RCL Christmas II
Jeremiah 31:7-14, Psalm 84, Ephesians 1:3-6 and 15-19a,
Saint Matthew 2:13-15 and 19-23

Today is the Twelfth Day of Christmas, the last day of Christmas, and we have a Gospel that is a portion of Saint Matthew’s story of Jesus’ birth. It is quite different from Saint Luke’s story of the tax and the shepherds.

I said on Christmas Eve that the central character of Saint Luke’s version is the baby himself. But in Saint Matthew’s version, particularly today’s Gospel, we seem to have a different central character.

I count three instances in the Gospel where dreams brought by the angel of the Lord influence Joseph to change course to protect and to identify the baby. In this sequence the central character is not the baby but the Lord, or God the Father, who commands the angel to direct Joseph through his dreams.

First, the angel directs the Holy Family to go down to Egypt to protect the child from Herod’s wrath. You remember Herod’s massacre of the infants in Jerusalem undertaken to destroy Jesus. This first direction saves the baby Jesus from Herod.

The second angelic direction brings the Holy Family up from Egypt after Herod’s death. And the third angelic direction sends the Holy Family to Nazareth to be distant from Archelaus, Herod’s son.

Going down and coming up from Egypt fulfill a prophecy of Hosea,[1] that God’s Son would come from Egypt. And going over to Nazareth fulfills a prophecy of Isaiah that God’s Son will be called a Nazorean.[2]

God the Father busily directs the Holy Family to protect the child from danger and to conform his life to prophecy.

As we read through Saint Matthew this year, I think we should continually remind ourselves that God is actively at work in our lives no less than he is actively at work in Jesus’ life. Everything that happens to us is part of God’s providential plan for each of us to save us and to identify us as his own forever. Nothing escapes God’s notice; nothing is too small for God to use to protect us and to strengthen our identity; nothing is so big but that God can use it for his purposes.

But we, like Joseph, are not mere puppets in God’s providential play. Our choices to apply our freedom over and over again to identify everything that happens to us with God’s loving purposes help us to see his hand in everything. And by seeing his hand in everything we declare God to be our ruler and guide, and we coöperate with his loving purposes, just like Joseph.

When we pray “thy kingdom come, thy will be done” we are praying that we coöperate ever more closely with God’s loving purposes. We are praying that we accept and follow God’s will for us. We pray that we have decided and agreed to put ourselves in God’s hands, where we were anyway. Agreeing with God’s will for us keeps us in his hands, the best place we can ever be.

[1] Hosea 11:1.

[2] Isaiah 11:1.