52 Weeks at the Table - Week 32When a baby is born, you want everything to be perfect. Especially, when the perfect Baby is born; the One whom prophets and angels have foretold; the One who will take away sins. But what the prophets foretold was not the idyllic, perfect story we tell at Christmastide - and Matthew's second chapter checks off each prophecy as evil threatens this perfect One:
- Herod polls the religious leaders, who correctly recall that the Christ was to be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2)
- Joseph, warned of Herod, takes Mary and the child to safety in Egypt (Hosea 11:1)
- Frustrated at not finding his prey, Herod orders the slaughter of the innocents of Bethlehem (Jeremiah 31:15)
- After Herod's death, they return to live in Nazareth
Here Matthew says prophets - plural - call Him a Nazarene, and while there may be a similarity in that word to the Hebrew word (netser / neser) for "shoot" or "branch" (Isaiah 11:1 - as well as it becoming a synonym for a person ill-regarded (Isaiah 53:3; John 1:46) - what we know is this: the baby showers given by admiring shepherds and wealthy wise men were followed by a flight from terrorism, and a return in anonymity to a place where no one would look for an anointed King of Righteousness. Because Satan's forces would stop at nothing - including mass infanticide - to try to defeat One who would take away sins.
Holy and Righteous God, help us to see beyond our desire for a nice and sweet and harmless, perfect Savior to the heinous arrogance of the sin that seeks to beguile and persuade and corrupt us. Remind us in this bread of the body given by a mighty and sinless, powerful Savior - Your own perfection incarnate from cradle to cross - to rescue us from its grasp. Amen.
Father of the Loving, Living Son: We recognize that it was heaven's dearest blood that Herod sought and that his successor succeeded in spilling. It was Jesus' blood poured out and given, recognized in this cup, which takes away sins ... which protects us from the evil one ... which gives us a name and a place and a family. Your family. Amen.