Formations lesson for Dec. 30: The Arrival of Christ
December 14 2001 by Tom Greene , Matthew 2:13-23

Formations lesson for Dec. 30: The Arrival of Christ | Friday, Dec. 14, 2001

Friday, Dec. 14, 2001

Formations lesson for Dec. 30: The Arrival of Christ

By Tom Greene Matthew 2:13-23 Christmas, with its beautiful simplicity, reminds us that everything is interwoven with mystery, penetrated by the sublime. Matthew illustrates this in recounting an old story about three royal astrologers. With innocence and curiosity these mysterious travelers set out on a star trek, to investigate a major disturbance in the sky and to worship a major disturbance in the world. They went out not knowing, befuddled by a star, beckoned by a child, betrayed by a ruler. Their story serves to reawaken our sense of the beyond in our midst. Subtly, at a level where we don't merely understand but feel, we sense the oneness of everything, both physical and spiritual, in God.

Being warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, the travelers returned home. Joseph goes to bed with his conversations with the wise men on his mind. What should he do? In the night, God speaks through his imagination in the form of an angel (v.13) and the holy family takes their first trip.

Matthew sends Mary and Joseph a long way to make a point, other than getting away from Herod. It is that Jesus is the new Moses (v.15). He also makes us aware that even on their journey to Egypt He was with them.

There are stories in early Christian lore about the journey to Egypt. They idealize and try to smooth out the difficulty of the journey. They tell of palm trees that miraculously bend down to feed the holy family, lions and leopards that wagged their tails in worship.

It's human to idealize.

But Scripture doesn't. The flight to Egypt is a reminder, an anticipation, of the costly and painful price of wholeness for us all. If Jesus is the new Moses, come to deliver us into a new kingdom, he must enter into Egypt where all of us are and bring us out by a dangerous and difficult way.

It is tempting to sit and wait for life to come to us, to forsake the journey and simply subsist. But doing that, we stop living life and squander it. Life will not come to us on our terms. Joseph's dream was a call to enter the full danger of spiritual journey.

Joseph and Mary knew some of the reasons for their journey. Their major motivation was to escape the possibility that Herod would come after Jesus.

This raises the question of suffering. Innocent baby boys are killed for nothing more than political insecurity. The point is not how many died, but why God, who could intervene to save Jesus, did not intervene to save these little innocent babies.

Although Matthew wanted to show that Jesus' life was a fulfillment of the Old Testament and that God is not the author of evil, the problem is not eliminated. Evil is not God's will, but its occurrence is still God's mystery.

Matthew affirms that God was not the author of evil, but he does assert that God has the final word. It is God's way to out-wait evil.

It may seem to us that sometimes our lives are disconnected, or insignificant or full of pain, with no real or obvious meaning. We see no thread running through our lives, no words to make sense of them. We just mutter and hum something that sounds like the right words, hoping we are close. The danger in mumbling is that we lose hope that there really are words for us, for our lives.

But we are a song with all the words. Words that God knows. Start singing it; keep singing it, this holy song that is ours. Knowing that suffering is inescapable in this life, God has the final word. Let us accept Matthew's invitation to hope and not despair in the face of life's realities. When we rejoice in the mystery of God we will experience a change of heart - a new hope.

That hope rests in the knowledge that God is alive.

God is working in our world and in our lives.

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12/14/2001 12:00:00 AM by Tom Greene , Matthew 2:13-23 | with 0 comments
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