A short reflection used throughout a candlit carol service at church.
Ironies of the Nativity in Matthew 2
2:1 “Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea…”
Bethlehem. The ancestral birth place of the Great King David, through whose line the promised Messiah would come. So Jesus was born of a royal human line in fulfillment of Scripture and the hope of the word. Born in a place which means “House of Bread” – a clue to His own identity as the Bread of Heaven, the bread which fed the Israelites in their wandering wilderness, and ultimately, his claim to be the Bread of Life. “No one lives by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Jesus is the Word of God that comes from the mouth of God. It is on Him we feed and find true sustenance.
2:1 “…in the days of Herod the King…”
In the days of one king, is born another. In the days of a false king, an example of human pomp and arrogance, is born the true King, in humility and weakness. A King born into this world, whose kingdom is not of this world. A heavenly fulfillment of an earthly promise: He shall reign forever, King of Kings and Lord of lords.
2:2 “…wise men came saying, ‘Where is he who is born King of the Jews? We have come to worship him.’”
Wise men sought Jesus. Wise men still do. Wise men seeking a King, the King, but no ordinary King. This is wise men seeking the wisdom of God. And this wisdom is foolishness to men, but still it is wiser than our wisest. So there they kneel; there they bow; wise men with their gifts to the child, when it was the child who made the universe, such is God’s wisdom.
2:3 “…Herod assembled the chief priests and scribes and they told him that the prophet had said the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem…”
The scribes and chief priests had searched and known the Scriptures. Jesus would say years later to this group, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; but it is they that testify about me.” The chief priests had missed the testimony of the Great High Priest among them, one like Moses who would save his people.
2:9 “The star they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over where the child was.”
Jesus said, “I am the root and offspring of David, and the bright morning star.” Jesus is the Light of the world by which all people are called. He is the one who holds the seven stars of God in his right hand. The number 7 for perfection and the right hand for strength. Jesus is the perfect Son of God who saves and delivers. He is the light of the world.
2:15 “…they remained in Egypt until Herod’s death, to fulfill what the prophet had said, ‘Out of Egypt I called my son.’”
Just as Jacob’s family went to Egypt to escape a famine and were protected in Egypt, so Jesus escapes to Egypt and is protected. Just as Moses led the Israelite slaves from Egypt, so Jesus is called out of Egypt. Just as the Gospel of Christ is Good News for the whole world, so Jesus goes to Egypt to embody the hidden purposes of God for the salvation of the world. In Christ there is no longer male nor female, slave nor free, Jew nor Gentile, but all are one in Christ.
2:16 “Herod became furious and sent and killed all the boys two years and under in Bethlehem.”
Thus just as Pharaoh had the Israelite children killed so Herod had the Bethlehem children killed. The Kingdom of God is a threat to abuses of political power! Just as Moses led the children of Israel to freedom in the Exodus, so Jesus leads the Second Exodus of his Cross. Just as God defeated Egyptian gods by displays of plague and power, so Jesus defeats sin, death and the devil with a display of weakness by crucifixion. Unlike Pharoah and Herod, Jesus does not kill to hold on to power, He gives up power by being killed.
2:23 “And he went and lived in a city called Nazareth.”
But there will be no more gloom for her who was in anguish. He has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations: The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light, those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness on them has light shined.
Can anything good come from Nazareth?
No one is good but God alone!
I am the Good Shepherd. I am the Light of the World. I am the Bread of life. I am the Truth.
So can anything good come from Nazareth? Perhaps in Jesus’ day this was the greatest miracle of them all. No one is Good but God alone. If you’ve seen me you’ve seen the Father. Yes! Something Good did come from Nazareth. The Good God sent his Son the Good Shepherd to save sinners like Herod, you, me, for something glorious and good.
Arise shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.
This was also published as a guest post on my brother’s blog over at swivel-chair-theology in 2012