“Old and New”
December 26, 2010
by Pastor Brian Weinberger
A few years ago Bekkah and I had to privilege to not only go to our friends wedding but we were able to be in the wedding. Weddings are always fun events to go to because you know that, for the most part. I think my favorite part about weddings is all the newness that happens. The bride and groom are now newly joined together as husband and wife. A new family is formed and there is suddenly a new bond between extended family members as they now become families to each other. The newly married couple are able to get away and go on a honeymoon where they are able to celebrate the joys of their new life together, and maybe they even are able to move into a new place to live together.
The other great things about weddings is the oldness of them. When you go to a wedding you gather together with old friends and family members, and you are able to celebrate that joy of having that familiarity with them. When Bekkah and I went to our friends wedding it was such a great time because we were able to see some of our friends and connect or reconnect with them and rekindle those old bonds.
Weddings themselves are an old ritual that has been done for who knows how long, and there are some traditions that are passed down that are pretty old as well, and then there are twists and flairs that people do that are pretty new. Many people want their weddings to stand out and so there are themed weddings and other things that people do to make it new and different.
There is a tradition for brides that they must have four things with them when they get married. The four things they must have on them are what? Something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue. This comes from an old English rhyme and I guess it has moved on from a rhyme into a tradition that many brides use when they get married. So the theme of old and new is riddled throughout the wedding tradition.
It’s that combination of absolute joy, the newness of life, the celebration of two lives becoming one, the ancient traditions, and the rekindling of old relationships that make weddings such wonderful events. It is in that day, that moment of history, that the world fades away and I believe you can simply enjoy the greatness of God and get a glimpse of what God must have meant the world to be.
Old and new. Weddings are full of both the old and the new, and so is Mary and Joseph’s story as they flee from Bethlehem to Egypt. Mary and Joseph were probably full of joy at the celebration at the birth of their new son. They were probably a bit nervous but excited about the new friends they were making; the shepherds, the wise men, and anyone else who might have come to see this new family. I bet all of the “royal” treatment that they were receiving was new to them. They were newly married like my friends were and it must have been overwhelming to be newly married, new parents, and newly famous people.
Unfortunately that fame and celebration of all the newness in their life was... about to be cut short. See one other thing that was new to Joseph, which I mentioned last week was the appearance of an angel. Do you remember what I said about when an angel appears to someone? Good news or not it’s going to change your life. Plus I don’t know about you but knowing that an angel is going to change everything in your life when one appears to you I wouldn’t want to make it a habit of running into them...but Joseph does.
This time instead of announcing that Mary and Joseph are going to have a baby boy, the angel tells them to flee to Egypt because their lives are in danger because Herod wants to kill their child. They now have a new threat on their lives and they must pack up everything they have and head down to Egypt. Egypt was an old place that the Israelites once knew well. Not only were Joseph and Mary and the baby Jesus being sent there to avoid death but as the text points out they are also doing this, though they probably don’t know it, to fulfill the prophecy of old. “Out of Egypt I have called my son.” Matthew quoting Hosea 11:1 in which it talks about a son who will come out from Egypt. Matthew is showing that the prophets who told of a coming messiah is the child in our story. This new baby boy is fulfilling the prophecies.
Then Herod knowing he had been tricked decides to kill all the children in the land and when he does this there are parallels to the Old Testament. Not only is Jeremiah 31:15 quoted word for word but it also alludes to another time in the Old Testament when children were slaughtered. Not only is the Holy family in Egypt but now we have a king who is killing newborn children. Herod like Pharaoh is afraid of the power of the Israelites and Herod like Pharaoh is unable to stop God’s plan.
God raises up Moses to free his people from their slavery and he eventually brings them to the promised land. Now we have Jesus who will leave Egypt and enter the promised land and instead of freeing them from slavery from a king Jesus will free them from their sins forever.
After Herod passes away the angel, again, instructs Joseph to bring his family back into the promised land, but makes a detour to avoid Herod’s son and though they are not returning to their home, they again fulfill the prophecies of the ancient prophets that the child will come from Nazareth.
The strife that this family must have gone through must have been tremendous. During the beginning of their marriage and shortly after having a baby boy they are traveling great distances to escape being killed. Even in Egypt they must have been constantly watching over their shoulder to make sure that no one was going to go after them or their baby.
We may not be faced with the threat of death in our lives but I am sure there are things that happen to each of us at times in our lives that make us afraid or wonder if we are ever going to get through it. It might be something new that just happened to us or it might be something that we thought we got past and suddenly it creeps back into our lives again. Maybe it’s financial, maybe it’s an illness or maybe it’s something else but I know that we all face hardships in our lives. I know that personally after going to school for 8 years straight I didn’t know when I was going to be financially sound again. It’s those kinds of things that happen in our lives that we don’t really plan for or don’t expect to happen but somehow a Herod-like incident pops up and we feel lost.
The Bible doesn’t explain how Joseph, Mary and baby Jesus felt when all this happened but the angel only appeared to Joseph and only in his dreams so this burden was laid on him to protect his family from any kind of danger. I wonder if there was any point in Joseph’s life that he ever stopped worrying about his son and his wife. Matthew is able to see and let us know that these 3 prophecies from old were being fulfilled in this new child but the angel never told Joseph about this. Joseph had to trust the angel and trust God to know that all of this was going to work out.
And you know what? It worked out. God made it work. Through God’s plan, through the voice of an angel, and through the protectiveness of a father and mother toward their family, God was able to bring them into safety into a tiny town called Nazareth, and through it all was able to fulfill the prophecies so that everyone would know that this child was truly the one the prophets foretold.
Not only does this show that the prophets were right, but it shows us that God has been at work in the lives of God’s people forever. There is never a time when God wasn’t working toward bringing all people to God and interacting with them at all times. By showing these prophecies of old and fulfilling them in Jesus God is showing how active God has always been in people’s lives. Ever since the beginning God has always been there. It is finally realized in Jesus, who at this time is only a child, but God is showing that this child is there to fulfill God’s promises.
In the old and in the new, God is at work in our lives. God worked in the lives of Mary and Joseph and God is at work in us. God is constantly at work in our lives to get rid of the old and make us new, each day. Let’s look again at the Old Testament reading because I think Isaiah says very nicely what I am trying to get at: Isaiah 63:7-9 “7I will recount the gracious deeds of the LORD, the praiseworthy acts of the LORD, because of all that the LORD has done for us, and the great favor to the house of Israel that he has shown them according to his mercy, according to the abundance of his steadfast love. 8For he said, “Surely they are my people, children who will not deal falsely”; and he became their savior 9in all their distress. It was no messenger or angel but his presence that saved them; in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old.”
God was no longer going to send ordinary people to try to save God’s people, instead God intervened directly in our history so that we might break out of the old mold of sinning, and once and for all redeem us from our sins and prove to us how much God is willing to do for us. So that our old sinful selves might die and we might rise again to new live.
God is the God of old and new, God is with us when we are in our troubled times and in our good times. God is with us when new and exciting things like weddings are happening, and God is certainly with us when we are stuck in our old ways and cannot get out. God is with us interacting with us, just as God did thousands of years ago. God has been, and will always be active in our lives. God is the same “old” God interacting with us and saving us in “new” God ways. The new way that God continues to work in and through and for us is through God’s own son Jesus Christ.
During this Christmas season when we celebrate the new birth of our savior, may we remember how God has always promised and continues to promise good for us. God fulfills God’s ancient promise in new ways. Thanks be to God.