Devotional Thoughts – Matthew 2:13-23
December 29, 2014 – January 4, 2015
Monday, December 29, 2014
“Now after they [the wise men] had left an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream ‘Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt,’” (Matthew 2:13).
The small family of Mary, Joseph and Jesus quickly learned that life was full of ups and downs. One moment wise men were worshiping Jesus and giving him gold, frankincense and myrrh. In the next instant Joseph was being warned in a dream to flee to Egypt—a traditional place of asylum for Jews in political danger.
American country music artist Kenny Rogers in his song, “The Gambler,” gives the sage advice, “You’ve got to know when to hold ’em/Know when to fold ’em/Know when to walk away/And know when to run.” For Mary, Joseph and Jesus it was a time to run. They left their home in Bethlehem and fled for their lives. There are times in our lives as Christians when it is better to flee rather than fight. The question is, “To where do we flee?”
Egypt is not a practical place to which most of us can run. Sometimes we may be able to run to the arms of a loved one for comfort and encouragement. We may choose to run to our place of prayer, a harbor surrounded by the glories of nature or even a church sanctuary. Wherever we choose to flee for safety and a period of discernment we do so knowing that God goes with us. In those sacred places the Spirit guides, comforts, encourages and empowers us. It is important for us to remember, though, that our “Egypts” are not our homes. Eventually we must leave them.
O Divine Refuge, embrace us when we flee to you, remove our fears, heal our wounds and empower us to return to life and service. Amen.
Tuesday, December 30, 2014
“Then Joseph got up took the child and his mother by night and went to Egypt” (Matthew 2:14).
Answering the call to serve others, a contingent of Christians traveled to a Central American nation in order to work at a local aid station. None of them took the time to learn a few simple phrases of Spanish so they could communicate with the people. The group worked together to construct a small building for the station, but they had little interaction with the local populace. When invited to join in a community meal, the group politely declined because they weren’t sure they would like the food. These visiting Christians would pack up their tools at the end of each day and drive to a hotel in a larger town about thirty miles away, because the hotel in the town where the aid station was located had limited amenities. They returned home pleased with the work they had accomplished, but not realizing the opportunities that they had missed.
The depth of Jesus’ incarnation is amazing. He was not content merely taking on the form of humankind. He refused a life of affluence and comfort and opted for a life of poverty. Jesus aligned himself with the marginalized, oppressed and rejected. He even became an alien and lived in a foreign land, among a people who were not like him, in a culture that was strange and with a language he did not understand or speak. Jesus experienced life and the expanse of humanity to a degree that few of us do.
One thing we learn from Jesus (among many others) is that it is difficult if not impossible to love from a distance. In order to share the good news of Jesus Christ and God’s love and grace we must be with people, live life with them, take the time to hear their stories and not be afraid to step far away from our comfort zones. When this happens, the Spirit moves powerfully in and through us.
Incarnate God, help us to follow your example and to be incarnate in the lives of others. Amen.
Wednesday, December 31, 2014
“This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet ‘Out of Egypt I have called my son’” (Matthew 2:15).
Tonight there will be celebrations around the world. We will remember the old—both the good and bad things that occurred in 2014—and we will look forward to the new. Fireworks, toasts and kisses will welcome in the New Year. The old will pass away and the new will come just as it had passed away when Jesus brought in the new.
The seminal event for the Jews was their exodus out of slavery in Egypt to a new life in the Promised Land. The people had been oppressed and enslaved. They cried out for deliverance from their torturous existence. They craved for something new; for something better. God answered their prayers and led them out of the old and into the new. With Jesus’ exile to Egypt the writer of Matthew envisions the same thing happening again; the new coming out of the old. As Yogi Berra has said, “It’s déjà vu all over again.”
We step out of the old and into the new. A new day and a new year stretch before us. We take our steps with confidence knowing that our Lord goes with us. Nothing in the days ahead will be able to separate us from God, and God’s Spirit will guide us through the maze of life. Truly, there is much to celebrate.
O God of the New, empower us to walk boldly into the new life that you have in store for us. Amen.
Thursday, January 1, 2015
“When Herod saw he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated” (Matthew 2:16a).
Jill lived with a slow boiling rage bubbling within her. The littlest things angered her. She would spit and sputter when she had to wait a few extra minutes to pick up her order at a fast-food restaurant. The slightest infraction by her children was met with an angry outburst and any disagreement with her husband elevated into a heated argument. Smiles were rare and laughter almost non-existent. King Herod, with his royal attitude, could only “better” Jill by his ruthlessness.
