Narrative Lectionary Key Verse for Today
NL Daily Devotion for Sunday, January 6, 2019
by Dr. Kimberly Leetch, Clergy Stuff
Main Idea: Hope is a powerful survival tool.
Jews in Jesus’ day were concerned with ending their occupation by Rome. They were seeking signs within their faith tradition for hope and guidance. Matthew’s gospel offered both. The story of Jesus’ birth and the visit by the magi (astrologers, also seeking signs from the heavens— the skies) set up Jesus not only as the one to save Israel from Roman rule, but also the deliverer promised by God by the prophets.
Interestingly, the prophets proclaimed variations in their stories of the deliverer. Some placed the deliverer from the town of Bethlehem. Some from Egypt. Others from Nazareth. Matthew’s gospel solves this conflict by placing Jesus in each of these locations—Jesus was born in Bethlehem, fled from Herod to Egypt, and settled in Nazareth.
But Matthew doesn’t stop there. Not only does Matthew look back at the words of the prophets, but the story also looks forward to the importance of the child. The gifts brought by the magi—gold, frankincense, and myrrh— were gifts for a king, but also gifts used to prepare a body for burial. Even from the beginning, Matthew’s gospel establishes Jesus’ royalty and the work he would do to save the world—death on a cross and resurrection.
Matthew’s gospel brings hope to a weary people. Even the messages delivered in dreams convey the hope that God is on their side and will deliver them as God has done so many times before. But in this story, the deliverance isn’t for this life only, but for eternal life. The salvation isn’t just for people, but for all of creation.
Elizabeth Smart is a young woman who survived a kidnapping in the early 2000’s. For nine months, she was held captive, raped, and mentally abused by her captors. She never gave up hope that one day she would be rescued. On her first day of captivity, she took a safety pin off her nightgown and pinned it to the inside of the sleeve of the robe they made her wear. That little safety pin was all she had left of home. Her memories of home, held secure by that safety pin, gave her hope to keep going
those long nine months. She was finally rescued and now fights hard to keep kids safe. She offers hope that people enduring great suffering can survive.
Narrative Lectionary Daily Reading:
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 fulfil 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.’