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Homily for1/11/04 - Sunday after Nativity

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  • David Moser
    Matt 2:13-23 After the birth of Christ, the angel came again to the righteous Joseph and instructed him to take the mother and child and flee to Egypt because
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 18, 2004
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      Matt 2:13-23

      After the birth of Christ, the angel came again to the righteous Joseph and
      instructed him to take the mother and child and flee to Egypt because Herod
      intended to kill the child. Joseph, who had accepted the role of the
      guardian of both the Virgin Mary and the Christ Child, then took his family
      and began the long journey into Egypt. According to tradition they settled
      in Cairo and there lived until the danger from Herod was past.

      How strange it seems that it was necessary for Jesus Christ, Who is God
      incarnate, to flee from danger posed by a mere man. Could not God have
      ordained the death of Herod in such a timely manner so that his plans of
      slaughter could not be carried out? Could not have the searching soldiers
      passed over the Christ child without seeing Him, just as later on, our Lord
      passed through the midst of an angry mob that was preparing to stone Him?
      Could not His attackers been struck blind or have withered arms and hands as
      happened to those who attacked the saints? Why was it necessary for our Lord
      to flee the hand of a mere man, Herod the king?

      First is the fact that God truly did take on not only human flesh but the
      whole life of man which is subject to many dangers. In his great humility
      and love for mankind, He submitted Himself fully to the frailty and
      vulnerability of life in the world. Had He avoided these things by
      supernatural power, then there would have been doubts that He had truly
      become man. Despite the joyful proclamation of His birth, the evil one still
      was unaware of the true nature of this Child - and such a supernatural
      intervention would have exposed the Christ Child to greater danger from the
      evil one than He already faced. In order that He might grow and develop to
      adulthood in peace and safety, it was better that the evil one, who
      continually plots against the servants of God, would think that this child
      had been killed. That this is the case is made evident by the remark that
      upon their return from Egypt, the righteous Joseph took his family to
      Nazareth and settled there so that our Lord was known as a Nazarene - a
      place from whence no prophet was foretold to have risen.

      In addition, our Lord's flight to Egypt as an infant is part of the
      providence of God's salvation. In order to see this more clearly we have to
      ask the question, "Why Egypt?" Why did not the righteous Joseph simply go
      north to Nazareth in the first place, or perhaps simply to go to some place
      nearer but out of the reach of Herod. He could have protected mother and
      child much more simply this way - why was he commanded to go all the way to
      Egypt? Egypt was (and still is) a long an arduous journey overland, it seems
      like an unnecessary hardship to travel so far. And yet all this was
      necessary because it was a part of God's providence for our salvation. By
      going to Egypt, it was demonstrated that our Lord came not only to the Jews
      but to the whole world. Egypt had always represented "the outside world" to
      the Hebrew people. Egypt, along with Babylon, represented the utter depths
      of sinfulness. In Egypt the worship of false gods had developed early on to
      a fine art - the pharaohs were worshipped as gods long before the Caesars
      came up with the idea of their own divinity. Egypt had a pantheon of gods to
      rival anything even the Greeks produced. The moral degradation in Egypt was
      easily the equal of any other place in the world. And yet it was into this
      place that Christ came, in order to demonstrate that His coming was even to
      the greatest of sinners - as He said "I did not come to call the righteous
      but the sinners to repentance" Egypt was also the historic enemy of the
      Hebrew people, conquering and enslaving them time and again. And yet it was
      to Egypt that our Lord fled for refuge (even as the prophet Joseph was given
      refuge in Egypt from the persecution of his brothers). In coming to Egypt
      and bringing to them the Divine presence, our Lord demonstrated in His own
      body the commandment to love your enemies and to do good to them that hate
      you. In going to Egypt as an infant our Lord demonstrated these things.

      In the flight to Egypt, God demonstrated for us the missionary nature of the
      Gospel. Even before our Lord had grown and taken on His public ministry, He
      took a missionary journey that He might share His presence with the whole
      world, not just the Hebrew people. In like manner the apostles, after our
      Lord's ascension, were sent out to proclaim the Gospel to the whole world -
      and in the same manner, we too are sent to the whole world to proclaim the
      Gospel. Our Lord did not undertake this journey to Egypt as an intentional
      missionary - rather He went out of necessity. But no matter where He went,
      He brought the presence of God into the world. Nor did He "preach and teach"
      in Egypt - He was simply there as a refugee, but again simply by being there
      and by being Who He is, He brought the light of God into the dark places. So
      also we do not have to go off on special "missionary" trips to do this,
      rather we simply go where God sends us for whatever mundane reason, but
      where ever we go we proclaim the Gospel, not necessarily by preaching and
      teaching, but simply by living our lives.

      Today we remember the three righteous ones, David the King, Joseph the
      betrothed and James the brother of the Lord. These three saints also
      demonstrate for us the missionary nature of our faith. The prophet and King
      David was no missionary, he was rather a warrior king and a poet. But under
      his rule and the rule of his heir, Solomon, the land of Israel gained its
      greatest material and political prominence in the world. And it gained this
      recognition as the land of the chosen people of the One True God. Simply by
      being faithful to God, it was in God's providence to raise up His people to
      demonstrate to the world the worship of the True God and to show to the
      world the covenant between the True God and those who would serve Him. For
      those who had eyes to see - God was revealed to them. In this manner David
      the King was also a missionary - for, by his faithfulness, he proclaimed the
      rule and power of God to the whole world. Joseph, the betrothed, the
      protector of the Virgin Mary and the Christ Child, by his obedience, was the
      instrument by which our Lord traveled to Egypt and so brought the presence
      of God to the whole world. Even before this, Joseph by his steadfast faith
      in the word of God even in the face of seemingly inexplicable events
      declared to the whole world the necessity of the denial of self and of
      submitting the will to God. By his obedience Joseph was also a missionary,
      proclaiming faith and trust in God to the world. James, the brother of the
      Lord, was the son of Joseph by his first wife. James, of all the sons of
      Joseph, was the one who was closest to Jesus Christ. We see in some icons of
      the flight to Egypt that James accompanied his father and the Virgin and her
      Child on this journey. After the death of Joseph, as the brothers were
      dividing the inheritance of their father, the others did not wish to grant
      Jesus a share of this inheritance for he was still young and had not worked
      to contribute to the inheritance. Only James spoke out in defense of Jesus
      amongst his brothers and chose to divide his own share of the inheritance
      with Jesus . Because of his brotherly devotion and love, James alone among
      all the sons of Joseph is called the "brother of the Lord". Because of his
      love of Christ, James was among the earliest believers and followers of
      Christ. He was so firm in his faith that he was the first of the bishops of
      the Church in Jerusalem. He was also among the first of the martyrs, laying
      down his life for Christ. James by his love of God was also a missionary
      showing to the world the salvation of Christ and caring for the flock as a
      bishop.

      Today, the Sunday after the feast of our Lord's Nativity, we recall these
      three righteous ones, each of whom were missionaries, bringing the presence
      of God to the world. Our Lord, even in His infancy, teaches us that the
      Christian faith is a missionary faith and that no matter where our lives
      take us, whether we go as kings or as refugees or as martyrs, we proclaim th
      e coming of Christ, the presence of God in the world. Where ever we are,
      whatever we are doing, we are missionaries and by our lives we bring God to
      the world.
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