Sunday Sermie

(photo link from my pal in Egypt, Kirsten)

Sermon: “Hope in the Chaos”

Gospel: Matthew 2:13-23

  • Just a few days ago, we gathered for Christmas Eve worship. Congregations around the world read the story of Mary, Joseph, Jesus and the shepherds. It was a heart-warming night.
  • Today congregations around the world are reading a more dark and difficult chapter of Scripture. Instead of kneeling by the manger, Mary and Joseph are now, literally, running for their lives - and to protect the life of their son. 
  • Today's Gospel gives us a glimmer into the extremely challenging political and social realities into which Jesus was born.
  • Today’s Gospel is a reminder of a few truths:
    • #1: The world can be a very frightening place. 
    • #2: God is present in the chaos. And faith is stronger than fear.
  • Gospel lesson review/background: Jesus was born in Bethlehem. Sometime within the first couple years of his life, he is visited by some magi. Likely astronomers. Also called wise men.
  • Before the wise men get to Jesus, they stopped by and talked to King Herod. They’d noticed a special star and wanted to find out where the infant King of the Jews was.
  • King Herod wanted to trick the magi into bringing him information – but it didn’t work. After the magi visited Jesus, they were warned NOT to go back to Herod and instead to travel another route.
  • Then - we fast-forward to today's Gospel:
    • Joseph had a dream: "GET OUT OF HERE. THIS PLACE IS DANGEROUS." So he took Mary and the baby and they went to Egypt. They became refugees. Refugees with very little to their name – and a toddler in their arms. Living in an unfamiliar place.
  • Had they stayed: the danger that awaited them in Bethlehem was this: King Herod (aka Herod the Great), on a power trip, was infuriated with the wise men. 
    • They didn’t return with a report about the location of the baby. Herod knew they went to Bethlehem so he figured the baby king must be there somewhere. He ordered all the baby boys under 2 to be killed.
    • We don’t know for certain how many baby boys were killed. But it is speculated that Bethlehem had about 1000 people at that time. And perhaps about 20-30 people would have been baby boys under 2. A lot of innocent deaths. A devastating loss to the community.
  • We know a bit about King Herod from the Bible – we know about him from other historical sources, too.
    • Rome ruled the whole region – at this time Caesar Augustus was the ruler of Rome. And there were kings in all the provinces. Herod was the king of Judea. Bethlehem was a town in Judea.
    • Herod had a violent reputation. His whole family did. A legacy of murders, poisonings, infidelity.
    • There are many sources that point to an understanding of Herod as a man who was extremely paranoid and insecure. He constantly feared that no one would mourn his death. He worried that he wasn’t liked. He was obsessed with his reputation.
    • He had an extreme hunger for power.
      • At the root of it – Herod lived in constant, irrational fear.
        • Fear that his throne would be taken away.
        • Fear that his family would betray him.
        • Fear that he wasn’t liked by the people of Judea.
        • Fear that he wasn’t respected by other Roman rulers.
        • Fear that in the end, his life wouldn’t matter.
    • All that fear and insecurity and paranoia and hunger for power piled up and up and up.
      • And created an evil, terrible event. Herod was so intimidated by the birth of one tiny baby that he killed all the baby boys of the region.
  • It was a frightening time. Heart-breaking. And not altogether different than realities faced within our own world. There are still genocides, mass killings, starving refugees with no homes. Power-hungry, violent rulers. Chaos within our lifetimes in places like Syria, South Sudan, Rwanda, Bosnia, and North Korea. This morning there was a bombing in Russia. Violence and chaos isn’t just thousands of miles away. It’s here, too, in our own country.
  • Mary and Joseph lived within a frightening time. But instead of operating out of complete fear, they operated out of trust and faith in God. This is not to say they weren't scared at times. They most certainly were. But fear wasn't their primary motivator. 
    • They left everything and go to Egypt. Egypt. Different culture. No help. Baby in their arms.
    • They again had to change whatever plans or vision they had for raising their son among family and friends. 
    • They again had to step forward into what they don’t know.
    • Somehow, they do, by the grace of God.
  • Today’s Gospel lesson is not only an invitation to live in faith individually. It’s also an invitation to live and love and serve in a way that helps other people to do the same. That’s the role of the church – that’s the call God places on each of our lives. To love God and love each other. To be a beacon of light that empowers people to spend more of life in hope and faith than fear. 
  • Mary and Joseph made it to Egypt. They built a life there for several years. They eventually move again and go home. So where did they find their hope? How did they persevere? 
    • I imagine that God used the hands and feet and hearts of real people in Egypt to help Mary and Joseph survive this extremely challenging chapter of their lives. Now we get to be God's hands and feet and hearts.
  • Living in faith instead of fear can be extremely challenging. We need each other. We need each other’s stories.
    • Like the star that led the wise men – we can be a light to each other.
    • Providing care. Listening ear. Support. Encouragement. Resources. Especially during the really frightening, awful times – which are a real part of this earthly life.
  • In the midst of the chaos, hope remains.
  • In today’s gospel lesson, we can imagine that hope in the form of a little toddler named Jesus.
  • Through God’s power, hope survives and perseveres through every form of chaos. May we all believe this and experience it throughout the new year ahead.
  • Faith is stronger than fear. 


  1. This is a great sermon! Read it twice now, helps explain to others why I'm kind of a stick in the mud. (but always reliable and rock steady when others need me!)

    1. Thank you! I'm so thankful you found it helpful! :)