Pastor Nelson Bonilla: 12-29-19 Sermon – “The other side of Christmas”

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Matthew 2:13-18; Isaiah 63:7-9; Hebrews 2:10-18 The other side of Christmas

Christmas is gone, and we have to wait for another whole year to celebrate it again, but for a little longer, we will still enjoy the colorful lights, the music, and maybe the leftovers. Perhaps we still have in mind those moments we spent with our family, the conversations we had around the table with those we had some time without seeing. Little by little, we will begin to pack our Christmas tree with its lights and ornaments, and as we do that, we will also unpack the reality of life with all its struggles that we set aside for a while.

 Little by little, our life will be “normal” again, and little by little, we will have to come down from the mountain called Christmas and face our reality, and in our daily struggles, we will have to live the peace announced to us by the angels.

We can see that change of reality too in today’s gospel. Compare with the previous scriptures we had the past four Sundays, everything changes drastically. We have no more angels singing, no more friendly reunions around the manger, no more wise men coming with gifts, no more shepherds worshiping the baby in Bethlehem. Now we hear wailing, loud lamentation, and escape. Now we have death and persecution; no more joy filling the air, now we have anger destroying the city. Ancient mother Rachel weeps inconsolably over the loss of her children.

Do you remember Rachel? Genesis 29 tells part of her story. She was one of the two daughters of Laban. She is one of Jacob’s wives; she is the one Jacob loved more than Leah, the sister he didn’t wish to marry, and apparently, God closed Rachel’s womb, while Leah bore many sons to Jacob. Eventually, Rachel confronted both God and Jacob, saying “Give me children, or I’ll die!” When she finally bore Jacob a son, she named him Joseph. Joseph is the one who saved his family from famine and brought them to the safety of Egypt.

Jeremiah, in chapter 31 verse 15, takes this woman of Israel, this mother of Israel, and portrays her crying for her children who are going into exile to Babylon. Later, Matthew takes the same image from Jeremiah to describe the pain of all Bethlehem’s mothers, when Herod killed all the infants two years old or younger.

During the season of Advent and Christmas, we celebrated God working our salvation. We celebrated the ancient promise of God and his plan for our salvation. We celebrated Christmas as the final solution God has to redeem His fallen creation. Christmas is God’s answer to the question, how can we be saved? Or how can I return to my Father’s house? Christmas is the fulfillment of the first prophesy we find in the Bible, Genesis 3:15 “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” Christmas is the countdown for the Devil, and he knows that. Therefore, the killing of the innocent is the Devil’s counterattack. Herod represents the darkness; he represents the enemy of God’s people.

Satan, who since the beginning, is trying to destroy God’s plans. Satan, who since the beginning is trying to steal the honor and glory that belong to God only, after God has presented to the wise men and shepherds the Savoir of the world sees the opportunity to destroy the anointed One, but God will not allow it. He will provide a safe place for his Son. Herod, my brothers and sisters, is the other side of Christmas, the other side we don’t talk about too often, but we have to face every single day. Herod is the reason why the Christmas spirit doesn’t last too long; Herod represents the intent of Satan to destroy God’s plan.

The scripture Matthew puts right after Christmas is his way to call our attention to be on guard, to be attentive to God’s voice, and to be ready when the Holy Spirit warns us of any attack from the enemy. This scripture is what Matthew uses to remind us that after every victory God gives us, we must be ready for Satan’s counterattack.

During the Season of Christmas, God assured us that He is with us, and He will provide what we need to endure whatever will come. After Mary received the message from God, she faced uncertainty in her life. However, when she had no place where to give birth to her baby. When she had to run away to save her baby’s life, she remembered what the angel told her, “you are favored, and the Lord is with you.”  Joseph faced doubts about Mary too. However, when that happened, he remembered what the angel told him in his dream and was obedient.

When Mary and Joseph faced despair in Bethlehem when every inn in town closed the doors, they trusted God, and He was faithful and opened a stable. Trusting God was also part of our Christmas’ message.

Now in this post-Christmas season, God is asking us, now what? What are you going to do now? Now that you have heard the message. What are you going to do with the message of love? Are you going to put it away in a box together with the clay and plastic figures? What are you going to do with the good news of “joy to the world, the Lord is come? Are you going to put it away in boxes with all your colorful lights? What are you going to do with the message do not be afraid that Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds heard? Are you going to hide it in your attic?

Today the first Sunday after Christmas, I would like to propose to you this: do not hide this great message; let’s keep the spirit of Christmas alive and active every day. Let’s use the examples of Mary and Joseph, Anna and Simeon, Elizabeth, and Ezekiel to live a holy and obedient life before God, this coming year. Let’s keep the flame of Advent burning; the joy of Christmas going; let’s keep the “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests” always in our lips; let’s keep our eyes and ears ready to see and hear what God is doing and saying.

The joy and message of Christmas do not end the day after Christmas, continues every day of our lives, because Christmas is Christ and Christ is always present in our lives.

Soon a new year will begin, and an old one will stay behind. And this new year as the old one will be full of the “other side” of Christmas. It will be full of uncertainty, fear, and doubt. That is why it is essential to keep the message of Christmas always alive in our hearts.

The message God wants us to keep in mind is, I am the One you can trust in, I am the One who does not fail you.

Through Jesus, whose birth we celebrated last week, we have become God’s children and heirs of all His promises. When uncertainty comes into your life, remember: God favors you, as He did with Mary; God is with you, and your life is hidden in God with Christ.

The season of Christmas is over, and the questions are: now what? What will we do now? I invite you to keep on trusting Jesus and the power of His arm; to trust in His faithfulness; to trust in the One who is able to give you the victory, the One who will fight for you and with you. Trust in the message that transformed this world, the message of peace and love, the good news of unity and reconciliation.

Remember, Jesus did not come to the world to leave us alone. He is our Emmanuel; He came to be with us to be part of our life; He came to be our salvation.

 May His hope, peace, joy, and love underline everything else that comes to your life in this new year.

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