Lectionary Reflection: Matthew 2:13-23: Christmas Plus One

Here it is Christmas Eve and I am already thinking about the day after Christmas.  And what a day after it was back when this all began…This is written with the understanding that this may not be what people want to hear on Christmas, OR the day after…

I remember the Christmas morning when we woke my parents up, early.  We dragged them to the tree and unwrapped and inordinate amount of presents before the sunrise.  I remember my dad with a cup of coffee wandered to the kitchen window.

“Oh look,” he said.  “Across the street one house just turned on a light.”  He could tell.  It was still dark out and our Christmas was done.  Fortunately, I believe he got a nap.  Good thing since he had to work the next day.  We stayed up and played with all our new things until dark came again and sleep finally overtook us.  That was some Christmas.  Of course, we all got to sleep in the next day, except my dad who had to go to work.  Now that I am older – a good deal older, I must confess my poor dad has all my sympathy.  That must have been a rough day after for him.

I remember the Christmas when I was old enough to know better but still too young to worry about it.  I enjoyed my eggnog, spiked of course.  Then we had plenty of beer for the football games, and since we were all old enough, we had wine with Christmas dinner.  You can imagine.  Whoo-boy, that was not a day after Christmas to remember.  Another rough day.

I remember the year my child –and I won’t say which one, boy or girl – got a toy that they loved almost beyond reason.  I also won’t mention the toy, but I will say it was expensive.  But here, it was like every parent’s dream:  The child actually loved the toy instead of the box it came in.  And then it happened.  Right before bed it broke.  Oh, there was not much sleep that night.  Of course, I could return it the next day, but getting the receipts, repackaging the thing, getting to the store which was some distance away, and then standing in line only to get hassled when it was finally my turn.  Let’s just say by the end of the day I was not feeling very Christian and my words were not exactly praising God.

These, however, were small annoyances.  I suppose if it wasn’t for the occasional little situations, life would be dull.  I am so glad that God is gracious; but then when Jesus was born, the day after was a bit more than a small annoyance.  Herod got furious that he was tricked by the Wise Men.  Joseph had several dreams and followed his instructions this time without question.  You can bet some of that gold, frankincense and Myrrh got spent on rent in Egypt.  And back home, the innocents got slaughtered.

The temptation might be to think that was the way they did things back then but we are better now.  Don’t give into that temptation. 

What will Darfur be like on the day after Christmas?  How many churches in Muslim majority countries will be bombed, invaded, shuttered?  And what of the believers who might be in those churches?  And how many Christians in China and many other countries will spend the holiday in prison simply for believing?  I’m old enough to remember Pol Pot, too.

I heard just yesterday that in the Congo since the year 2000 (just ten years) six million people have been killed.  Six million – sort of reminiscent of Jews in Germany.  The warring factions there could not agree on anything except the Pygmies tasted good.  They used machetes on their own people, and ate them.

And back then?  The government got ticked and the children suffered.  Not so different.  I have four children.  I can hardly imagine.  We lost a child when my wife was six months pregnant and I can hardly imagine.  Every child two years old and younger was slaughtered.  Sword or machete, what’s the difference?  Well, maybe back then they ate beforehand.

A couple of things come to mind here.

For one, I am complaining, I suppose, about the loss of a little sleep, about a headache in the morning, about standing in line.  The truth is we have been so blessed in the country it is almost beyond reason.  Have we thanked the Lord for his blessing?  Have we rightly praised him?  Or have we taken it all for granted?  You decide. 

For two, I am so glad Jesus escaped.  It could not have been an easy transition.  It must have been heart-wrenching and I can imagine the days when Mary and Joseph wondered if they would ever be able to go home again.  They were refugees in the truest sense and like so many today who only wish they could go home, especially for Christmas.  Have we prayed for these people, that they might escape their unjust prisons and the devastation of their homes – that they might come home from one war or another – that there might be peace on earth, good will toward all?

I am so glad Jesus escaped, as hard as it must have been for him and his family.  His day after was truly hard.  But for us?  I pray this:  That your day after and every day after may be blessed for you and yours.  That you may be spared the kind of trouble that Jesus and his family faced – the kind of terror that rules this world apart from God.  And will you pray with me?

Grace & Peace,

-Michael

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