December 27, 2015 Text: Matthew 2:13-18
Dear Friends in Christ,
Christmas in the U.S. wears two faces. How many Christmas letters that you received talked about the family’s sin or heartache that was experienced. We sing “Joy to the World” yet read of murder, violence and rape online or in the paper. We proclaim peace on earth while world leaders try to implement it in hot spots around the world. Merchants are figuring out how “good” a Christmas it was as they figure out their sales.
Perhaps those of us who know the “Reason for the Season” are partly guilty for the fake Christmas around us. We present neighbors and friends with holiday joy on our faces without first proclaiming why baby Jesus was born. We know the good news sung by the angels, but how many sermons have you heard on weeping Rachel? Rachel is an important person in Matthew’s Christmas story. Listen to this – it is the rest of the Christmas story.
“Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.’ And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, ‘Out of Egypt I called my son.’”
“Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah: ‘A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.’”
Who is Rachel? Why is she weeping? And why do we usually ignore her?
“WHY ARE YOU WEEPING, RACHEL?”
Perhaps you remember Rachel’s story from Sunday School. She met Jacob who wanted to marry her, but first Laban, Rachel’s father, tricked him. He was to work seven years to “earn” Rachel, but on the wedding day he found out he had married her sister, Leah. He then had to work seven more years for Rachel. Rachel must have wept over that.
Rachel must have wept when she could not have children and the she had to watch as Leah and Jacob’s “second wives” gave Jacob 10 sons and a daughter. Finally Rachel’s womb opened and she gave birth to Joseph. She then died weeping giving birth to Benjamin. Jacob buried her near Bethlehem.
Matthew does a remarkable thing in our text, inspired by the Holy Spirit. He takes a historical event from 600 years before Jesus’ birth and applies it to the children of Rachel who died soon after Jesus was born. The Holy Innocents – the two year old boys and younger died. Rachel wept.
This is the rest of the Christmas story. Jesus came into a world of sin. Satan tries to kill baby Jesus before he would grow up and defeat him at the cross. The devil still seeks those he can devour. Innocent babies still die at the hands of medical professionals. Listen! Do you hear Rachel weeping? I do.
Matthew’s Gospel story is how God came to conquer sin – your sin and mine. Jesus came into a world that threatened his life just as it threatens yours. Matthew tells of Herod’s bloody swords so he can also tell us how God the Father sent an angel to protect, Jesus, Joseph, and Mary so that Jesus could carry out his mission of dying for the sins of the world.
The world does not want to hear about sin and maybe we don’t either on this Sunday after Christmas, but there is no Christmas without Good Friday. We perpetuate people’s walk to hell when we permit them to have a pretend Christmas. A Christmas without Rachel weeping may as well be built on rooty-toot toots and rummy-tum-tums.
Our world is one that needs Jesus in the manger and on the cross and at the empty tomb. Our world needs Jesus raised from the dead. Our world needs Jesus because Rachel still weeps. Rachel weeps and so do you, don’t you? I know I do and I just experienced it recently with an incident. Spouse abuse is real. Cancer is real. Abuse of drugs and alcohol is real. Adultery is real. Lack of thankfulness to our Lord is real. Slander and theft and greed are real. Death is real.
Jesus was born to deal with our real world. Jesus was born to dry Rachel’s tears. Jesus lived and died and rose again to dry your tears. On our Christmas tree we have a spike hanging on there. It reminds us that Christmas is real at our house because Good Friday and Easter are real.
Christmas can be a sham to make people feel good without reminding them of their basic problem – sin. This morning you and I are at Rachel’s tomb. We hear her weeping. We remember our weeping. So today we ask the Lord to “wipe away every tear from eye.” We rejoice with the hymn writer, “Then when You will come again As the glorious king to reign, I with joy will see your face, Freely ransomed by your grace.” Amen.