Name a kingdom that existed when Jesus was born that still exists today.

Name an empire that hasn’t turned to dust.

The high and mighty of Jesus’ day are now nothing more than names for children to learn in school.

So impressive, powerful, and wealthy were they, that we remember them with flash cards in 1st grade and forget them all by 5th!

Meanwhile, the kingdom and Church of Jesus Christ stands. The gates of hell have not prevailed, nor will they.

Psalm 2 is being fulfilled as time marches by.

The nations rage, the peoples plot, and the kings of this world are destroyed, while the Infant of Bethlehem reigns.

If the United States had to choose between Jesus, King of the Jews, and Herod, king of the Jews, which would they choose? Jesus or Herod?

Asking the question that way is terrifying, because as for us and our households, we would choose the Lord, but America, reduced to one and representative of the whole, chooses Herod every day.

America has been called a Christian nation, but how many live as Christians?

I don’t mean how many pretend—I mean how many repent, confess their sins, and receive and believe and trust and live out the Absolution?

On a given Sunday, how many Americans go to church and hear the gospel? How many receive the forgiveness of sins earned and given in Jesus Christ alone?

If they’re not in church where are they?

If they’re not hearing the Gospel, what do they hear?

What do they confess? What do they believe?

America has been called a Christian nation, but where’s Rachel?

Why is she not raising her voice in Ramah, weeping for her children?

She’s not weeping—because she has the right to kill her own children and to shed no tears for them at all.

It’s her alleged constitutional right as an American to sacrifice her unborn child on the altar of today’s Moloch, a false god of ancient times reanimated.

The doctrine that a woman has the right to do what she chooses with the fruit of her womb is a hellish lie and a direct attack on God and His Christ.

Those who favor the so-called “right” of a woman to have an abortion have joined sides with Herod against Jesus.

Jesus is for life, and Herod, for death.

Jesus became a little baby, and Herod murdered them.

Jesus loves the little children, and Herod hated them.

Jesus hides the glory of His almighty power under His humble, human nature.

Herod orders the children killed for the sake of his own personal, political power and gain.

He lived by the same rules as our politicians: support the ones who’ll vote for you and kill their children when asked, because dead children don’t vote.

At this, the Church of Christ on earth appears to be ineffective, irrelevant, and hopeless.

Who needs to flee for refuge to the God become flesh when you can get what you want by being offended?

Who needs to bow down before God incarnate, when there’s money to be made and human achievements to celebrate?

Look at America’s power!

She’s as powerful as any nation that’s ever existed, with a higher standard of living and amazing resources. She can impose her will on most other nations in the world, and has frequently done so.

But—name a kingdom that existed when Jesus was born that still exists today.

Name an empire that hasn’t turned to dust.

A virus with an almost 99% survival rate has, in places, crippled us.

People who say 2020 was the worst year lack imagination.

Imagine if God tried to bring us to our knees.

When God became flesh and dwelt among us, a babe in His mother’s arms, that was saying something about children and humanity.

That was saying, “Jesus loves the little children.”

That was saying He comes to them to be their Lord and God.

God doesn’t take kindly to those who kill babies.

God judges.

He’ll punish our nation, because our nation stands by and watches as millions of babies are slaughtered in the name of false gods like “reproductive rights,” “choice,” “sexual freedom” and “women’s rights.”

God punishes.

He punishes those who kill babies and He punishes those who protect and support those who kill babies.

Rachel was avenged in Herod’s death, and she’ll be avenged again.

Nations come and go.

They rise and fall, and God laughs at their foolish attempts to play-act Divinity.

We worship a God who fulfills biblical prophecy to the letter, down to the return of the baby Jesus from Egypt to His home in Nazareth.

Matthew teaches, in the Gospel Lesson for today, that the prophet Hosea was talking about Jesus when he said, “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son” (Hosea 11:1).

From Jesus and His deliverance, we learn that evil men have power and use it to cause pain and suffering and that’s the way it’s gonna be.

But we also learn that these evil men are not really in control but that our gracious God has set a limit to their power.

