Devotional Thoughts Matthew 2:1-12
December 22-28, 2014
Monday, December 22, 2014
“Wise men from the East came to Jerusalem” (Matthew 2:1).
Faith pops up in the oddest places. Karen sat at the kitchen table surrounded by bills and trying to figure out how she was going to pay them. Tears of frustration welled up in her eyes and flowed down her cheeks. Sensing his mother’s distress, five year-old Hunter ran over to his mother, gave her a hug and said, “Don’t worry mommy, Jesus knows why you’re sad and he loves you.” Fifteen year-old Juanita didn’t think very highly of herself. On one particular day, she was very aware of her worn clothing and lack of money to do what her classmates were planning to do. She separated herself from everyone and sat at a table in the corner of the cafeteria. A girl from her history class came over, sat beside her and nudged her into a conversation. When the bell rang, the girls got up to go to their next classes. Juanita’s classmate turned to her and said, “Just so you know, God’s doesn’t make junk.” The girl turned and left, while Juanita pondered her words.
In Matthew’s gospel, the first people to know that God was doing something new and exciting were the wise men from the East. The political authorities, the Pharisees, Scribes, Sadducees and priest didn’t realize what was going on. Unlike the wise men, they didn’t welcome the news that a king of the Jews had been born in Bethlehem.
Messengers of faith come to us in all shapes and sizes and surprise us with their message. As we journey along our paths of faith, it is important for us to keep our eyes and ears open that we may perceive the good news that is being proclaimed—and believe it!
Precious Lord, lift us up when we are down, give us strength when we are weak, give us hope when we despair, and empower us with courage when we are fearful. Amen.
Tuesday, December 23, 2014
“For we observed his star rising” (Matthew 2:2).
The Psalmist writes, “The heavens are telling the glory of God’ and the firmament proclaims his handiwork” (Psalm 19:1). The wise men from the East understood this reality. Our God is the God of all creation and all creation reveals the glory of God even to the point of proclaiming the birth of his son.
The glory of God is often not what we focus on; rather we tend to dwell on bad news. Newspapers, television and the internet keep all the cruddy stuff in front of us. They say that people prefer the bad news—perhaps they’re right. The few good news stories that they publicize seem to go unnoticed and unappreciated. We do not need to be enslaved by the media. We can change our focus.
Today, choose to focus on the good rather than bad, on God rather than evil. Open your eyes and perk up your ears that you may see God’s glory and rejoice with all of creation.
Wonderful Lord, forgive us when we are blind to your glory. Help us to see and give us the opportunity to help others see. Amen.
Wednesday, December 24, 2014
“When King Herod heard this he was frightened” (Matthew 2:3).
Herod was one of the most powerful people in Israel at the time of Jesus’ birth. He had fortresses (Masada), money and an army to protect him. Still, he was frightened; threatened by the birth of a child, who he was told would be king of the Jews. Herod was afraid of losing what he had; of having something that he considered his taken from him.
So much of our lives are spent in fear. We fear the unknown, change and of losing what we have worked so hard to accumulate, among other things. Perhaps that is why the most common command in the Bible is, “Don’t fear.”
Don’t fear a child has been born who is Jesus (God saves) and Emmanuel (God with us). Don’t fear, God is a God of love and forgiveness and not a God of judgment and punishment. Don’t fear, nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus—the child who was born. Don’t fear—Live!
God of Life, your son was born so that we might have life. We lay down on fears so that we may receive the life he gives us—an abundant life. Amen.
Thursday, December 25, 2014
“For it has been written by the prophet” (Matthew 2:5).
The birth of Jesus, which was proclaimed by the stars in heaven, didn’t just happen. It was planned. Before the beginning of the world and the start of time, God had determined that this is what God would do. The prophets foretold it. People waited for it. God planned to reveal his steadfast love, unconditional forgiveness and overwhelming grace in the clearest way God could—the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
God’s plan continues. That plan moves forward in the world around us and it moves in and through us. Like the prophets, Mary and Joseph, the wise men and the shepherds, we are part of that plan. Super human and super righteous people are not needed for the plan to be carried out. Instead God uses flawed but forgiven people who are faithfully obedient to God’s call.
All knowing God, thank you for including us in your plan. Enable us to be faithful to our calling and generous in our living. Amen.
Friday, December 26, 2014
“And you, Bethlehem in the land of Judah” (Matthew 2:6).
We tend to be impressed by size—“bigger is better.” We favor the glitz and glamor of wealth, and are impressed by the gifted and talented. We may think that all of these are high on the list of desirables, but God doesn’t.
God used little Bethlehem. Bethlehem’s one claim to fame was that it was the birthplace of King David. Otherwise it was a small town, out of the way—almost forgotten. Still, God used Bethlehem and in doing so, we see more clearly the expanse of God’s love and the greatness of God’s power.
Most of us consider ourselves like the people of Bethlehem considered themselves. We are small, insignificant, untalented, flawed—useless. Thankfully, that is not how God sees us. God sees us as God’s precious creations, who have been given specific talents and abilities to serve in the time and place in which we live. God sees us as people through whom God’s love and grace can be made know and God’s power can be clearly seen. Like Bethlehem, we are humbled, not because of our size, but because of God’s intentions for us.
Gracious God, thank you that you considered us more favorably than we do ourselves. Take us and be glorified in our lives. Amen.
Saturday, December 27, 2014
“They set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star they had seen at its rising” (Matthew 2:9).
The wise men from the East wanted to see the king of the Jews. God moved mightily so that they could find Jesus. A star announced Jesus’ birth. The wise men received helpful information about the Messiah’s birth from the chief priests and scribes in Herod’s court. When they departed Jerusalem, they were again led by a star. They wanted to find Jesus and they did—with God’s help.
Sometimes God seems so far away and we feel so very alone. There are times when we are lost and confused and don’t see God in our lives. We may be lost, but God isn’t. When we seek God we will find God. Like the wise men from the East, God will guide and direct us. God will bring us into contact with people who will help us on our journey. We will encounter situations that will alter our paths and point us to God. God will touch our eyes so that we can see and God will open our ears so that we can hear. We will “find” God and realize that God has been with us all along.
O God of the here and now, forgive us when we think you have moved away from us. Open our eyes that we may see you and our hearts that we may sense your presence. Amen.
Sunday, December 28, 2014
“They knelt down and paid him homage … they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh” (Matthew 2:11).
In Matthew’s gospel, the wise men from the East are the first people to worship Jesus. Perhaps the residents of Bethlehem had all come and paid their respects to Mary, Joseph and their baby, Jesus. Now, though, they had returned to their everyday lives as if everything was normal. Once again, in Matthew’s gospel, it is the outsiders, the Gentiles, who understand the true significance of what was happening.
The wise men’s strange gifts—were not very useful for a new born, not even a new born king. We don’t know why they brought them, but Matthew uses their gifts to foreshadow what was going to happen in Jesus’ life. Frankincense and myrrh were burial spices. Even at his birth, we catch a glimpse of Jesus’ death.
The wise men came to worship a king, but Jesus was a different king. Not only was he a king born in poverty in an “off the beaten path” small town, Jesus was also a king who would serve by dying. A new type of king requires a new type of subjects. The followers of Jesus do not serve their king with force, but rather with service. The followers of King Jesus are not those who aspire to greatness. Jesus says his followers need to deny themselves and take up their crosses.
New born Lord, even at this celebration of your birth, may we not forget that you came to die, and that we are called to follow and to serve. Amen.