Christmas 1 December 29, 2019

December 29, 2019  

Christmas 1 2019

Matthew 2:13-23

Our Savior’s La Crosse

 

A philosopher once wrote:

I tried to find out for myself, from the start, when I was a child, what was right and what was wrong—because no one around me could tell me. And now… I realize I need someone to show me the way and to blame me and praise me, by right not of power but of authority, I needed a father.

I thought I knew it, and that I had myself in hand, I don’t know any longer.

            (The First Man by Albert Camus)

 The Nobel prize winning philosopher and writer who share those thoughts was Albert Camus. Camus died in 1960 but his last manuscript was not published until 1994. The book was incomplete, based on a manuscript found in the wreckage of the car accident that killed him. The story is autobiographical, about his childhood growing up in Algeria. The book includes footnotes that are actual notes he wrote to himself about what he was writing. The quote I just read to you was one of his footnotes.

Camus’ father died in a battle in France when Albert was just 1 year old. As an adult, as a husband and as a father of two adolescent children, Camus found himself longing for his father, thinking his father could tell him what he needed to know about right and wrong. He wanted his father to tell him how to live. Apparently Camus was feeling lost. He was trying to figure out the meaning of life and he felt lost.

Feeling lost isn’t uncommon. Most of us feel that way at one point or another. Sometimes we are, literally, lost. Other times, like for Camus, we might be trying to figure out how we ought to live and simply don’t have a clue. Those are the moments when we want someone to tell us, just tell us what we need to know.

Camus was not a religious man. He didn’t have a faith to lean on that would show him the way forward. We do.

So here we are, on the first Sunday after Christmas, our ugly holiday sweater day, reading Matthew’s story about the slaughter of the innocents.

Whenever this text comes up, I wonder why Matthew felt compelled to tell the story. There is no historical proof, no documentation of Herod ever having all of the boys 2 years old and under living in Bethlehem killed. No other gospel records the event. Just Matthew. Which begs the question: why? Why did Matthew make this story part of his telling of the birth narrative? The story of babies being killed is horrible…

Think politically. What kind of king or ruler or leader finds the possibility of another leader taking his place so threatening that he would have every baby boy in his kingdom killed to prevent the future leader from growing up?

 

Maybe Matthew tells the story to remind us, in the midst of our holiday season, what kind of world Jesus was born into. Maybe Matthew tells the story because he wants to remind us how desperately the world needed Jesus, how desperately our world still needs the ministry and the message Jesus brought.

Jesus came into a world that desperately needed to be shown the way. Jesus came into a world that needed to be taught how they ought to live. Jesus came into a world that yearned for an authoritative voice.

We live in a world that continues to need to be shown the way. We need to be taught how we ought to live. We yearn for authoritative voices.

Think about Mary and Joseph and their flight to Egypt with a newborn baby. They were political refugees, traveling because they had been warned that the king was going to kill baby boys. They journeyed to Egypt because they trusted God when God told them to go—and they trusted the land of Egypt to provide them with safe harbor.

There are families around the world seeking refuge in other countries because of the violence in their own homelands. They go, trusting they will find safe harbor.

When God told us that God loved the world, and called us to love one another, God didn’t put boundaries or borders on the love God called and calls us to share. Neither should we.

Each of us, after all, is on a journey. Our journeys may vary. Our destinations may or may not be clear. What we all need to know and to trust is that we are never alone.

God is with us.

God is speaking to us.

God is showing us the way.

Just as God is with every traveler, whatever their reason for traveling.

Amen.