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Lindemann on Christmas 2

by revalkorn ~ January 3rd, 2011

Oops. Sorry. I’m slow. My bad.


The name of this day is not “Sunday after New Year,” for the Church does not recognize the first day of January as New Year’s Day. There may be a Sun-day between the Circumcision and the Epiphany of Our Lord. When this happens, we have the Second Sunday after Christmas. The Roman Church ob-serves it as the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus. To assure an annual observance, the Missal states: “Sunday occurring between January 1 and 6; otherwise on January 2.” The Anglican Church directs: “The same Collect, Epistle, and Gospel shall serve for every day after (the Circumcision) unto the Epiphany.” The Church of the Reformation is the first to provide specific and appropriate appointments. The Common Service states: “Introit, Collect, and Gradual as for the First Sunday after Christmas.” The Lutheran Hymnal appoints the same Introit and Collect but brings a Gradual for the day. The Epistle and the Holy Gospel both treat of suffering. In the Epistle it is the Christian’s suffering for the Name of Christ as partaker of His suffering; in the Holy Gospel it is the Lord who suffers and the children and parents of Bethlehem who suffer for His sake. The first part of this day’s Gospel serves also as Gospel for the Holy Innocents’ Day. This fact may lead the preacher to emphasize our Lord’s suffering in His flight to Egypt, especially if the Holy Innocents’ Day was observed.

The Introit. “Thy testimonies are very sure; holiness becometh Thine house, O Lord, forever. Thy throne is established of old; Thou art from everlasting. The Lord reigneth, He is clothed with majesty; the Lord is clothed with strength, wherewith He hath girded Himself.”

The trustful declaration that the Lord’s decrees are very sure and that He reigns is most appropriate in the light of this day’s thought as expressed in the Epistle and the Holy Gospel.

The Collect. “Almighty and everlasting God, direct our actions according to Thy good pleasure, that in the name of Thy beloved Son we may be made to abound in good works; through the same,” etc.

God’s good pleasure is to direct our actions, not the hope to escape or the desire to avoid suffering. May we in the face of suffering abound in good works.

The Epistle (1 Peter 4:12-19).

The Gradual. “Save us, O Lord, our God, and gather us from among the heathen, to give thanks unto Thy holy name and to triumph in Thy praise. Thou, O Lord, art our Father, our Redeemer; Thy name is from everlasting. Alleluia! Alleluia! My mouth shall speak the praise of the Lord; and let all flesh bless His holy name forever. Alleluia!”

The Proper Sentence. “Alleluia! Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad before the Lord; for He hath made known His salvation. Alleluia!”

The Gospel (St. Matt. 2:13-23 ). This day is still a part of the Christmas Cycle and very close to the Epiphany, which no doubt influenced the choice of this passage, bringing the account of the flight to Egypt and the martyrdom of the Holy Innocents. Of this Gospel Luther wrote: “This is indeed an important narrative. It should not be permitted to disappear from the churches for any reason. It is important because of the teaching and on account of the comfort which it brings before us Christians. The teaching is this: We see how the devil and the world are enemies of the little Child Jesus and His Kingdom; how strenuously they fight against Him; how they seek to oppress, smother, and wipe it out. The comfort is this, that this purpose by the world will not succeed. It must leave Christ, His Word, and His Church in possession of the field. The tyrants will be brought low; there will be nothing to help them.” Since there is so little opportunity to preach on this Gospel, the suggestions made below may prove helpful.

The Proper Preface. “For in the mystery of the Word made flesh Thou hast given us a new revelation of Thy glory; that, seeing Thee in the person of Thy Son, we may be drawn to the love of those things which are not seen.”


God’s Mysterious but Glorious Ways

Great and wonderful things are told us of the newborn Christ Child; at the Annunciation, at the Birth, at the Presentation, and at the coming of the Magi. Now there is a sudden change. An angel tells Joseph that the Child is in danger of death and commands him to flee to Egypt that same night. Under cover of darkness the little Infant must leave the land of His fathers and flee because Herod threatens His life. This Child is God Himself, the Lord of heaven and earth, who fashions men’s hearts according to His good pleasure, who possesses all power. Yet He must flee secretly, by night, because a mere man plans to kill Him. He who holds the whole universe in the hollow of His hand must be carried out of danger in the arms of a frail woman. Mysterious, inscrutable government of God! Here is the Creator, who can say of all things, “They are Mine,” and yet even as a little, innocent child He is not tolerated by His creatures. The Light of the world must seek the cover of darkness, that the Prince of Life might not lose His life.

Even more. After the Holy Family has fled, Herod’s soldiers come to Bethlehem and kill all the male children from two years and under. This Herod the Great was a cruel man who could proudly rank with the dictators and butchers of our century. For this bloody tyrant it was a simple matter to have the infants of Bethlehem killed. But why did God permit it? These children had done nothing to deserve such a fate. Why must all these parents suffer? It would have been so simple for God to prevent it all. Angels constantly flit in and out of the Christmas story. Why did God not send one to Herod and settle everything? The mysterious ways of God! Joseph, the son of Jacob, although innocent, must spend two years in prison. Moses must flee from Pharaoh and hide forty years. David must flee before Saul. Daniel is thrown to the lions because he prays to the true God. St. Paul must suffer many things for Christ’s sake.

