|Last Sunday after Epiphany, Year A||March 2, 2014||Last Sunday after Epiphany||Exodus 24:12-18, 2 Peter 1:16-21. Matthew 17:1-9|
|Seventh Sunday after Epiphany, Year A||February 23, 2014||Seventh Sunday after Epiphany||Leviticus 19:1-2. 9-18; Matthew 5:38-48|
|Sixth Sunday after Epiphany, Year A||February 16, 2014||Sixth Sunday after Epiphany, Year A||Matthew 5:21-37|
|John Hines sermon||February 11, 2014||Daily Office||I Kings 8:22-23, 27-30, Ps 84, Mark 7:1-13|
|Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A||February 9, 2014||Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A||Isaiah 58:1-12, 1 Corinthians 2:1-16, Matthew 5:13-20|
|The Presentation, Year A||February 2, 2014||Presentation in the Temple, Year A||Luke 2:22-40|
|Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A||January 26, 2014||Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A||Matthew 4:12-23|
|Second Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A||January 19, 2014||Second Sunday after the Epiphany||Isaiah 49:1-7, Psalm 40:1-12, John 1:29-42|
|First Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A||January 12, 2014||First Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A||Isaiah 42:1-9, Psalm 29, Matthew 3:13-17|
|The Epiphany, Year A||January 6, 2014||Epiphany, Year A||Matthew 2:1-12|
|➤Second Sunday After Christmas, Year A||January 5, 2014||Second Sunday after Christmas, Year A||Psalm 84, Ephesians 1:3-6, 15-19a, Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23|
|Christmas Eve||December 24, 2013||Christmas Eve, 2013||Luke 2:1-20|
|Third Sunday in Advent, Year A||December 15, 2013||Third Sunday in Advent, Year A||Isaiah 35:1-10, Matthew 11:2-11|
|First Sunday in Advent, Year A -The Circle of the Church Year||December 1, 2013||Advent 1, Year A||Isaiah 2:1-5, Matthew 24:36-44|
|Last Sunday after Pentecost, Christ the King, Yr C||November 24, 2013||Last Sunday after Pentecost, Christ the King, Year C||Luke 23:33-43|
Second Sunday After Christmas, Year A
Sermon Date:January 5, 2014
Scripture: Psalm 84, Ephesians 1:3-6, 15-19a, Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23
Liturgy Calendar: Second Sunday after Christmas, Year A
Guido of Siena,13th Century Italian
Matthew concludes the story of the birth of Jesus with the gospel passage we have heard today—the continuing story of a journey that began when Caesar Augustus sent out a decree that all the world should be taxed, and Joseph and Mary went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, unto the City of David, which is called Bethlehem.
According to Matthew, Jesus was born in Bethlehem. Herod, the paranoid king of Judea, threatened by the news of the birth of this child, is now seeking to kill the baby.
So Joseph and Mary take their baby and flee by night to Egypt and to safety.
We know nothing about their time in Egypt, but certainly they were refugees in that foreign land, and my guess is that they longed to return to their own country.
When Joseph gets the all clear from God in a dream, he and his family pack up and continue their journey back to Judea, only to find that the crazy and dangerous son of Herod, Archelaus, is now ruling there.
And so Joseph is afraid to go to Judea.
Scripture tells us that God led Joseph away to the district of Galilee, and there Joseph made his home in Nazareth, a small out of the way village off the beaten track where nothing much ever happened.
Now that they’re back in Nazareth, the holy family has come full circle. They’re back where they started.
They’re home at last and their son can grow up in safety.
We know that later, as an adult, Jesus leaves home, wanders through the Galilean countryside healing and teaching, with no place to lay his head, and at last ends up dying on a cross in Jerusalem.
But for now, he is safe at home under the watchful eyes of his parents.
Matthew told this part of the story as one more way to convince his listeners that Jesus was indeed the Messiah by tying the family’s journey to Egypt and the return to Nazareth to Old Testament prophesies.
But this part of the story also contains a gift for us, here at the end of this Christmas season of giving and receiving gifts.
Throughout our lives, God is waiting to lead us to the gift God wants to give us, the gift of home, a home in the heart of God.
Jonathan Edwards, a pastor and theologian who lived in the 1700’s, is one of this country’s great spiritual thinkers. He describes the gift of home I’m speaking of in this way.
When we are at home with God, we are “swimming in the ocean of love, eternally swallowed up in the infinitely bright….beams of divine love; eternally receiving that light, eternally full of it…and everlastingly reflecting it back again to the fountain of it.”
But to reach this home, we all have to go on our journeys through life.
In today’s reading from the letter to the Ephesians, the writer prays that God, the Father of glory, will give us “a spirit of wisdom and revelation as we come to know him, so that with the eyes of our hearts enlightened, we may know what is the hope to which he has called us.”
Kyle Strobel, who is a big Jonathan Edwards fan and scholar, suggests that having the eyes of our hearts enlightened is about being able to see those infinitely bright beams of divine love (and here I can’t help but think what about that star that guided the wise men to Jesus) guiding us to that heavenly country.
Strobel says that the journey through our lives is “about learning the way of heaven and coming to see our present reality with our hearts (and our eyes) set firmly in that heavenly country.”
So we as we journey through our lives being guided by God’s divine love for us, those bright beams of divine love, Strobel points out that “heaven breaks into this world through us who have been given the Spirit, living out the heavenly life in the here and now.”
Today’s hauntingly beautiful psalm describes the journey of a pilgrim on the way to the temple in Jerusalem. With his eyes set on his destination, the psalmist rejoices in the living God and finds happiness because his heart is set on the pilgrims’ way.
And even in the most desolate and dangerous parts of the journey the psalmist finds new life—early rains have covered the desert with pools of water—God’s refreshment for the journey.
Tomorrow night we will celebrate the feast of the Epiphany. And in the weeks following, as we see the story of Jesus unfold, we will have the opportunity to spread his light through the world, as we reflect those infinitely bright beams of divine love to those around us, making God’s love for this world visible in the ways that we live and in the ways that we love one another.
But for today, on this last day of the Christmas season, our blessing and gift is to gaze one last time into the manger and into the heart of God, and to see this thing that has come to pass, the gift of God coming to live and die as one of us,
To see that even as we journey along the pilgrims’ way, we have already come home to God’s infinite love,
And only in that love can we journey in peace and dwell in safety.
Resource: Strobel, Kyle. Formed for the Glory of God: Learning from the Spiritual Practices of Jonathan Edwards. Downers Grove, Il.: IVP Books. 2013.