Christmas 2A 2005 Matthew 2
We only celebrate the Sunday known as the Second Sunday after Christmas about once in 9 years so I am going to combine the
two alternate readings from Matthew as well as the section edited out of your bulletin insert. I am going to do this because
the 6th of January is the Day of the Epiphany or the Manifestation of the Christ Child to the Gentiles – the three wise
men so called -- as well as the flight into Egypt, the slaughter of the Holy Innocents and the return to Palestine and Nazareth.
So I thought it appropriate to read the Scriptures pertinent to these things even if we only explore one or so. I especially
wanted to restore the edited out section of your insert because it concerns the Holy Innocents and that episode can begin
to serve as a lens to help us to begin to come to grips with the tsunami devastation in South Asia.
The Holy Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ according to Saint Matthew:
In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2asking,
‘Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay
him homage.’ 3When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; 4and calling together all the
chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. 5They told him, ‘In Bethlehem
of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet: 6“And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least
among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.”’ 7Then Herod
secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. 8Then he sent them to Bethlehem,
saying, ‘Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and
pay him homage.’
9 When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until
it stopped over the place where the child was. 10When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy.
11On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their
treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12And having been warned in a dream not to return
to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.
13 Now after they 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.’
14Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, 15and remained there until the death of
Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, ‘Out of Egypt I have called my son.’
16 When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in
and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. 17Then
was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah: 18‘A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.’
19 When Herod died, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, 20‘Get up, take the
child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the child’s life are dead.’ 21Then
Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. 22But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling
over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And after being warned in a dream, he went away to the
district of Galilee. 23There he made his home in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets
might be fulfilled, ‘He will be called a Nazorean.’
The Gospel of the Lord!
As I was sitting in my study Wednesday and Thursday writing this sermon, the breaking news bulletins kept rolling across my
computer screen announcing the revised estimates of the death toll of the tsunami that swept across the shores of much of
South Asia a week ago. The earliest estimates I saw were 50,000, dead. By Friday, the latest was over 120,000, about half
of whom were children. The magnitude of this natural disaster was so great that it was hard to grasp it. We couldn’t
get our arms around, couldn’t bring it to manageable proportions.
And like the parents of the Holy Innocents two thousand years ago, we wept for and with the parents on the shores of South
Asia as we saw the news pictures of parents holding the dead bodies of their small children. To lose a child the hardest
of losses for a parent, something those of us who have not suffered it can only dimly glimpse at understanding.
We can understand mechanically and physically and geologically the causes of the Indian Ocean earthquake and the resulting
tsunami. Most of us have some knowledge about the ever-shifting tectonic plates of the earth that bear land and sea above
the planets molten magma core. Both coasts of the United States, especially the West Coast, lie across major fault lines
resulting from the shifting of these plates.
Yet such mechanical and physical and geological understanding – head knowledge -- cannot help us much when we try to
understand the human misery and its causes as a result of the tsunami. And some of us, even as we prayed for the survivors
and dead victims, may have sharply challenged God himself. “Where were you, God?” when this was happening, we
asked, Job like, or like the weeping mothers in Herod’s Judea, as the ever expanding dimensions of the disaster kept
unfolding across our computer and television screens and newspaper front pages and headlines. “Where were you, God?
Why didn’t you stop it?” Even asking, “Why did you let this happen?” And Perhaps even, “Why
did you do this?” And our new found knowledge about tectonic plates and tsunamis isn’t that much help in those
kinds of answers.
But those are the wrong kinds of questions, even though they are a natural first reaction. The astronomers tell us of the
explosive and powerful chaos in the universe as its ever expanding nature leads to constant recreation of itself. Nothing
physical or geological or mechanical in the entire universe is static. Whenever and however the universe was created and
came into being its natural processes have the freedom to complete their natural end, including the tectonic plate processes
of this small planet earth.
Where is God? God is with those who search and watch and weep in their profound sorrow. And God is with us as we pour relief
supplies and monies into the stricken areas.
The only question to ask is this: “In this natural disaster, what would God have us do? What can we, must we, do to
help? We are, after all, the only hands God has to see this thing through.
There is a story of a man who once stood before God, his heart breaking from the pain and injustice in the world.
'Dear God,' he cried out, 'Look at all the suffering, the anguish and distress in the world. Why don't you send help?'
God responded, 'I did send help. I sent you.' (1)
When we encounter difficulties such as this enormous disaster, it is best not to consult with theologians or philosophers,
but with people who know how and can do things to help.
The point is that our hands become the hands of God, our feet the feet of God, our words the words of God, our love the love
of God. It’s been put this way: "This is a time to remember that when Jesus told us to love our neighbor, he had a
REALLY big neighborhood in mind."
Almost every denomination is gearing up to provide relief and aid to the suffering. Church-related staffers and doctors
and nurses and truck drivers and mechanics and carpenters are on their way to the Pacific Rim as we speak. Just log on to
denominational or the National Council of Churches websites to see.
In other words, we're responding to the tsunami with a tidal wave of love and compassion that will sweep across the homelands
of hundreds of thousands affected by this disaster.
And lest we forget, faced as we are by the scale of this tsunami, there are similar disasters, on a smaller scale, that occur
every day. People all around us are swept out to sea, hit by tsunamis they didn't see coming. They're floundering emotionally,
spiritually and financially. Their lives have been shredded to ribbons. Their relationships are in tatters. They're looking
for help. They're looking for love, God’s love, love of neighbor, from someone. (2)
They’re looking for us.
1. David J. Wolpe, sent in by Grant F. Tiefenbruck, from Steve's Quips, Quotes and One-Liners newsletter, quoted in LifeSupport
A Tsunami Blessing, Fri, 31 Dec 2004 18:43:50 –0000, "lss_publishing" at , LifeSupport@yahoogroups.com.
2. Last six paragraphs adapted from Email, 30 Dec, Timothy Merrill, Senior Editor, Homiletics