By: Robert G. Hetherington, Priest Associate
By: Amelia McDaniel, Lay Associate for Christian Formation
I heard that last Sunday while I was away, Bob Hetherington laid down a challenge for me in his sermon. He mentioned the part of today’s story from the Flight into Egypt that has been omitted by the lectionary. It’s the story of the Massacre of the Innocents. It is only three verses that have been picked out. And they are three of the most brutal verses contained in our story of God’s love.
I’ve heard of other sermon challenges, like giving someone a crazy word or phrase to figure out how to incorporate into the sermon like aluminum siding or castor oil. This one is harder. But in my time with Bob Hetherington I have learned to listen to his words carefully because his wisdom is Spirit-led and powerful. So here I go.
In the start of today’s story, Joseph has been warned in a dream to get Mary and Jesus out of Bethlehem. Herod was searching for them and they were in grave danger. It’s unclear exactly how long they had been in Bethlehem when they leave. But Joseph acts and is ready to care for his family.
Now here is where the part that’s left out in today’s Gospel reading falls. It fits in just after the gospel cites the prophet Hosea’s words, “Out of Egypt I have called my son”.
Verses 16-18 of the 2nd Chapter of Matthew read…
Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, was in a furious rage, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all the region who were two years old or under, according to the time which he had ascertained from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah:
A voice was heard in Ramah,
Wailing and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
She refused to be consoled,
Because they were no more.”
By: Robert G. Hetherington, Priest Associate
By: David H. May, Rector
Merry Christmas, everyone.
It is so good to be together in this beautiful place with friends and family, with people you’ve known for ever and a day, and with people you’ve never seen before. And every one of you with your own story and with all of its twists and turns that have brought each of us and all of us together tonight. This is probably the first time ever that this particular group of us have ever been together in exactly this way. And I suspect it is also the very last time that we will ever be together like this. So give thanks for this time that we get to be together.
And it is good for us to be here in our church. It is warm and neat as a pin. The lights of the candles are glowing. The altar guild has shined and pressed and arranged everything for us tonight to be a feast for our eyes. The choir is rehearsed and has tuned their voices to their hearts to inspire our own hearts to sing out with them and with the angels.
In this warm comforting happy place, this night, we are here for something so important. We are joining together on this night with the Church all over the world to hear again the story of the birth of Jesus. It is the story that tells all that we can say that is most true about God and what is also most true about each of us. On this night, a night just like this, heaven and earth are joined and the heart of God and God’s desire and purpose for this world find perfect expression in the face of a new born baby. And with this birth is the holy promise that God has, and is, and will be working his purposes out, and at every moment that purpose is to heal the whole human family. The whole human family. Grace by grace. Christ is born for this, even on this very night, God is working his purposes out. So, we are here ‘go even unto Bethlehem to see this great thing’.
By: Eleanor Wellford, Priest Associate
Who in the world is King Ahaz and what does the prophet Isaiah want us to know about him that would be of any interest to us so close to Christmas?
Well…glad you asked that question! About 700 years before Jesus was even born, there were two kingdoms where the Israelites – God’s chosen people – lived: Israel in the north and Judah in the south.
Israel had been threatened by the Assyrians for years and had finally been captured by them. Judah, however, was still independent. Its capital was Jerusalem and it was being ruled by a descendent of the great King David. His name was Ahaz.
The thing about the Assyrians is that they weren’t happy with just capturing Israel. They wanted to add to their empire and they set their sights south on Judah. King Ahaz was doing his best to hold them off, but it wasn’t easy. And he began to think that the best solution to the crisis was to make a deal with the Assyrians.
And that’s when Isaiah stepped in. He couldn’t help himself because like any prophet, Isaiah was God’s mouthpiece, and he needed to urge King Ahaz to have faith in the will of God instead of giving in to the will of the Assyrians. But Ahaz was scared and like anyone else, he wanted a sign that he and the kingdom of Judah would survive – but he wasn’t going to ask for one.