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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas 1 , Year A

                "The Gospel reading this day after Christmas strikes a new tone for the season by dramatically leading us away from anticipation of Advent and revelry of the holidays to the tenuous and dark days between promises and their fruition."

Matthew 2:13-23
13Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” 14Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, 15and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, “Out of Egypt I have called my son.”
16When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. 17Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah: 18“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.”
19When Herod died, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, 20“Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the child’s life are dead.” 21Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. 22But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And after being warned in a dream, he went away to the district of Galilee. 23There he made his home in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, “He will be called a Nazorean.”

A Little Bit for Everyone

Some interesting articles on this passage:
God ever near to us, you numbered your Son, together with Mary and Joseph, among the homeless of the earth, and counted them among the countless refugees who have fled into hiding out of fear for their lives.  Shield our families from the dangers to which this world exposes them.  Clothe us with compassion and kindness with gentleness, patience and mutual forgiveness, so that we in turn may provide others with the shelter of a home where everyone is welcomed.

From Prayers for Sunday and Seasons, Year A, Peter J. Scagnelli, LTP, 1992.
Some thoughts:
This passage from Matthew exists within a wider framework of short stories collected into a narrative. While on the one hand it is tempting to separate them each out and look at the differing pieces something wonderful happens when they are held together. Certainly Matthew intended them to be read in one sweeping episode.
As in Advent, the Gospel continues with a theme of individuals, in this case Joseph, responding to the Word of God proclaimed. 
As we look at the text the remarkable presence of the Book of Exodus strikes a note .  We cannot read the Matthean text without thinking of the innocents killed by the king of the Egyptians, and hwo Moses was saved by Pharoah’s daughter and how Moses himself flees later.
Moses is considered the greatest prophet of the Hebrew faith and here Matthew makes it clear that the Word is alive and dwelling in our midst. We read clearly that the individuals throughout Matthew’s narrative are hearing and responding to the Word.  Moreover, that Christ himself, the living Word, will proclaim and free God’s people once again.  However, this time it will not be freedom from an external earthly power (Kings, Romans, etc.) but rather from an internal power which is as deadly – sin.
Yes we must look backward to Moses, at the same time the author is driving the narrative to the cross and resurrection.  While this passage does not include the story of the Magi, we must keep in mind the Gospel sequence.  This passage looks back to Moses but moves forward to the worshiping kings and eventually the worshipping disciples.
Jesus is in this passage deeply rooted in the story of the people of Israel, changed forever by the presence of the living Word in our midst.  Just as Joseph is faithful and responds to the Word brought by a messenger you and I are challenged to worship God in the person of Jesus Christ and to follow him through acts of faith.
The Lambeth Bible Study Method
This Bible study method was introduced by the African Delegation to the Lambeth Conference of the Anglican Church. It is known by both names: "Lambeth" and "African." This method is derived from the practice of Lectio Divina. The entire process should take about 30 minutes.
Question #5: "Briefly identify where this passage touches their life today," can change based upon the lesson. Find lesson oriented questions at this website:
Opening Prayer: O Blessed Lord, who caused all Holy Scripture to be written for our learning. Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them that we may embrace and hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
1. One person reads passage. This person then invites a member of the group to begin the process.
2. Each person briefly identifies the word or phrase that catches their attention then invites another person to share.
3. Each shares the word or phrase until all have shared or passed using the same invitation method.
4. The passage is read a second time, preferably from a different translation. The reader then invites a person in the group to begin the process.
5. Each person briefly identifies where this passage touches their life today, and then invites someone who has not shared yet.
6. The passage is read a third time, also from another translation, and the reader invites a person to start the process.
7. Each person responds to the questions, "What does God want me to do, to be or to change?"
8. The group stands up in a circle and holds hands. One person initiates the prayer “I thank God today for …” and “I ask God today for…” The prayer goes around the circle by squeezing the hand to your right.
9. When the circle is fulfilled, the person who initiated the prayer starts the Lord’s Prayer, “Our father…”

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