Thursday, January 4, 2024

And one more response

To finish off the sermon I have to mention - the sheer hatred of Herod the Great.  Called 'great' because of the impressive buildings of his reign, but known in history as a paranoid, bestial tyrant  whose distrust of potential rivals led him to murder even members of his own family, including his wife. When he was dying he instructed that leading citizens of Jericho be killed so that there would be weeping at his funeral. His behaviour in Matthew 2 is sadly in character.  Furious that his trickery with the Magi is unmasked as they are warned not to return to him, he gives orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and the vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the magi. V16.

Why in the history of the world have there been such authority figures whose cruelty and sheer wickedness can unleash such violence to cause such appalling destruction?  Why are we constantly faced by power-hungry arrogant men who can pursue such bestiality?   In this broken, fallen world we know this remains a constant factor in sinful humankind's existence.  This is the normal world for so many today.

When we ask 'After Christmas - what?' for Jesus, we see a refugee baby with a price on his head, escaping to the south into Egypt. To the south of Gaza and Israel where refugees flee today, in a world of violence and grief.  A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning. Matthew wants us to know that all grim reality was prophesied. God intended entering the world of pain and brokenness. There's no point in arriving in comfort when the world is in misery; no point in having an easy life when the world suffers violence and injustice.  If Jesus is to be Emmanuel, God with us, he must be with us where the pain and violence is. Though he escapes cruelty and death this time, he will meet it head on on the cross.  

That smiling cynic who dismissed Christmas as a story of a baby which is happy but means nothing, could not be more wrong.  For the truth is that Jesus has come weirdly and wonderfully into our world, our normal world. The Lutheran pastor in Bethlehem explained in the Christmas TV news about the nativity scene which set Jesus amidst rubble this year. 'That's where Jesus is with us', he said. What a conviction in response to the devastation around his people.

I ended my sermon with a challenge in our easier lives in Histon, and a call that in saying the Covenant Prayer we might identify together with a deep personal response for 2024. 



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