Devotional Thoughts for the first Sunday after Christmas: St.Mathew
Dearly beloved in Christ,
The birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem was an epoch making chapter in the history of mankind. It happened to be the appearance of
spiritual truth which shed light to the whole world. Jesus Christ
came to this world as an embodiment of divine light that enlightens all those who fumble in darkness of evil. He came as the love that eradicates hatred and the energy that enables people to live a better life (St.John 1:9).
In the gospel of Mathew 2, we read of the journey of Magi to Bethlehem. Tradition holds that the wise men from East were three
in number known by the names as Melchoir, Casper, and Balthazar and
they were from Persia, Egypt and India. The legends related to the
ancient church - St.Mary's Syrian Orthodox Valiyapally at Piravom
near Cochin -also known as `Rajakkanmarudepally' shed light into the
relation of Magi with India. They were astrologers who had the
special skill of discerning the signs and changes in the
constellation. God- the all knowing- set a silver star for guiding
them to Jesus Christ- the Sun of righteousness (Malachi 4:2, Mathew
13:43) Light of Light, very God of very God (John 1:4, 5:18, 12:35-
37 1 John 1; 5-7). Every science including astrology leads us to the
real living God.
The birth of Christ happened in a time when people all over the
world were awaiting a saviour who was capable of saving them from
the clutches of Satan- from the bondage of sin (StLuke2:25-38). The
Brigadaranyakopanisad 1:3:28 reads thus: "Asathoma Sat Gamaya,
Thamsoma Jyothirgamaya, Mrithyoma Amritham Gamaya" (Kindly lead us
from untruth to truth, from darkness to light, and from death to
immortality).It is obvious from this celebrated prayer that our
forefathers in the far east-India- also had been looking forward for
some one who is capable of leading them from darkness to light, from
untruth to truth, and from death to immortality. Therefore, Christ
and Christmas in a way are relevant to the people of Hindustan as
well. Christ and Christmas are not limited to Christians alone but
the joy of Christmas and the salvation of Christ are extended to
people all over the world. The angel of God proclaimed this
universality when he announced the birth of Jesus to the
shepherds "Do not be afraid, for see, I am bringing you good news
(Gospel) of great joy for all the people ; to you is born this day in the city of David a saviour who is the Messiah, the Lord(St.Luke 2:10-11).
Therefore, Christmas- which is the celebration of the birth of Christ- is a journey in search of light, a journey in search of truth, a journey in search of immortality, a journey in search of a living God who is worthy to be worshipped. It is a festival of light and its radiance is not confined to any particular day or a particular area but sustains to everywhere and for everyday. This is why we celebrate Christmas every year. The quest of the Magi was to find a person who is worthy to be worshipped. Their purpose of journey was to offer a true worship to the living God. It is clear from their words as said in Mat 2:2, "We have come to worship Him". It was a God- oriented journey for the realisation of their lives' goal. They must have taken much pain and strain in reaching the infant Jesus who was full man and full God. It is to be remembered that they made all their way down to Bethlehem at a time when the means of transportation and technology was not so advanced as of today.
We see that they brought very precious gifts for Jesus. Gold,
Myrrh and Frankincense; all represented Christ's three fold
ministries a three essential commodities relative of three
ministries such as Royal hood, Priesthood, and Godhood. Gold, a
royal element, offered to him was to indicate his royal hood (Psalms
45:9-14, St.Luke 1:33). Frankincense, an element used in religious
rituals, was indicative of his priesthood. Myrrh, an element usually
used at the time of burial was to indicate the importance of Christ's unique death (John 19:39, Mark14:3-9).Myrrh-a sweet smelling resin- served as a medicine. (Mark 15:23) was indicative of the healing power of Jesus proving his divinity. All healing comes from God. (Psalms 103:3, Exodus 15:26). Frankincense indicates Christ's holiness as a priest (Hebrew 7:26, Myrrh indicates Christ's eternity as God. Gold indictes his mightiness as King of Kings
(Rev.19:16).This proves of Jesus divinity - a holy God, an almighty
God and an immortal God (Isaiah 9:8). This coming of Magi to
Bethlehem was the fulfilment of the prophecy recorded in Isaiah
What is our attitude when we offer anything at the time of worship?
Are we able to honestly set apart our tithe for the church related
activities? How much effort we take up when we are to offer worship at the church? The Magi might have taken nearly two long years and travelled a long distance from their respective places to reach Bethlehem to offer their worship and that too all in their
limitations. Are we able to find at least two hours in spending
inside the church for worship? Aren't we reluctant to attending
service on Sundays and on important liturgical occasions because of the hectic schedule of lives that we all are unfortunately involved in nowadays? We must learn from them how we should be in taking effort to attending our Sunday worship in our churches even when we have plenty of amenities. Let us see what God wants us to do through prophet Malachi: "Bring the full amount of your tithes to the Temple, so that there will be plenty of food there. Put me to the test and you will see that I will open the windows of heaven and pour out on you in abundance all kinds of good things". (Malachi 3:10).
On their way to find Jesus they happened to meet King Herod. They
made their search in the palace of King Herod for Jesus but they
could not find him there. Jesus was not found in the comfort of
herodian luxury. Even king Herod did not know of Jesus' whereabouts
though Jesus was born under his nose. However hard he tried, he could not find Jesus in his area. Because it is said that only one who is pure in heart can see God. (Mathew 5:8). Jesus is revealed to one who makes a personal endeavour in seeking Christ. Jesus would never be in a place where arrogance of power and wealth rule the roost. Instead, he is found only a house of humility and simplicity. He is manifested to one who earnestly seeks Him. The question, "Where is the baby born to be the king of the Jews"? , still echoes in our ears. Are we able to find Jesus in our lives? If Christ is not born in our hearts, our celebrations of Christmas become meaningless.
The Star of the East that guided the Magi to infant Jesus stands here as a sign and symbol. The symbols used in our liturgy are meant to lead us all to the vicinity of God -the transcendent. We read in this passage that the wise men were so happy seeing the star. (Verse 10) Are we happy when we see the symbols in our church? And when they reached the house where Jesus had been to, they prostrated before him, worshipped him, and offered to Him what they had brought. This is the real mode of worship and it is a point to be noted that these three form part of our orthodox liturgy. Yet another point to be noted is that Jesus was seen along with his mother St. Mary in his house. Here comes the relevance of St.Mary in our liturgy.
Finally we read in the passage that they were asked not to turn back
to Herod. Instead, they straight away went back to their own home.
After seeing Jesus- the real God- no one needs to revisit Herodian
palace on one's spiritual journey. After accepting Christ, we are
supposed to give up our old life style and are bound to lead holy and austere life- a life totally different from that of the secular
world. Anyone who is joined to Christ is a new being; the old is
gone, the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17).
On this first Sunday after Christmas, let us prepare ourselves for
Christ to come to our lives. Let us find some space in our personal
lives for him to born and dwell in our hearts. Let us set off a
spiritual journey- a pilgrimage- in search of Christ and worship Him
in truth and spirit with everything that we have with us. Let us
usher in the New Year with a renewed hope and aspirations. Let us
enter into the year 2008 with new hopes and good determinations. Let
the years to come be brighter than the yesteryears. May the good God
who was born for us sinners, bless us with his very presence. I
wish you all a very peaceful and blessed new year.
With love and prayers,
Yours in His service.
George achen, Ireland.
St.Peter's&St.Paul's Orthodox Congregation,