The Gospel lesson for the First Sunday after Christmas in Year A is filled with pain, and so are many people’s hearts this Christmas. Here is a sermon I preached on this text in January of 2002. Circumstances made it necessary to delay this sermon until Baptism of the Lord, which was also a communion Sunday for us.
A Sermon on Matthew 2:13-23 with allusions to Isaiah 25:6-9 and Revelation 21:1-4
One person can cause unbelievable amounts of pain, especially if a few people cooperate and a lot of people look the other way. No wonder all Jerusalem was disturbed when the Wise Men brought the news of a baby King of the Jews. All Jerusalem knew what King Herod was capable of if he felt there was the least threat to his position. Already he had ordered the execution of one of his wives, her mother, several of his sons, three hundred of his court officials, and countless others. Later, shortly before his death, Herod ordered the imprisonment of a number of the most distinguished citizens of Jerusalem. At the moment of his death, all these innocents were killed, so that there would be weeping and wailing in Judea. Herod was well aware that no one would mourn his passing.
What did the lives of the children of Bethlehem matter to Herod? Compared to the rivers of blood he had already spilled, what did he care about the blood of the twenty or so infants and toddlers that lived in the village? When the Wise Men failed to return with the intelligence Herod needed to zero in on Jesus, he ordered his soldiers to search out and destroy every child in Bethlehem age two and under. Jesus would surely be among them.
In a dream, Joseph received a warning about this evil plan. In a flash he was up, waking Mary, and hurrying to pack a few essentials. There was no time for more. In the dead of night they slipped away as quietly and as quickly as they could, leaving everything behind. Now they were refugees. Now they would have to find a way to survive in a strange land. Joseph would have to start all over again: find food, find shelter, find work. Jesus’ earliest memories would be not of home, but of Egypt.
Soon there was weeping and wailing all over Bethlehem. (more…)