February 25, 2024 | Doug Sauder
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“And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route. When they had gone, 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.’ So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘Out of Egypt I called my son.’ When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled: ‘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.’”—Matthew 2:12–18 (NIV)
Happy New Year, Calvary family! It’s hard to believe another year is here. And while you might expect a New Year’s Day devotional like this to focus on New Year’s resolutions or praying for a vision for the upcoming year, today’s text gives us a glimpse into the past when Jesus’ life began—a powerful story that’s fit for any season.
However, I think we often overlook the unpleasant parts of the Christmas story and water down its true impact. While we all love the peaceful images of nativity scenes with baby Jesus lying in a manger in a soft glow of candlelight with wise men nearby and shepherds in the fields under the stars (something you might see on a Hallmark Christmas card), there’s an incredibly dark plot happening as part of the backstory that we simply gloss over during the holiday season.
In today’s passage of Scripture, we see that Joseph and Mary were warned by an angel in a dream that King Herod was plotting to murder their newborn son and gave them instructions to flee to Egypt where they would be safe. This warning was so urgent that Joseph woke Mary up, packed their things, and fled from Bethlehem in the cover of night to Egypt. They became refugees in a foreign country, fleeing for their lives from an evil dictator with murder in his heart.
Further, when Herod discovered the Magi had tricked him, he ordered the execution of every boy two years old or younger in Bethlehem and the surrounding area with the intent of killing the Messiah who he felt was a threat to his kingdom. Don’t miss what the Bible is revealing here: Jesus’ was born into a warzone that resulted in the genocide of innocent children. His coming was “an invasion,” as Christian author John Eldredge describes it—“The kingdom of God striking at the heart of the kingdom of darkness with violent repercussions.”
In other words, Jesus’ birth marked the culmination of God’s plan to deal the ultimate blow to the enemy by defeating death itself and restoring humanity back to Himself through His birth, sinless life, death, and resurrection. The enemy did everything he could to prevent it—and failed, thanks be to God!
Why does this matter? Because as Christians, we often forget that we, too, were born into a world at war and that our enemy’s main objective is “to steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10 NIV) us. It’s easy to forget we have important roles to play in advancing the kingdom of God on this earth that requires us to wage war in the spiritual realm (2 Corinthians 10:4–5; Ephesians 6:11–13; 1 Peter 5:8).
This may not be the New Year’s Day message you expected, but I’d rather remind you that “in this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33 NIV) as Jesus said than paint a pretty picture which is only half the truth. Jesus came into this world on a rescue mission the enemy vehemently opposed then—and still does.
Christian, I challenge you to awaken to the spiritual warfare that’s happening all around you and take up the full armor of God (Ephesians 6:10–18) to stand firm against the enemy’s plans. The good news is that you get to fight from a position of victory, because Jesus has overcome the world—and we can overcome with Him (Romans 8:37; 1 John 5:4–5; Revelation 12:11).
Pause: When you consider the Christmas story of Jesus coming to the earth, what sorts of images and messages come to your mind? What do they convey to you about His mission and, more importantly, how accurate do you think they are?
Practice: Take a moment to re-read the story of Jesus’ birth in Matthew 1–2 and try to picture the context and events that happened as if you were there or as if they were happening today.
Pray: Jesus, thank You for coming on a rescue mission to Earth to save us and to establish Your kingdom here on earth, putting an end to sin and death once and for all. Please grant me Your favor and supernational strength to overcome the battles and challenges that lay ahead of me this year, and help me be aware of Your presence in the midst of it all. Amen.
Rob Nieminen is a seasoned writer and editor who has written devotionals for Calvary since 2015. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from Palm Beach Atlantic University in West Palm Beach, FL. He serves in the Worship Ministry at Calvary Boynton Beach and is an avid reader, an erratic golfer, and an aspiring photographer who loves to cook and spend time with his family.