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Christmas- Comfort For The Comfortless 4

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Christmas:  Comfort For The Comfortless 4

Matthew 2:1-18

        Christmas is about the comfort of God that is revealed in the birth of Jesus Christ.  Yet, there are many people, particularly in this country and particularly at Christmas time who don’t feel that there is any comfort for them.  They are without comfort.  They are without any hope of comfort.  They are comfortless.  They don’t believe that Jesus, or any one else; can comfort their saddened hearts.  This is especially and still true, in the light of what happened on September 11th, 2001.

We see a similar situation in the Bible, in

Matthew 2:16-18, “Then when Herod saw that he had been tricked by the magi, he became very enraged, and sent and slew all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its environs, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had ascertained from the magi.  Then that which was spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled, saying, ‘A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children; and she refused to be comforted, because they were no more.’”

        The setting of the Christmas story is in the days of Herod.  Herod is a type or picture of Satan.  And even as Satan wanted to destroy the Christ-child, he also wants to destroy the Christ-child in us, so that there will be no Christmas.

Satan hate’s Christmas because of it’s potential, but he also hates it because it highlights his murderous spirit!!!  We see here two competing spirits:  the spirit of Herod against the spirit of heaven.  The spirit of heaven is one of rejoicing, because of the birth of the Savior of the world.  The spirit of Herod is one of excessive grief and sadness over the children that Herod murdered.

At Christmas time, there is a spirit of Satan that approximates the spirit of Herod that seeks to impose itself in our lives.  Satan wants to kill our hopes, dreams, destiny, joy, etc. that our small children represent.  Satan wants to kill our dreams and our destiny, so that his kingdom will seem to reign preeminent over Christ’s kingdom.

        This is the fourth message in this series.


(We have been looking at the darkness of the passage and ferreting out the hope.  Today, as we come to the end of this series, let’s move to the hope more quickly.)

        But, Rachel would not be comforted.  There is such pain in that statement and in this verse.  But, praise God for His holy Word, because there is comfort in the Word of God, and you don’t have to look hard to find it.  If you just go to the very next verse, there is a portent, sign, or omen of comfort.  The Bible says in

Matthew 2:19, “But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying.”

“But, when Herod was dead!”  “But, when Herod was dead!”  “But, when Herod was dead!”  I feel like singing, “Ding Dong, The Witch is Dead!”

Ding Dong, The Witch is Dead!

Ding Dong!  The Witch is dead.

                               Which old Witch? The Wicked Witch!

                              Ding Dong!  The Wicked Witch is dead.

                                      Wake up - sleepy head,

                                  Rub your eyes, get out of bed.

                               Wake up, the Wicked Witch is dead.

                                 She’s gone where the goblins go,

                                   Below - below - below. Yo-ho,

                           Let’s open up and sing and ring the bells out.

                                     Ding Dong the merry-oh,

                                      Sing it high, sing it low.

                            Let them know The Wicked Witch is dead!

The wicked witch represented evil.  The wicked witch represented Satan, and in our story, the wicked witch is Herod.  We have something to shout about, but beyond the shouting there is tangible comfort in the fact that Herod is defeated and he is dead.

(Let me help you think about the implications of Herod’s death.)

·        Herod thought that he had baffled all the Old Testament prophecies.

Remember that he deceitfully inquired of the Magi in order to ascertain the time and place of Christ’s birth, so that he might destroy him.  And he thought that he had accomplished his goal with the slaughter of innocent babies, but “when Herod was dead!!!”  This highlights the fact that the prophecies that Herod was trying to thwart were fulfilled in the birth of Jesus Christ.


·        Herod thought that he had defeated the indications of the star.

The star foretold of the coming of Messiah, but Herod thought that by killing babies he had blotted out that star, because he had killed the baby behind the star, but “when Herod was dead!!!”  The star still shone long after Herod’s death, because the indications of the star were fulfilled in the birth of Jesus Christ.  As a matter of fact, spiritually that star is still shinning.  When you have the time, walk out into the night of your life and look into the expanse of the universe and you will notice that the star of Christmas is still shinning!!!  “Do you see what I see?  Do you see what I see?  A star, a star, shining in the night, it will bring you goodness and life; it will bring you goodness and life!!!”

·        Herod thought that he had defeated the devotions of the wise men.

The wise men had come to seek him and to worship him and Herod thought that by killing these babies he had killed the One they had come to worship, and thus the impetus and object of their worship, but “when Herod was dead!!!”  The Christ Child was born and the wise men found Him and worshipped Him and continued to worship Him, long after Herod was dead.  As a matter of fact, Herod has been long dead, but wise people still seek and worship the Babe of Bethlehem, who was also the Son given to shoulder the government of God.

