Lord Jesus Christ,
You call us to come
To be with you,
To hear your voice
To listen deeply to what you say,
To see what you do.
By your Spirit help me
To hear your voice
To see you
First Sunday after Christmas Day
Just as today there is war and terror in Bethlehem, so there was no silent night when Jesus was born. When King Herod hears the question, “Where is the child who has been born King of the Jews?” . . . “he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him.” (Matthew 2:2,3)
Fear weaves its way into the fabric of the birth stories, causing Joseph some sleepless nights as he tries to figure out how to end his engagement to Mary once he hears she is with child. He turns to the Hebrew scriptures, but in his goodness he decides not to subject her to the judgment of the town elders and public stoning, but rather to take care of the problem privately. But the problem proves to be the Messiah, the Son of God, born King of the Jews! Herod’s fear is not tempered by goodness, nor by the reading of scripture. Instead his fear erupts in violence, cloaked with deceit and secrecy.
He plans to kill the new-born child.
But God is on the move, and just as we are allowed behind closed doors in Herod’s palace, so we are privy to what is taking place in the heavenly realm, as God also makes plans. Angels are sent to bring messages: a heavenly GPS is given to the wise men from the East – to return to their country by another road. An angel enters into the dream-world of Joseph, giving him a wake-up call in the middle of the night, and alerting him to take Jesus and his mother, Mary, and to flee to Egypt, because Herod is about to order a massive search for the child, to destroy him. And so this carpenter who knows how to build safe houses, is now providing a safe house for Mary and Jesus – as they become refugees.
As Joseph and Mary and the child undertake that night journey to Egypt, Herod’s fury breaks loose, and he commands his forces to kill all the children in and around Bethlehem who are two years old or under.
The screams and loud cries of mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, family members and neighbors erupt with the sudden clatter of horse-hooves, clash of swords, beating of doors, and the cries of little ones dying.
“A voice was heard in Ramah (Bethlehem),
wailing and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
she refused to be consoled,
because they were no more.” (Matthew 2:18; Jeremiah 31:15)
In these terror-filled days and nights – even now in the Middle East and around the world – a light shines in the dark.
“The light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness did not overcome it.” (John 1:5)
Jesus is the true light who came then into the world, and who still comes; who dwells among us and stays with us, until he comes again. The last chapter of this present age has not been written, and will not be inscribed by human historians. God will write the last chapter, and make all things new. The same One who came as a fragile baby, who lived and loved among us, is the One who was moving within the Divine Conspiracy, a conspiracy which finally outwitted the dark intentions of evil.
“Since, therefore, the children share flesh and blood, he himself likewise shared the same things, so that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death. . . Because he himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested.”
And so the writer of the letter to the Hebrew believers, believers who suffered because of the faith in this One, this Jesus, calls them – and us – to place our trust in him (Hebrews 2:10-18).
Just as we have waited through the days and nights of Advent for the birthing of the Christ child, so we still wait in the long days and troubled, dark nights of this world for the Greater Advent: Jesus’ return. We are called to wait in hope and trust, to stay awake to the ways in which God still comes, those epiphanies of God showing up among us, even as we wait.
Prayer before reading
You come to us
In the presence of the Holy Spirit.
Help me to be present to you –
To be with you,
To listen —
With the ears of my heart.
Continue to free me from the anxieties of this world, which holds me captive.
Lead me in your Way of life.
Read slowly. Listen deeply. Indwell the scripture.
FIRST SUNDAY AFTER CHRISTMAS
- 12/20 Monday: Matthew 2:13-15
- 12/21 Tuesday: Matthew 2:16-23
- 12/22 Wednesday: Psalm 148
- 12/23 Thursday: Titus 2:11-14; 3:4-7; Hebrews 1:1-4; 2:10-18
- 12/14 Friday: Isaiah 9:2-7; 62:6-12; 52:7-10; 63:7-9
- 12/25 Saturday: Luke 2:1-20
- 12/26 Sunday: Matthew 2:13-23; John 1:1-14