Today it is no different. We are prone to imagine that all who surrender their life to the King and are at peace with God should be shielded from all sorrow and affliction by an omnipotent, loving God and led to experience only joys and pleasures. Instead, we see frequently that the most devout Christians suffer. Often we are tempted to ask: “Why, Lord, just this family? why just this man? this woman?” We cannot understand. To our way of thinking, it’s all wrong. That’s why God tells us stories like that of the Holy Gospel. He permits us a glimpse of the inside workings of His counsels that when His ways seem incomprehensible, we may cling to the one consolation: A loving, kindly disposed Father permits all for a glorious purpose.

In the story of the Holy Gospel He lifts the veil and not only shows that there is a clearly defined purpose but also what His purpose is. The flight into Egypt perplexes us, but there is ample evidence of His omnipotent hand. His ever watchful eye is on the Christ Child. First He supplies the Holy Family with funds for the journey through the rich gifts of the Magi. Then He sends an angel to warn Joseph. God sees to it that when the slaughter begins in Bethlehem, the Child is far removed from danger. In Egypt He finds a safe haven. There He can quietly await the death of His enemies. After four years the angel commands Joseph to return to the land of Israel.

What was God’s purpose? The flight into Egypt served to proclaim the Christ Child as the Savior. By it the word of the prophet was fulfilled: “Out of Egypt have I called My Son.” An attempt to give all the reasons why God permitted the murder of the Innocents would be presumptuous. One reason God Him-self states: that Scripture might be fulfilled. If the inhabitants of Bethlehem were shaken out of their indifference and ingratitude and Herod’s outrage caused the parents to become interested in the Child born in their village but until then ignored by them, the tragedy served a good purpose. The removal of the Innocents from this earth was an act of gracious deliverance. They died in the covenant grace given them in circumcision and were taken into heaven before they had ever tasted the woes and sorrows of life.

This story is to teach us chiefly three things. One is that if God permits affliction, He never loses control of events. Things never get out of hand. Herod could go just so far and no farther. God set a definite limit. He always does. We are never asked to carry more than we are able. We have His promise that He will supply the strength needed to carry the carefully measured load. We need not carry it one moment longer than God wills. At all times His omnipotent hand is in complete control.

Secondly we are to learn that God always has a very clearly defined purpose in view. Things do not just happen by chance. There is no blind fate. In Bethlehem God’s purpose was probably correction. Children of God must know that they are never punished; they are only corrected. Christ has suffered all our punishment, and God will not and cannot punish the same sins twice. By permitting affliction God seeks to correct our faults in all love.

The third thing we are to learn is that God is deeply concerned about His Word. We are told three times that the Word of the Lord was fulfilled. First, by the flight to Egypt, then by the wailing of the mothers over their babes, and last when Joseph settled in Nazareth. God’s Word is important to Him. This is the same Word so many neglect and ignore. To them it is not important. As a result they miss endlessly much in life and always remain spiritual paupers, crippled and paralyzed. The Holy Gospel impresses on us that God’s Word is always fulfilled. Not one of His Words ever falls to the ground. If this is to mean anything in our lives, we must know the Word, we must know what God tells us about Himself. There is, for instance, the Word “Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you.” If we never had a day of trouble, we should never call on God in that day; so God permits the day of trouble to come. When, then, we know God’s Word, we call on Him confidently, and we experience that His Word is always fulfilled. Without knowledge of God’s Word and God, we should never learn to know God from this side. We would miss endlessly much if we never learned by experience how dependable His Word is.


The greatest comfort in time of affliction is the unshakable assurance that there is not a trace of wrath or punishment in it. This conviction comes through constant association with God in His Word. In Psalm 25 David sings: “The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear Him, and He makes known to them His covenant.” They who fear the Lord are the people who as obedient, loving children will not knowingly offend a loving Father and disturb the beautiful relationship. With them God associates as a Friend and reveals His Covenant. He treats us as His friends today as we come to His Table. Here the Son of God comes to us in His Word to ether with the Bread and Wine and assures us that our sins are forgiven, that the one possible cause of discord between us and our God has been removed forever. He seals this assurance by giving us His Body and Blood, by becoming part of us. He speaks to us individually: “For you I gave My Body into death, for your forgiveness I shed My Blood, for you I died.” The God whom we meet in the Holy Communion is a God whom we cannot but love and trust and believe. Of Abraham we read: “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness; and he was called the friend of God.” God took him into His intimate confidence and said: “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do?” So our great Friend will take us into His confidence and make known to us His covenant. The covenant is an alliance of friendship. God will show us who lovingly walk in His commandments what it means to have God for a friend.

The covenant is most gloriously revealed through Christ. When He instituted the Holy Communion, He said: “This cup is the new covenant in My blood.” He spoke of a new alliance of friendship established in His Blood. The Old Covenant was a contract between God and Israel: “I will be your God and you shall be My people, under the condition that you obey My Law. If you will obey, I will bless. If you disobey, I will punish.” The New Covenant in Christ’s Blood is that God forgives sins. St. Paul says: “For this is My covenant unto them when I shall take away their sins.” Jeremiah said: “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah…. But this is the covenant … I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

In the Holy Communion God shows His friends the Covenant. By drinking of the Cup of forgiveness they become parties to the contract. He gives us the assurance that our sins are forgiven and that He will remember them no more. Nothing, absolutely nothing, stands between us and our loving Friend. God will remember our sins no more. We must believe this with our whole heart when our Friend leads us mysterious ways. Affliction is not an indication that God is not our Friend or that the covenant is not in force.

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