·        Herod thought that he had gotten rid of the rival King.

Herod thought that he had gotten rid of the potential rival king in the slaughter of innocent babies.  Surely the King of Jews had been executed with many of His potential subjects, but “when Herod was dead!!!”  Herod was dead and his reign over, but the reign of the King of kings and Lord of lords was just beginning, and He shall reign forever and ever!!!

“But, when Herod was dead!!!”  Matthew Henry said, “Having burnt the hive, Herod concludes he had killed the master bee; but God in heaven laughs at him, and has him in derision.  Whatever crafty cruel devices are in men’s hearts, the counsel of the Lord shall stand.”[1]  But instead, Herod died!!!  Herod tried to arrange the death of the Christ Child, but could not prevent his own death.

There is comfort in the fact that the enemy of the Christ Child and of all children is dead!

Who does Herod represent, but Satan incarnate, who wished to usurp the place and worship of Jehovah God!!!  Later, in the Bible, his grandson, Herod Agrippa, was struck down, because he let the people assign deity to him.  The Bible says in

Acts 12:21-23, “And on an appointed day Herod, having put on his royal apparel, took his seat on the rostrum and began delivering an address to them.  And the people kept crying out, ‘The voice of a god and not of a man!’  And immediately an angel of the Lord struck him because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and died.”

Satan, in Herod, thought that he had thwarted God’s plan, but God’s counsel would stand and it stood in Christ’s life and Herod’s death.  And in Herod’s death, there is the typological death of Satan.

·        There is comfort in this Scripture in the fact that Christmas signals the coming death of Satan.

Christmas signals the beginning of some things and the end of others.  Christmas signals a new season, but that, of necessity, signals the end of the old season.  Jesus was born to destroy the works of the devil.

1 John 3:8, “The one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning.  The Son of God appeared for this purpose, that He might destroy the works of the devil.

Did you get it?  The Son of God appeared; Jesus was born; the Christ Child came; God incarnated Himself in the flesh; Christmas was instituted so that the works of the devil might be destroyed.  Somebody say, “Hallelujah!”

        You are probably thinking, but the devil is not destroyed.  No, but he soon will be, because now is our salvation nearer than when we first believed.  There is comfort in the fact that the devil will soon be destroyed.

Revelation 12:10, “And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, ‘Now the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, who accuses them before our God day and night.’”

I am getting a sense of comfort right now, because the one who stands before Jehovah God and accuses me day and night is soon to be thrown down!!!  Satan’s vile accusing, lying mouth will be closed and His serpentine tongue will be stopped.  God’s promise to Israel is also a promise to us.

Isaiah 54:17, “No weapon that is formed against you will prosper; and every tongue that accuses you in judgment you will condemn.  This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their vindication is from Me,’ declares the Lord.”

Every servant of God, this is your heritage, your possession, your property, your inheritance.  It is your possession to triumph over the evil one!!!  It is your possession to condemn every tongue that accuses you.

(But that’s not all!)

    We see the final disposition of Satan in

Revelation 20:10, “And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.”

The accuser of the brethren, the devil, the brutal killer of babies will not just be thrown down, but thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone and be tormented day and night forever and ever.  Let this bring comfort to your heart!!!

(Let’s not stop here, because there is more comfort in the text.)

·        There is comfort in what the death of Herod signaled.

The death of Herod signaled a new season in the divine providence of Jehovah God, through supernatural portents or signs—specifically a dream and an angel.  The new season was the growth and maturity of the Christ Child.  He was the Child, who would become the Son of God on the Throne.

Isaiah 9:6, “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.”

But the new season of the child who was to become the son was signaled through supernatural portents, signs, or omens.  What omens?  Two primary portents were dreams and angels.

        Christmas is about dreams!!!  Christmas is about the hopes and dreams of all of Humanity that are wrapped up in the Redeemer.  Christmas is about the dreams of the future, because the future is in Jesus Christ.  Christmas is about the wonder in the eyes of a child, as s/he opens his/her presents.  And what do these children picture, but us, the children of God, one day opening our spiritual presents beneath the tree of life, next to the river of life, while God the Father, our Elder Brother, and our Mother, the Holy Spirit, watch with pleasure and love.  That is our dream!!!

        Christmas is also about angels!!!  Angels attended the first Christmas!  They were the supernatural proclaimers and attenders to the birth of the Messiah, the Savior of the world.  We know that this is true in general, because we read in

Hebrews 1:14, “Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation?”

