Second Sunday after Christmas

Title:Second Sunday after Christmas

 Christmas II, Year A, Jan. 5, 2020 (full size gallery)

This Sunday was Christmas 2. It is somewhat unusual to have Christmas 2- usually Epiphany occurs in its place. (Last Christmas II was 2014, 6 years ago). Thus, the readings have selections from Christmas 2 and Ephiphany. We chose the former since we are having Epiphany tomorrow night.  

A beautiful sunny clear day for a service. A cold front came in and the air cleared. In particular, the outside pictures benefited. Inside the clear skies brought a variety of light effects to the church.

We celebrated Betty’s and Marilyn’s birthday. Marilyn and Mike leave tomorrow for their extended stay in Key West, FLA. We also received over the 3 letters from our Thanksgiving and Christmas outreach. We received a letter from one of the recipients of the Thanksgiving ECM effort and two from Caroline Social Service from Christmas, including St Peter’s Christmas Tree Family where we brought gifts for local families delivered through social service.

The tone of the service, a culmination of  Christmas,  was over struggle with the story of Joseph’s family fleeing to Egypt as refugees. It is the realization of the difficult road ahead for all. But it is also about the gift of home.

The Matthew reading comes after the Wise men visit. The latter is the lectionary for Epiphany. So we are looking at Part 2 first.

The Gospel focus here is on Joseph as obedient and faithful. “After the wise men had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” This is in keeping with Matthew’s attention to Joseph in the birth narrative in our Christmas Eve service and maybe the reason for this passage "out of rder."  Matthew is less focusing on a historical account of the birth and more others reactions to the birth. Hence, the actions of Herod.

The sermon considered the reaction to violence that is part of Epiphany – Herod after Jesus and the young boys in Jerusalem. “As an adult, Jesus taught what he and his family had experienced as God’s divine initiative at the very beginning of his life when the angel warns them to flee to Egypt—that the response to rejection and violence was not to retaliate…” “I suggest that we do what God asked Joseph to do—to flee to Egypt, Egypt being a metaphorical place of refuge and safety in which we can prayerfully and objectively examine our attitudes as Christians toward violence. We can make the time and the space to pray for the spirit of wisdom and revelation as we come to know Jesus, so that with the eyes of our hearts enlightened, we may know what is the hope to which Jesus has called us—the immeasurable.” “And Jesus challenges us, his disciples, to do the same—to leave violence behind, and to transform evil into love, without using violence in the process. ”

Three more times the angel of the lord (an Old Testament phrase for God in visible form) appears to him in a dream (2:13, 19, 22) and gives a command that Joseph follows exactly. God continues to guide the course of events through obedient believers. That’s the key for us – reliance on on God. God is leading us and with us even when events do not go our way. We are not alone. We have to look at the bigger picture, often difficult to see while we are going through life.

Matthew intentionally interprets many events in Jesus’ life in the light of Old Testament prophecies, the fulfillment of those. The formula, “this was to fulfill…" (v. 15) in today’s reading demonstrates this literary characteristic. Verse 15 quotes from Hosea 11:1; verses 17-18 quote from Jeremiah 31:15; the reference in verse 23 is uncertain. Connecting these events in Jesus’ life to the Old Testament presents Matthew’s view that Jesus’ life was not an isolated phenomenon, but the completion of a story begun long ago.

This is a realistic story considering the Middle East. Fighting in Iraq over the last 5 years displaced families and they migrated from Syria into Lebanon and Turkey. Considering North America’s background in Europe and Africa we are refugees.

This section presents a stark contrast to the preceding account of the wise men’s worship. Here the divine child is forced to flee for his life. Scholars often point out parallels between the story of Israel, who took refuge in Egypt during a famine, and Matthew’s story of Jesus. Besides foreshadowing the persecution and rejection that Jesus was to encounter as an adult, the story is reminiscent of Moses, Israel’s great deliverer, who as an infant also barely escaped a king’s persecution. Jesus is already being interpreted in relationship to what was know in the Old Testament.

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." Finding divine love which is part of the unfolding story of Epiphany. "But to reach this home, we all have to go on our journeys through life." Joseph’s trek from Bethlehem to Egypt to Galilee and Nazareth is a metaphor for our own. The journeys are not only physical traveling from place to place but can be any maturing and developing process.