We learn that God loves the little children and that those who call themselves Christians must love them too, which is why we baptize babies instead of killing them.

And more than anything, we learn that God’s power is not to be found in the glorious appearance of great political might. Rather, God’s power is hidden in weakness, like that of an infant being carried to Egypt.

We find our almighty God in this little one, who seems so weak and small.

But He’s not.

He’s our God and Lord and Christ.

He has come to us and to our children to save us.

And He won’t leave us.

He might destroy the nation we call home.

I don’t say that to shock—I say that because it’s true.

He might destroy the nation we call home.

But He won’t let anything destroy His Church.

He who shed His blood to wash us clean of every sin has come to help, save, comfort, and defend us.

He has given us His Word.

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

For those who love the little children—and even for those who have not—God has put away your sin in the crucifixion and death of Jesus Christ.

Hold fast to the Savior of the Nations, and He will guard and keep you through every trouble of this world.

When you wander, He calls you back.

When you flee from Him in terror, He invites you to flee to Him for refuge.

There is no sin that Jesus did not bear.

There is no sin that is not now forgiven in Christ.

That’s how the kingdom of Jesus Christ stands when all others are destroyed.

The blood of Jesus avails for all sinners everywhere and calls out not for your condemnation but for your acquittal.

In Jesus’ name, Amen!

Christmas 2 Sermon, 2021
Matthew 2:13-23
Rev. Benjamin Tyler Holt

Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men (Matthew 2:16).

What’s God doing to allow such disaster?

What good can come from such evil?

Or right from such wrong?

As it is easy to thank and praise God when your child is spared, it’s easy to curse God and accuse Him of wrong when your child isn’t.

God is merciful, we’re told.

God is love, we hear.

But even true words become worthless platitudes when mothers and fathers bury their children.

What’s God doing to allow such disaster?

What good can come from such evil?

And make no mistake, it is evil that we’re talking about it. Death is not original to God’s plan. Death is not a part of life. Death is the result of sin and evil.

Herod was evil.

The wisemen had come to worship the one born king of the Jews and Herod—current king of the Jews—didn’t see himself as a lame duck.

He was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him, because he was evil and wouldn’t suffer the little-but-eternal One to come before him.

When he realized he was tricked, he killed them all, because he didn’t want them.

He didn’t want to lose what the one born king of the Jews would force him to lose—his power. His control.

His autonomy.

Herod was evil.

Even if only three-percent of what he did was murder children, Herod was evil.

Now, from here, we could talk about the Herods of today and modern sacrifices to “molech.”

The obvious evil among us is the pervasive lie that women are autonomous.

Ladies, you’re not.

But don’t worry, ladies. Men aren’t autonomous, either.

No one is.

Autonomous combines the words for self (auto) and law (nomos) and can be rendered as self-law or self-rule, expressed in the phrase, “He was a law unto himself.”

But you are not and never a law unto yourself.

There’s never a time when the rules don’t apply.

Never a time when the just decrees of the Living God do not demand your absolute obedience.

“You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13).

It is that simple.

The linguistic, theological, and moral gymnastics needed to assert otherwise is obvious foolishness deserving of public ridicule.

If you hold to such things, you’re foolish.

But if you hold to such things because your conscience condemns you—because your sin is ever before you. If you wet your pillow with tears because know your transgressions and have done what is evil in the sight of God—you need Christ and His forgiveness not Herod and his foolishness.

We could talk about the Herods of today and modern sacrifices to “molech,” but we won’t.

Instead, let’s actually answer the question of what God is doing to allow such disaster—both at the time of Jesus, in the slaughter of the Holy Innocents, and today and any time such obviously evil-looking things occur.

What’s God doing?

I think the book of Job provides an answer.

If you’ve heard me talk about the book of Job before, you know it’s my favorite book of the Bible, but I don’t think Job provides an answer because it’s my favorite book. I think it’s my favorite book because it provides an answer.

The book of Job was written to answer the question: What is God doing?

In chapters one and two, we—but not Job or anyone else—we read of the conversation between God and satan. The Lord says to satan, “Behold, [Job] is in your hand; only spare his life” (Job 2:6). And satan goes from there doing all he can to wreck Job’s faith.

