Summary: Martyrs for jesus come in many shapes and forms
The scripture we read this morning is quite a grim text isn’t it,
but in the eastern orthodox church they use this same scripture to celebrate the end of the Christmas story.
In that church, they have set aside the 29th of December as a holy day.
A holy day where they commemorate the lives of the son of Bethlehem whom were slaughtered by Herod as he was hunting for the Christ child.
To the eastern Church the sons of Bethlehem are martyrs
people who died for the faith,
young children whose lives were given as a sacrifice.
So for this reason they use this story as part of the Christmas story,
they use it as the final chapter.
In looking at this story this morning
we too will consider it as the final chapter of the Christmas story
And in doing so we too will bid a fond farewell to the Christmas story.
When you actually read this story in its proper context it seems that Matthew had the same intention
the intention of closing the Christmas story too.
But Matthew doesn’t want to just close the story down
He doesn’t want to end it like we would a bed time story to a child,
you might say that the way Matthew closes it is to give us a wake up call,
not to send us to sleep.
The way Matthew has timed this story makes me also feel that Matthew put it here as a way to end the Joy that the Christmas story has brought.
Its almost seems like Matthew wanted to use this story to take a great big demolition ball and smash it through all the Joy
that the Christmas story has brought us.
Just look at how it is situated.
A few verses earlier
Matthew is telling us about how the Magi had finally completed there quest to find the true King of Israel,
the Christ child.
And in telling the story this way he draws us in,
so that we to become a part of the story.
Matthew invites us to join the Magi on a journey,
a journey of hope.
So that we too join the Magi in worshipping the Christ
child, and so that when the Magi present there treasures before him,
we are also drawn to present the treasures we have before the Christ child.
I don’t know about you but my heart warms to this When I hear about them worshiping the Christ child I just can’t help but want to join in,
Its almost like we are whisked away from our present
to another world for just a few moments of pure Joy
Joy as we meet the Christ and worship him.
Its like we are given a foretaste of the Heavenly realms
and there is nothing we would like better than to stay there and worship the Christ child.
A slice of heaven where we experience the light and love of God,
As I said its only a few moments of Joy,
because before we know it we are brought back down to reality with a thump,
This other world soon fades away
and we are back in the real world.
No sooner have we worshiped the Christ Child,
no sooner have we placed our offerings before him then he is taken away from us.
His life is in danger
and so he and his family must flee to Egypt,
all that is left is the aroma of worship in our nostril
and the memory of how we worshiped the Christ child.
For that small moment we joined the Magi
for one small moment we too worshiped the King of Kings
but know we are just as quickly we have been drawn back to a grim dark reality,
a reality that makes the Christ child a political refugee,
a reality that sacrifices the lives of children for power and sovereignty,
and the reality of a frightened King who fears that a child may take his throne.
But apart from the sudden foreclosure on the Christmas story
there is something else about this text,
something else that doesn’t seem quite right.
Not only does it seem like Matthew wants to bring a sudden end to our Christmas celebrations
but it seems like he wants to make us uncomfortable
too He wants to make us so uncomfortable that we start to ask questions,
Questions that under normal circumstances we wouldn’t really want to ask,
question that may damage our faith,
but questions that we feel drawn to any way. Questions like
"where is God in this?
And how could a God of love allow this to happen?".
There is something in this story that demands us to ask these questions.
I think that exactly what Matthew intended.