The Holy Gospel: December 26, 2010 (Year A)

Read:  Matthew 2:13-23

Meditation:  “How The World Celebrates Christmas”

I’ve never seen a Christmas pageant that includes this week’s lesson.  They all end with the departure of the wise men.  We want to end with hallelujahs—“joy to the world, the Lord is come.”  As Christians, we want to end with celebration.

But we forget that the world “celebrates” Christmas too.   Herod is the personification of the world’s response to the coming of Christ.

He began with deception.  In the preceding passage (which is not part of the Year-A lectionary), Herod feigned interest in the birth of Jesus, indicating that the wise men should return and tell him where the child was, so that he could go and worship him too.  But this was never his intention.  It was all about him and the maintenance of his dominance. 

Still today, the world feigns “celebrating the holidays” (with an increasing reluctance to use the word ‘Christmas’), but the real purpose is to “bolster the economy” by enticing people to spend more this year than they did last year.  Television reporters are already predicting that “it’s going to be a better Christmas this year” because we’re buying more things.

But worse, Herod’s deception turned into destruction.  When he realized the wise men were not coming back—that Jesus was alive….somewhere—the only thing he knew to do was to destroy all the boys two years and younger.  Herod would have no rival. 

Tragically, as I write these words, there are people in the world who are convinced that Christianity is an impediment to “human progress.”  They view it as obscurantist and obstructionist.  It has to go.

Into this picture, an angel intervenes.  Once again Joseph follows instructions.  Jesus survives, but not before the Bible reminds that it does so against the world’s deception and destructiveness.  To follow Christ is to hear shouts of joy and cries of anguish.  “Do you hear what I hear?”

About Steve Harper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 42 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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