Threatened By A Baby Matthew 2:13-23

Less than a week ago we celebrated the birth of Jesus.  We sang hymns that tell of news bringing joy to the world.  We sang about mangers and angels and shepherds and Mary.  Christmas comes with a great crescendo and then it is back to life as we know it.  In a few days children return to school.  After taking a couple days of vacation, it is back to work.  Christmas with the baby Jesus in a manger surrounded by adoring parents, shepherds and docile animals is easily sentimentalized.  We gladly take the comforting news of ‘God with us’ but we quickly ignore the challenge and judgment that ‘God with us’ entails.  Matthew jolts us to reality with Joseph and Mary taking Jesus to seek refuge in Egypt.  Matthew also described what happens when rulers feel threatened.  In this case, the poor suffer and the innocent are killed.  Christmas is about Jesus’ birth.  The following Sunday is about the world with its Herods.

Magi had come to Herod to find the one born ‘King of the Jews.’  Herod and his grasp on power felt threatened.  He wanted the Magi to return and give the location so he too could worship – Herod lied.  The Magi didn’t return to give Herod what he wanted to learn.  Thrown into a rage Herod ordered the massacre of Bethlehem’s children.  Only Matthew records the history of this brutality but it was well within Herod’s normal behavior.  Bethlehem was a small bump in the road town outside of Jerusalem.  Such news wouldn’t have caused a stir in the region but it would have caused parents to fear a little more for their children’s well being.

The Christmas message is truly good news.  Each Christmas we are reminded that in Jesus, the God of mercy and love has come to live with us.  The Christmas message is also that in Jesus, God has entered this world with those forced to flee for refuge…under the lies and fear…in solidarity with the powerless often paying the price of the world’s brutality.

So celebrate the good news that is Christmas of ‘God with us.’  Also celebrate that God has come for those under the brutality of the world’s Herods.  The world’s salvation has truly come, born to us.


The Value of One Luke 15:1-10

I have always liked the parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin.  They describe the passionate desire of God to reach out to one and all, even me.  A shepherd has one of the flock wandering off.  Leaving the remaining ninety-nine, the shepherd searches high and low until it is found.  A party is held to celebrate.  A woman loses a coin and searches the house from top to bottom until it is found.  A party is held to celebrate.  It is comforting to know that God values the one enough to face a cross, a grave, to have me securely in his kingdom.  The great sadness is that I am more like the Pharisees muttering over Jesus’ behavior.

Jesus is being criticized.  This was not unusual.  The complaint was his willingness to socialize and eat with sinners.  If Jesus did this, it meant that he accepted them.  No self respecting authority on the Scriptures would allow themselves to be ‘tainted’ by association with sinners, would they?  Jesus did.  He socialized with them.  He ate with them.  He welcomed them.  He celebrated their return as active citizens of God’s kingdom.  We could learn a lot from Jesus.

We seem to be obsessed with division.  We are determined to maintain the ‘purity’ of our beliefs and not be ‘tainted’ by association with others.  The result is we accuse, nasty Tweet, undercut, spread lies, shun, etc.  However if we follow Christ, we follow the God who is relentless until even the ‘one’ is restored in his kingdom.  Jesus’ example would have the liberal and conservative stop the attacks and eat together.  The white and black put away the distrust and eat together.  The Christian and Muslim put away the fear and eat together.  Radical behavior like this would be a tremendous threat to those holding power by keeping the divisions alive.  In Jesus, we see God willing to face the cross, the grave and finally rise from death to defeat those powers and for us all to know the true power of his kingdom.  The kingdom of God is where a great celebration is held for sinners who repent (this is all of us).  So you see there really is value even of one.  The end result is we get to party together.