OUT OF EGYPT: A CHRISTMAS MEDITATION

At this time of year, Santa Claus is a great moral monitor, keeping children in line so they can get what they want for Christmas. Parents use the selfish desires of children to control their sinful desires. A useful exercise, perhaps, but it misses the point of Christmas entirely. The naughty and nice theme obscures the true meaning of Christmas. God is not up in heaven waiting to reward our good deeds and punish our bad deeds. We are all naughty. None of us are nice in God’s estimation. Christmas is about God intervening in a world gone rotten so that He can redeem that world from its rot. Christmas is the ultimate rescue event of all human history. The world of humans is not pretty and pleasant. It is dark and despotic. God enters the heart of evil to rescue humans from evil at Christmas.

GOD’S LOYAL LOVE

Matthew writes that Joseph’s escape to Egypt with the infant Jesus fulfilled the prophet Hosea’s words (Mt. 2:15). “Out of Egypt, I called My Son.” Hosea is all about God’s matchless, loyal love – a love that reclaims and restores sinful people. The prophet is speaking about the nation of Israel whom God rescued from slavery in Egypt (Hosea 11:1), but Matthew sees the prophecy as a picture of God’s Son, Jesus. The exodus is the incredible story of God’s love intervening in human history to redeem the nation of Israel from Egyptian bondage. Christmas is the more incredible story of God’s love intervening in human history to redeem humanity from spiritual bondage.

God’s son entered this dark world to suffer. He identified with the people who were enslaved by an oppressive world, refugees under the bondage of despots. Here was a tiny baby in the arms of a young mother with her husband running for their lives to Egypt to escape the murderous plots of Herod. Just like ancient Israel, Egypt became the incubator for God to grow His plan to save humanity. Amid the suffering, Jesus was secure because God was carrying out His plan. Just like ancient Israel, God rescued His son from Egypt and called Him out to do His work.

The place of our suffering is the place of God’s security. God protected Israel in Egypt during the darkest days of their history. So too, God protected Jesus during the dark days of his childhood. And so too, God protects us in our times of suffering, struggle, and pain. God loves us even in our pain. When we feel abandoned, God says, “Remember my son! He too suffered in this evil world. You are secure in my love, no matter how bad your experience is right now. I love you and will rescue you from your suffering.”

The place of our sin is the place of God’s salvation. Sin obscures our vision. We don’t see straight. We don’t think right. We get caught up in the lusts of this world. We pursue selfish goals and positions of power while God gets lost in the picture. So it was for Israel in Hosea’s day. Israel lusted after idols and chose to follow the path of worldly influence. They forgot God who had rescued them from their bondage by His loyal love. These were God’s people. He sent preachers to call them back to Himself. God warned and pleaded with His people to return from their love affair with the world, but Israel refused. Israel pursued the idols of this world despite God’s loving calls. Did God give up on Israel during those dark days? No! God loved them so much that He waited in love for them to reach the bottom of the pit. Then God rescued them from their misery (Hosea 11:2-3).

GOD WAITS

And God does not force His love on us either. He came as a baby exiled to obscurity and easily ignored in our quest for success. Jesus lovingly calls us to turn to him for help, but we bury him under the trophies of our careers and the toys of our success. And God …? God waits in love. God seeks us in our sin. God says, “When will you wake up and realize that you have tossed aside the only one who can help you in life?” Hosea is speaking the heart of God. God longs to hold us in His arms, to heal our hurts. God is not distant from us. We are distant from Him. We are running away, and God waits in love for us to realize that the place of our sin is the place of His salvation.

We want to earn our way back to God. We can’t! We must accept His grace and His forgiveness. Many won’t. Why? Because to accept His grace is to admit our helplessness. We don’t want to admit our helplessness. We think that we can pull ourselves up by our own efforts. We think, “I got myself into this mess and I can get myself out.” So, we spurn grace. We reject the forgiveness God offers while we struggle to make it on our own. God waits in love until we reach the end of our abilities – until we cry out for help. God longs to help but He won’t force His help on us. God waits until we recognize our helplessness before He acts.

The place of our helplessness is the place of God’s tenderness (Hosea 11:4). Hosea paints three pictures for us in this verse. First, God pictures Himself as a husband who loves His bride. He says, “I led them with the cords of a man, with bonds of love.” God was not a mean, domineering husband to Israel. God’s bonds were not chains of control but cords of love. The second picture depicts God as a gentle farmer. God “lifts the yoke from their jaws.” A good farmer lifts the yoke off his oxen so they can eat and rest comfortably. A mean farmer might throw them some feed and leave them to fend for themselves with the yoke around their necks. The third picture is the precious sight of parents feeding their tiny infant in love. The word “bent down” to feed them shows us that a parent cannot stay on his level if he is to feed a tiny baby. God came down to our level to tenderly feed us. God entered our world to care for our needs. That is the Christmas story? Christmas is the story of God entering our world to help us in our helplessness.

The message of Christmas is that God’s love moves God’s will. God’s message through Hosea falls on deaf ears. God is telling the nation of Israel about His love as they are going into captivity for spurning His love. God’s people suffer the consequences for pursuing the idols of success, power, and prosperity in their world even as God reminds them of His love.

Will we spurn God’s love to pursue the idols of our world this Christmas?