant of Jesus!