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Christmas 2, January 2, 2011

Christmas 2C RCL January 2, 2011

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

Our reading from the prophet Jeremiah is speaking to a people in exile, people who are finding it almost impossible to hang on to any hope, people who are finding it difficult to believe that God is still present. Of this passage, the wise biblical scholar Walter Brueggemann wrote, “In every season, including ours, the oracle of God breaks the dread of exile. Exiles are those who live in resignation, believing that no newness is possible.” God calls to the people, calls them home, tells them that everyone will be returning—the blind and the lame, those with child, everyone. All of God’s people will be restored in community.

So we see here two powerful themes—the theme of exile and the theme of homecoming. Perhaps some of us have experienced a sense of exile. All of us yearn for home.

Psalm 84 is a song that was sung by pilgrims going to the temple in Jerusalem. It is a song of homecoming.

The epistle this morning reminds us that, before the creation of the world, God was reaching out to us in love. The great gift of Christ is just that—a gift—nothing that we could ever have earned. And God is always working on our behalf. The writer prays for a spirit of wisdom and revelation for the people in Ephesus, and also offers that wonderful prayer that “the eyes of our hearts may be enlightened.”

In today’s gospel, we focus on one of the key figures of Advent and Christmas, and that is Jesus’ earthly father, Joseph. Joseph is an extraordinary man. He is very close to God. Earlier, when Mary found out that she was going to give birth to the Savior, an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream and told him that this new life was the work of the Holy Spirit. Now, after the Wise Men leave, an angel appears to Joseph and tells him to take Mary and Jesus to Egypt to escape Herod, who is searching for the child to kill him.

After Herod dies, an angel tells Joseph that he should take his family back to Israel, but, when Joseph finds out that Archelaus, Herod’s son, is ruling over Judea, he is guided in a dream to go to Galilee. And so he goes, and settles his family in Nazareth.

The word angel literally means messenger. Angels are messengers of God, and in those days, God often guided people through dreams. Joseph was a deeply spiritual man who lived his life according to the guidance of God.

Mary, Jesus, and Joseph began their life together as exiles. They had to flee to Egypt in order to stay alive. There are many people in that situation today, people who, because of tyrannical rulers, are subjected to hardships beyond description. Our Lord began his life on earth in that position.

As we continue to celebrate the Light that shines in the darkness, we are never far from the forces of darkness which would overcome that Light. As we celebrate the call to the exiles to return home, we also may become aware of ways in which we are in exile—paralyzed, cut off in various ways—perhaps from God or from our own best and truest selves, or from a full vision of what life can be.

God calls us into the light. God calls us back from exile. God calls us home, to our ultimate true home, with God. And God sustains us and has been sustaining us since before the world began.

May our lives and our life together be filled with that Light!

Amen.

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