Then, why would it not be true, in specific, about Christmas?

        Would it be too much for you to believe that angels attend every Christmas?  Would it be too much to believe that every time Christ is born anew, in a human heart, angels attend that event?  Would it be beyond our secularized, humanized, Greek-oriented thinking to think that God sends angels every Christmas to proclaim and attend the spirit of the birth of the Messiah?  Well, it’s not too much for me to believe!!!

        Would it be too much to believe that angels are sent every Christmas to defeat the spirit of Herod and facilitate a new season of growth and maturity of Christ in our lives?

If that is not too much to believe, then there is comfort in the fact that angels are in the room right now!  We do not worship them, but we take comfort in their proclamation:

Luke 2:9-11, “And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened.  And the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which shall be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

Great joy!!!  Is there not comfort in great joy?

Luke 2:13-14, “And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.’”

Peace!  Is there not comfort in peace, security, safety, prosperity, “the tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and content with its earthly lot, of whatsoever sort that is.”[2]

(But, there is even more comfort intimated here.)

·        There is comfort in the divine providence of God’s protection.

God watched over and protected the Christ Child, and as God watched over the Christ child, He also watches over us, Christ’s children.  Nothing can happen to the least of God’s children, even babies, without that happening being sifted through the all-wise and loving providence of Almighty God!!!

(And finally:)

·        There is comfort in this Scripture in the fact that Christmas testifies of the certainty of God’s counsel concerning Christ’s life.

2,000 years have passed, but Christmas is still celebrated and still proclaims the eternal counsel and providence of Almighty God!!!  What God hath decreed in His Word is coming to pass.  God is the Promise-Giver and the Promise-Keeper, the Covenant-Giver and the Covenant-Keeper to give us the blessings of the promises and the Covenant.


Now please keep in mind that Satan tries to distract us from the tremendous comfort in this passage with ploys that draw attention to the temporal discomfort.  Even though there is great pain in this passage, there is greater comfort.  And what we see here is

·        Sorrow in the midst of joy.

·        Tragedy, in the midst of promise.

·        Unrest, in the midst of supernatural rest.

·        Despair in the midst of hope.

·        Discomfort in the midst of Comfort.

At the end of each one of these messages, I have been answering the question, “What specifically does the Comforter give to those who mourn?”  I have been answering that question from the resources that are listed in:

Isaiah 61:1-3, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives, and freedom to prisoners; to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn, to grant those who mourn in Zion, giving them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting.  So they will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.”

In this passage of Scripture, which Jesus used, in the Temple, to announce the inauguration of His ministry, we see that God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and appointed Him to comfort all who mourn or grieve.  In comforting all who mourn, Jesus grants or gives three special gifts.  We have already covered the first two special gifts, a garland instead of ashes and the oil of gladness instead of mourning.

(Let us move on to the third special gift.)

The mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting.

The mantle was a vestment, robe, garment, or covering.

The word “spirit” has to do with wind, breath, atmosphere.

The word “fainting” means dark, dim, obscure, heaviness.

This has been translated “...a cloak of renowned, instead of a faint and almost extinguished spirit...”[3]  That is a possibility, but there is also another possibility.  Jesus is giving, through His birth, life, and ministry, an enduing or clothing of singing and praise instead of a spirit of heaviness!  We can exchange our heavy depression and despair for a covering of praise!


·        How would you like to exchange the weighty coat of heaviness for the light coat of praise?

·        How would you like to be covered with praise?

This is the gift of God in Christmas.  You can refuse to be comforted or you can accept His gift.

·        Will you accept His gift?

·        Will you accept the robe of praise?

·        Will you accept God’s abundant comfort?

·        Well, then, take off the coat of heaviness.

·        Throw it away.

·        Renounce every avenue of heaviness that Satan has been taking into your life.

·        Renounce the spirit of Herod.

·        Take up the robe of praise!

·        Put it on!

·        Now proclaim to the devil and the world, “From now on every Christmas will be a season of praise for me!!!”

Christmas is the sign that Satan will soon be dead and Jesus will reign forever and ever.  There is comfort for the comfortless and Christmas is the sign of that comfort!!!

(Now is the Day of Salvation!  Come to Jesus, Now!)

Invitation

Call to Discipleship


----

[1] Henry, Matthew, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Bible, (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers) 1997.

[2] Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon, (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.) 1995.

[3] Keil & Delitzsch, Commentary On The Old Testament, The Prophecies of Isaiah, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1988, p. 427.

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