There’s a little bit of Jill and King Herod in each and every one of us. We can respond in anger to a variety of stimulants—but we don’t need to do so. The New Year is spread out before us. It is filled with trials and triumphs, failures and successes and tears and laughter. We can choose to respond to these situations with anger, prayer or praise. Certainly the truth that God is present with us, providing for us, protecting us and showering God’s blessings upon us might cause us to pause and consider our response. Perhaps prayer and praise might be a better way to react to the situations we encounter. After all, who want to act like King Herod?
Loving God, forgive us for our “royal attitudes.” Help us to see your hand in our daily lives and to respond to you in prayer and praise. Amen.
Friday, January 2, 2015
“He sent and killed all the children” (Matthew 2:16b)
Fearful that he might lose his power and his claim to the title “king” Herod acted ruthlessly. He sent soldiers into Bethlehem and the surrounding community and murdered all of the boys who were two years-old and younger. Herod’s action accomplished nothing else but to fulfill the words of 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 are no more.”
We know what caused this evil—Herod’s greed and lust for power. What we don’t know is why God didn’t do anything to prevent its occurrence. This question has plagued humankind through the millennia. Events such as the slaughter of the children have caused many to decide that God is neither loving nor all powerful and they have refused to worship such a God.
The fact that many innocent children were killed does not erase the reality of Jesus’ birth. It doesn’t negate the truth of the incarnation—God became human. While possessing only a few answers and a multitude of questions, we choose to live our lives affirming that God is a God of love, that God is moving in our world and our lives in ways that we cannot understand and that we have been abundantly blessed so that we can be a blessing to others. There are many things that we do not know. One thing we do know, though, is that we have heard the voice of Jesus call to us, “Come and follow me.”
Mysterious God, do not allow our questions to hinder our words and actions of faith. Use us to stand against evil and to minister to those whom have been harmed by it. Amen.
Saturday, January 3, 2015
“An angel suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph” (Matthew 2:19).
Angels play a very caring role in the gospel of Matthew. Angels speak to Joseph and guide him. They directed him not to divorce Mary but to take her as his wife. They guided him to take his family and flee to Egypt and now they tell him that it is safe to return to Israel. Later on in Matthew angels minister to Jesus after he had been tempted in the wilderness for forty days (Matthew 4:11).
There is very little Biblical evidence to suggest that there are such beings as guardian angels, among the angels. That doesn’t mean, however, that the Holy Spirit—Jesus’ presence in our lives—doesn’t act in that manner. In the relationship that God has for us, God wants to guide us and care for us. God wants to be intimately and actively involved in our lives. Long distance relationships are not something in which God is interested.
Awareness of this truth offers us both comfort and courage as we step into a new day. God takes our hands and walks with us. There are times when we may drop God’s hand and run away, like the fruit in the Garden of Eden the world looks too enticing. When we become battered and lonely, we run back to our Lord. God welcomes us with open arms, takes our hands and continues on the journey of life with us.
Ever Present God, open our eyes that we may see you, ears that we may hear you, and our hearts that we may be faithfully obedient to your leading. Amen.
Sunday, January 4, 2015
“There he made his home in a town called Nazareth” (Matthew 2:23).
The beauty and grandeur of the Grand Canyon cannot be described by words nor captured by photographs and paintings. It must be experienced. A sense of awe and wonder descends upon a person as he or she stands on the south wall watching clouds cast their shadows on the four thousand foot cliffs, or the sun’s movement cause a kaleidoscope of colors to dance along the escarpments.
The Grand Canyon was not caused by any sudden traumatic event; there were no volcanic eruptions or earthquakes. The canyon was formed by the steady flow of the waters of the Colorado Rivers slowly cutting through the rock. Millions upon millions of years of steady force was needed to carve out the majestic canyon.
Sometimes the miraculous and supernatural are over rated. Certainly, they are impressive and at times they are life altering. It is the common and every day occurrences, though, that mold and shape our lives. The drudgery of school classes, the countless hours spent playing with our children, decades of punching the time clock or going to the office and the multitude of loving moments are what shape us into the people who we are—and God has his hand in it all. Joseph led his family to Nazareth where Jesus grew up. It was there that Jesus was shaped into the man who became our Lord and Savior.
Creative God, you are the potter and we are the clay. Mold us and make us into the people you want us to be. Amen.