Notes for the Message Based on Matthew 2:13-23; “A” – Christmas 1


The story of Christmas that Matthew tells us in his Gospel (Matthew 1:12 -2), compresses what was close to four years in the life of the Holy Family into a terse narrative, less than eight hundred words in length.

In these eight hundred words, we learn that Mary was pregnant, Joseph was pouting but was thinking noble thoughts that culminated in a dream, as a result Mary and Joseph were married, Jesus was born, the Magi saw a star and went on a class trip, the Magi came to Herod and then found their way to Bethlehem, the Magi escaped from Herod by “taking another road,” Joseph had another dream, the Holy Family escaped to Egypt and became illegal immigrants for a period of time, Herod ordered the slaughter of all male children in Bethlehem under a certain age, Herod died, the Holy Family returned to Galilee but avoided Judea (just to be safe), and finally the Holy Family settled in Nazareth. That is the Christmas story that Matthew masterfully tells us in less than eight hundred words.

The portion of the Christmas story that we’ve read today is a challenge and a call to us as a people of God to work together through prayer, Bible study and to discern what God wants us to do in the world.


When we think of the Christmas story, most of us stop with nativity. There is certain nobleness in Mary’s pregnancy and Joseph’s acceptance of Mary’s pregnancy and we like nobleness in our lives. Mary’s and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem to register for the census evokes images of stoic perseverance, and we like to think of ourselves as persevering people. There is festivity in the visit of the shepherds and we like laughter and parties. There is generosity in the gifts of the Magi and we like being generous.

And then the Christmas story takes an ugly turn…


It seems that the only person who really understood what the birth of Jesus really meant to him in the grand scheme of things was Herod. The Magi and shepherds, although led by the star or told by the Angels went back to their lives and routines; the Bible does not indicate that they were anywhere near the Holy Family much past the event of the birth of Christ.

King Herod, on the other hand, understood what the birth of Jesus meant to him: it was a threat to his personal power and a possible challenge to his dynasty.

Because Herod understood that threat, the joyful Christmas Story makes a turn into the world of hatred and violence, where a raging Herod vows to kill all the young male children in Bethlehem and the fearful cries of infants and the desperate pleas of parents became a permanent part of the Christmas story. Matthew quoted Jeremiah 31:15 – “A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more” (Matthew 2:18). To protect themselves from that threat the Holy Family had to escape to Egypt.

So what’s in it for us. What can we learn from the WHOLE Christmas story and what it means to us? What can we learn from Holy Family’s flight to Egypt and from Herod’s fears and anxieties?


From the Bible we know that Christ is born to us; from experience we know that Christ is born within us; from tradition we know that we are called to be Christ’s presence in this world and from our reasoning we know that the world is an interconnected place.


Today’s reading invites us to be on the lookout for opportunities to be Christ’s partners in the healing of ourselves, our families, and the world. {Illustration: Supporting church mission}

The massacre at Bethlehem reminds us that Jesus is born not only into a world of beauty and healing but also into a word of violence, destruction and tragedy. The story of the Holy Family’s flight to Egypt reminds us that Jesus is born to us and in us to make us instruments of his peace because we are integral part of God’s presence in this world, AND in the things that God is doing in this world. By protecting the life of their toddler, Joseph and Mary allowed their actions and their lives to become part of God’s love for all of God’s creation. Mary and Joseph made a choice to live as active partners in God’s reconciling love for the world. Just like that, we are invited to be in intentional discernment, making faithful choices and living our beliefs. {Illustration: Bible study}

The story of the slaughter of the innocents that we heard today is realistic. We don’t like to dwell on it but we know that every day countless children die as a result of decisions made by us and by others. We know that countless children of God die because of neglect, famine, genocide, disease or war. We don’t like to dwell on it by we know that there are grieving spouses, homeless families, men and women who have lost hope of finding meaningful employment, frightened immigrants. We live in a world of uncertainty. These uncertainties present us with opportunities to reach out and to spread the message how the love and presence of Jesus help us live our day-to-day lives. {Illustration: Stories that our lives are telling}


Today’s reading brings us hope because it shows us that we can be instruments of God’s peace, we can be bearers of God’s love in the hurting world and we can do it as a community because united in one mission we can accomplish much more than we can accomplish individually. God needed Mary to bear Jesus, and God needed Joseph to protect Mary and Jesus. God needed shepherds to see the birth of Jesus so that they could bear witness that event in Judea. God needed Magi, to find Jesus so that they could bear witness to what they saw to the world beyond Judea. Just like that we all have different talents and abilities. That is what faith communities are about; taking our talents and abilities and learning to work towards a common goal.

Today’s portion of the Christmas story brings us hope by hinting at what we can accomplish in the world that God entrusted into our care. Today’s portion of the Christmas story challenges us to imagine a world where needs are met and love prevails and all work together towards accomplishing this goal.


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