Wednesday, December 27
A Baby King
Narrative Lectionary Daily Devotions written by Kace Leetch from Clergy Stuff.
Although we like to place the magi in the nativity scene with the shepherds and angels, it's likely the magi (astrologers -- they studied and looked for signs among the stars) didn't find Jesus until Jesus was about two years old. It would have taken that long first, to discover the star; second, to determine it was a celestial event worth pursuing; third, to decipher its meaning to the arrival of a king; fourth, to travel a long, long way to follow it; and fifth, to discover exactly where the king had been born. That's quite an undertaking. It also explains why the king, in later verses, had all the children of the region under the age of two killed. Additionally, it is reasonable that Mary and Joseph remained in Bethlehem, although they were from Nazareth -- if Joseph was recalled to Bethlehem because it was his place of birth, he would have had a lot of extended family there. Great for helping with a new baby!
When the magi did finally meet Jesus, they brought him gifts -- frankincense, myrrh, and gold. The gold obviously would help them make ends meet. And they ended up traveling to Egypt to escape the wrath of Herod. The gold surely helped them with their travel expenses. Frankincense and myrrh were both resins used in incense and perfumes. Not only were they expensive, so could also be used to make ends meet, but these were also oils used in burial rituals to preserve bodies. These gifts were hints of what was to come for Jesus who would be killed and buried before his time. Little did they know he would not need frankincense and myrrh to preserve his body, as he was raised from the dead!
Herod was terrified of the idea of a new king. Surely, this new king would try to dethrone him. His only action was to eliminate the king before the king could rise to power. What Herod didn't realize was that his slaughter of the innocents paralleled the story Egypt's slaughter of the babies when Moses was a baby. This story mirroring helped establish for the readers of Matthew that Jesus was at least as important as Moses, who was one of their greatest prophets. This baby king was destined for something great!
Narrative Lectionary Text: Matthew 2:1-12
In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet: ‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.’” Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.”
When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.
Now 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.” Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and 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.”
When 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. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through 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.”
When Herod died, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, “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.” Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. But 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. There 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.”