Time Out

“…an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream.  ‘Get up,’ he said, ‘take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt.  Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.'”  Matthew 2:13

During the Advent season, our congregation has been “Searching for God”.  We have searched near, far, high, and low.  But, as I read this passage of scripture, I am reminded that we are not all searching for the same reasons.  Nor are we searching for good reasons.  Herod’s purpose was most definitely evil.  His plan was to destroy Jesus and anything affiliated with God’s plan.

I have read many posts and blogs this Christmas season about how the western world is threatening to destroy “the reason for the season”.  Christians complain about no one saying Merry Christmas and holiday parties and holiday trees and anything else they can complain over.  But let’s have a reality check here in the USA!  We know nothing about religious persecution.  Tonight we will gather together across the country and worship our Lord.  We will ring church bells and light candles and sing Silent Night.  I will stand up along with thousands of other preachers and proclaim the Good News that “…unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord”.  We know nothing of persecution.

Right now, we have Christian brothers and sisters in China and India and other places that are hidden away.  In a secret place they gather together to worship our Lord.  They light as few candles as possible…just enough to be able to see the words written in Luke’s Gospel.  They will preach the Good News and know at any moment they could be arrested.  And then they will sing praises to God with hearts lifted high.  These people know what it is like to be persecuted.  They understand what it means to live under Herod’s rule.  They understand the words of the prophet, Jeremiah:

“A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning.  Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.”

They also understand that we are living in a “time out” period.  Joseph took his wife and child and fled to Egypt.  It was a time out period.  A time when Jesus, the newborn King, was absent from Israel.  We are living in a time out period.  Jesus seems to be absent from our world.  He seems to be hiding in Egypt.  And we are waiting for His return.  We are waiting for Him to return to fulfill the words of the prophet, Isaiah:

“In that day, the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to Him, and His place of rest will be glorious.  In that day, the Lord will reach out His hand a second time to reclaim the remnant that is left of His people…”

So tonight I would like to ask a favor of those who live in the West.  Rather than complain about no one saying “Merry Christmas”, would you sing a little louder?  Will you lift up your voices for all the world to hear?  Will you give praises to our Lord loud enough for our brothers and sisters around the world to hear?  We know nothing about persecution.  Will you rejoice on behalf of those who understand it full well?

Merry Christmas!

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