1st Sunday of Christmas—A—December 29, 2013
Preached at the Lutheran Church of Framingham
Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight oh Lord, our strength, and our redeemer.
What a text for this the first Sunday of Christmas!
This story immediately follows the Magi visiting the holy family, which you know is not for another week or so on Epiphany, meaning the story is not exactly chronological, but it is part of the larger story of Christmas in Matthew, so I guess it kind of fits. But still, what a weird story for Christmas. We just celebrated the joy of Christ’s birth, enjoyed family togetherness, opened presents, ate good food, and now we read about the indiscriminant slaughter of infants and hear about the holy family fleeing to Egypt for safety.
But what Matthew is continuing to do so early in his gospel telling is to set up links between the current story and stories of the past. Last week we started to notice the connections in names: the dreams of both Josephs and the saving roles of Joshua and Jesus, whose names are closely linked. And again this week, we hear of yet more dreams for Joseph. But we find Jesus connected to another figure from the past—Moses.
When it comes to Moses and Jesus, there are many connections in the Gospel of Matthew. First, both are born under the rule of a king, or Pharaoh in Moses’ case, who have similar terrible tactics. Pharaoh ordered all Israelite boys killed at birth because he feared the Israelites growing in strength and number. Herod feared losing his throne and power to the rumored newborn king, so he ordered all children, male and female, under the age of two slaughtered. However, both Moses and Jesus through sneaky circumstances survived these slaughters: Moses in Egypt and Jesus by hiding in Egypt.
Both were destined to be leaders, to lead God’s people out of slavery: Moses the slavery in Egypt and Jesus the slavery to sin. As Matthew’s Gospel continues, we will hear of Jesus starting his ministry at the water, as Moses did at the Red Sea. Jesus will talk about the law and how to live in a good life in community during the Sermon on the Mount, while Moses will pass on the law to the Israelites at another mountain. Neither will enter the “promised land” in the same way as the people they lead; Moses is kept out for disobedience, but Jesus will suffer death because of his obedience.
Their ministries will look the same, both starting by being called out of Egypt, but along the way Matthew will show that Jesus is more than just another Moses; he is so much more. Instead of just seeing the light of God in the Burning Bush or on Mt. Sinai, Christ carries the light with him. Instead of just struggling against corrupt kings, Jesus models a new way to rule.
From the slaughter of innocents that begins both Moses and Jesus’ stories, we know that God at work doesn’t mean that everything is perfect, that all suffering ceases, but we get hope shared in a new way…through singing angels, shining stars, sea monsters praising God’s name along with hail, snow, fog, and wind, and plants, animals, and humans. Although the king of the day do not acknowledge the power and rule of Jesus, or worship like the Magi, or as the Psalm tells us: all of creation, he does worry for some reason…why else would he call for the mass killing? He thinks that he can conquer the light of Christ, at least dim it if not put it out, but oh is he mistaken. He must have missed the day in Physics class about light. Although a light might not fully illuminate a darkness because of its size, there is no darkness that can itself conquer a light. The light always wins.
Jesus gets away this time, but we know he will not always be able to escape death, but even that is not losing, for it is death that Christ’s light shines the brightest, bringing new life to the whole world. Amen.