God Time for January 3-7
(start with five minutes of appreciation memories)
Tuesday January 3
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked,“Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him”… On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.
Here we go again. Just as we saw at Christmas, there is a lot of things we take as part of the Christmas story that aren’t necessarily there. Like three wisemen in manger scenes everywhere.
The wisemen are called Magi in the original Bible language. They are most likely astronomer astrologists. They would read the stars and tell people’s fortunes. The word Magi is our clue. Just like our word magic. One thing we know for sure is they are not kings. The guy who wrote “We Three Kings” may have gotten two things wrong. These are Magi not kings. He probably said kings because they brought expensive gifts. And why is it three kings? There is no number given in the Bible. He probably used three because that is the number of gifts. Gold, frankincense, and myrrh. We know the word Magi is in the plural so there are at least two guys, but there could have been 20. We’ll stick with three.
Why weren’t the Magi at the cave on Christmas night? They visit the baby at a house. And it could have been as long as two years after his birth. We will see this is the time period King Herod is using. But, why are Mary and Joseph still in Bethlehem? Well, back in Nazareth, there is still the shadow of shame over the birth of a baby, whose parents, they think, weren’t even married when they had him. There are only about 500 people living in Nazareth, so Mary and Joseph are related to many of the townspeople and everybody knows everybody else’s business.
So, the Magi come to Bethlehem and find Jesus there. Where are the Magi from? Magi come from Persia. This is the bedrock of wisdom in the ancient time. It’s interesting that present day Iran, which is Persia of old, still has the most educated people in the Middle East, outside of Israel. And it appears they are getting wiser. It is estimated that Iran now has the fastest growing Christian population in the world. Wise men continue to seek Jesus.
So, these Magi come bearing gifts. And what gifts! They start Jesus off as a wealthy child. And the funds would soon be needed because of what happens next.
When you think of the three wise men, what do they look like?
Wednesday January 4
After the wise men were gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up! Flee to Egypt with the child and his mother,” the angel said. “Stay there until I tell you to return, because Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” That night Joseph left for Egypt with the child and Mary, his mother, and they stayed there until Herod’s death. This fulfilled what the Lord had spoken through the prophet: “I called my Son out of Egypt.”
Here goes the comparisons again. Egypt is where Joseph starts off as a slave and then he becomes a key ruler and saves the Jewish people who go to Egypt to escape famine. Later, the Jewish people in Egypt would be forced into slavery and Moses would lead them out to the Promise Land, Israel.
Now, Jesus is the new Israel, the one who steps in to save the Jewish people, along with all people, leaves the Promise Land and escapes to Egypt. Out of Egypt into the Promise Land. Out of the Promise Land into Egypt.
When they are in Egypt how do they live? No family or friends.Well, the gold, frankincense, and myrrh would sure come in handy, wouldn’t it? A case of God providing in an unusual way.
Think about a time in your life of God providing in an unusual way.
Thursday January 5
Herod was furious when he realized that the wise men had outwitted him. He sent soldiers to kill all the boys in and around Bethlehem who were two years old and under, based on the wise men’s report of the star’s first appearance. Herod’s brutal action fulfilled what God had spoken through the prophet Jeremiah:
A cry was heard in Ramah weeping and great mourning.
Rachel weeps for her children refusing to be comforted for they are dead.”
This is the dark part of Christmas. Herod estimates that Jesus is born sometime in the last two years, according to the Magi’s report. So, like brutal leaders today and in every age, he slaughters babies. This horrendous act is commemorated on December 26th. The day is called, “The Slaughter of the Innocent” or “Massacre of the Innocent.”
Why would Herod do this? The clue is given in the Magi’s opening statement. “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?”
King Herod is presently the king of the Jews, isn’t he? Well, not if the promised Messiah is here. So, like so many absolute rulers, Herod will do anything to hold on to his power. Even kill the one whom he knows God is sending to save his people.
This is the way of the world though isn’t it? When adults do evil, it’s the children who suffer. From the slaughter of war, to the war on children through abortion, the massacre continues. Lord have mercy, we need the Messiah more than ever to save us from ourselves.
What can you do to combat evil toward children?
Friday January 6
When Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt. “Get up!” the angel said. “Take the child and his mother back to the land of Israel, because those who were trying to kill the child are dead.” So Joseph got up and returned to the land of Israel with Jesus and his mother. But when he learned that the new ruler of Judea was Herod’s son Archelaus, he was afraid to go there.
Joseph continues to be guided by God in his dreams. Normally we hear from God through the scriptures, hearing the word taught and preached, through study, and through our own prayer life. God’s main way to speak to us is in our thoughts.
Why is it different with Joseph? Well, we don’t need to assume he is not hearing from God on a regular basis. Undoubtedly he is because he is a faithful man. But, there are some things Joseph needs to know that he can know no other way. If the holy family is isolated in Egypt, how else are they going to get news concerning Herod?
So they return to Judea. In other words to Bethlehem which is in Judea. It seems they won’t be going back to Nazareth after all. Except that Joseph hears Herod’s son is now ruler. Jesus is still in danger! Now what do they do?
It is a father’s place to support and protect his family. Joseph is such a great example of this. But his heroism doesn’t come from his great strength or wisdom. The reason Joseph is such a strong father is he has a strong father. God his Father. The human Jesus is protected by his human father who is protected by his heavenly Father. This is the most important thing fathers can do in the lives of their children. Be a model of trust and openness to God.
Who has been an important man in your life?
Saturday January 7
Then, after being warned in a dream, he left for the region of Galilee. So the family went and lived in a town called Nazareth. This fulfilled what the prophets had said: “He will be called a Nazarene.”
Joseph has one more dream. It is time to return home. Time to face the people of Nazareth with his wife and child. And with this, another prophecy from the Old Testament is fulfilled. Jesus of Nazareth is living up to name.
There you have it. This is the Christmas story from the Gospel of Matthew. No talk of being born in a cave and placed in a manger. No shepherds keeping watch over their flocks at night. So, what does Matthew emphasize? The Gospel of Matthew is written for Jews and so the emphasis on prophecies being fulfilled is important. But, what is also important is to see the word of God goes far beyond the Holy Land. The Magi returning would certainly have much to say. But, for me, Matthew gives a more detailed picture of how important Joseph is in the life of our Lord. Mary will always be in the spotlight, but thank God for Joseph. The boy is safe and has made it home at last.
Keep celebrating Christmas!