Satan causes Job’s oxen and donkeys to be taken and the servants who tended them to be killed. Job’s sheep are burned up, and the servants who tended them. His camels were taken, and the servants with them were killed. His ten children, sons and daughters, died as the house they were in collapsed on them.

After this, Job said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21).

Then satan took Job’s health.

Loathsome sores from foot to head such that Job scraped himself with a broken piece of pottery.

To make matters worse, satan left Job’s wife right by his side. Her sole contribution to the conversation in the book is this one line: “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die” (Job 2:9).

Between chapters three and forty-two, Job talks with three of the worst friends a guy could have, one young zealot, and—from the whirlwind—God Himself.

The climax of Job’s discourse, you might think, is the great confession of the living Redeemer from chapter nineteen, where Job says: “Oh that my words were written! Oh that they were inscribed in a book! Oh that with an iron pen and lead they were engraved in the rock forever! For I know that my Redeemer lives” (Job 19:23-25).

These are important words, but for Job and all who bear such disaster in their lives, and for us all, there’s more hanging in the balance two chapters before.

In chapter seventeen, Job’s heart and spirit break. The seed that grows into his repentance, is this, chapter seventeen verse eleven: Job says: “My days are past; my plans are broken off, the desires of my heart” (Job 17:11).

God allowed satan to destroy Job’s earthly wealth and health. In but a few moments, Job’s life was destroyed.

But Job was a righteous man, that is, faithful.

He knew who God was. All-powerful, All-knowing, All-loving. What’s a moment’s terror or even your family’s death when yours is the Living God?

Job knows God could restore it all, so—“The Lord giveth. The Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

The problem for Job is that he has plans. Wants. Desires. Perhaps he likes the honor due his name in town.

Whatever it is, the problem for Job is that God immediately takes away—but He doesn’t immediately give back.

What’s God doing?

He’s letting Job know that he’s not in control.

Not autonomous. Not a law unto himself.

His days—are past.

His plans—are broken off.

The desires of his heart—are unspoken because if they’re not conformed to the Word and will of God, they’re idolatrous and need to be cast off.

What’s God doing?

He’s saving Job’s life.

What good can come from such evil?

He’s saving your life.

Job repents—that’s the climax of the book. He says to God, “I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:6).

Apart from that, there was no salvation for Job.

God saved his life by all but taking it.

Now, in Matthew, and with Herod, a generation of male toddlers and infants were killed so that Herod could remain in power—for a time.

But his days are past. His plans, broken off. His desires, along with his heart, have melted into the ground.

Apart from repentance, there’s no salvation for Herod.

No purpose of God’s can be thwarted.

But where’s the comfort for those who bear the awful burden of burying their sons?

Don’t ignore the evidence.

Martyrs in deed but not in will, the Holy Innocents died for a cause they couldn’t understand—but certainly benefit from.

Their deaths, and the deaths of millions of others by present-day Herods, are evidence of the evil in the world that our God overcomes.

Greater is He.

Don’t ignore the evidence.

God didn’t cause Jesus’ flight to Egypt to prevent His death.

God caused Jesus’ flight to Egypt that He would die at the right time and for all.

Out of Egypt He called His Son, that the life of His Son, the Righteous Branch, would not be spared but given for the life of the world.

God didn’t save His only-begotten Son from death.

Can Job say he deserves to keep his?

Job made sacrifices for his sons, in case they had sinned (cf. Job 1:5).

God sacrifices His own Son, who did not sin, in the place of sinners who most certainly did.

Don’t ignore the evidence.

What’s God doing to allow such disaster?

What good can come from such evil?

Or right from such wrong?

He’s saving your life.

The Lord giveth His Son. The Lord taketh away your sins. Blessed be the name of the Lord.

There is joy in heaven when one sinner repents.

We deserved nothing—and much worse than that.

And what has God done for us? What’s He doing?

In Jesus’ name, Amen!

Christmas 2 Sermon, 2020
Matthew 2:13-23
Rev. Benjamin Tyler Holt