1/1/23 Year A Christmas 1 : Matthew 2:13-23

Happy New Year.

With the economic crisis, the continuing war in Ukraine, the state of the NHS, and concerns about our planet people may feel unsettled and wonder where God is. Today’s gospel reminds us that God in Christ was not born into an easy, ideal world. It also reminds us that God is in control of history. This is especially relevant for us at start of this new year.

Matthew 2:13 When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. "Get up," he said, "take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him." 14 So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, 15 where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: "Out of Egypt I called my son" 16 When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. 17 Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled: 18 "A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more."

19 After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt 20 and said, "Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child's life are dead." 21 So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, 23 and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets: "He will be called a Nazarene."

The visit of the Magi had alerted Herod to the presence of a new-born King. Herod felt threatened and was ruthless. He wouldn't have thought of anything but confrontation. After all, he murdered his wife and three of his sons, so would think nothing of ordering the killing of some infants in a small town.

Bethlehem is five miles from Jerusalem so it would not have taken Herod long to realise that the wise men were not returning and to order his troops to kill the infants who posed a threat to him. So he only killed boys and those under two years old. The Magi would have given him a clue to the age of the child by telling him exactly when the star appeared, verse 7. Bethlehem was a small town, so not many infants would have been murdered. This, however, does not detract from the brutality of this act.

We have a God who knows everything and is in control. He protected the one whom He had chosen to rescue the world. He did this by sending an angel, in a dream to warn Joseph about Herod’s murderous intent and to tell him to escape to Egypt. Joseph obeyed immediately, fleeing in the night, verse 14.

There was no TV news or app alerts in those days. So, Joseph was also informed in a dream, by an angel, that Herod had died and it was safe to return to Israel. However, Herod’s son Archelaus, was ruling Judea. Archelaus inherited his father’s insecurity and murderous disposition.

One commentator informs us; "One of the first acts of Archelaus was to murder some three thousand people in the temple because some of their number had memorialized some martyrs put to death by Herod. Like father, like son."

God warned Joseph not to return to Archelaus' territory. Joseph obeyed God again and chose to settle in Nazareth in Galilee instead. This had been his and Mary's residence before Jesus' birth (13:53-58; Luke 1:26-27; 2:39).

Matthew noted that this move was another fulfillment of prophecy (v. 23). he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets: "He will be called a Nazarene."

There is no scripture that says, "He will be called a Nazarene." Matthew refers to the prophets, plural, looking forward to this. We need to understand that Nazareth was an unfashionable place to come from. John 1:46 "Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?" Nathanael asked. Many scriptures foretell that the Messiah will be despised and rejected, e.g. Isaiah 53:3. So Matthew is saying that Jesus' place of residence symbolised his life and ministry foretold in the OT.

Jesus endured everything that can be thrown at him. Being a refugee, living in the despised North, suffering betrayal by a close follower, rejection of the people who he had come to save, and injustice that led to his crucifixion.

Matthew wrote his gospel for Jews and quotes more from the OT than all the other gospels together. He points out that Jesus is the Messiah by showing how he fulfils the Old Testament. The Scriptures Matthew refers to teach us that :

1) This baby is the leader of the new people of God.

2) He is not only the eternal hope for the mothers of the murdered infants, but He is the hope for everyone who want to come to God.

3) He is the one who will be despised and rejected by the Israelites, just as they had turned away from God throughout the history of their nation.

This passage is also about reactions to Immanuel, God with us.

(i) The Magi, who were not Jews, looked for him with great perseverance. Travelling a great distance, seeking the King, following the star. Like Joseph, who was guided by an angel, obeying the leading of God.

(ii) The Jewish leaders were indifferent. They knew the Old Testament prophecy regarding the place where the Messiah would be born. They knew about the Magi, yet they didn't bother to investigate by sending someone on a ten mile journey.

(iii) King Herod was threatened by the prospect of a rival and wanted to murder him.

We are called to seek the King Jesus. We are called to follow the ways of God like the Magi, who never returned to Herod. Like Joseph who obeyed God’s messages and took Jesus to and from Egypt and to settle in the unfashionable North of Israel. As we start let us commit ourselves afresh to seeking Jesus and following the way God is leading us.

Let us remember the words of King George VI in his Kings Speech to an uncertain nation in1939. ““A new year is at hand. We cannot tell what it will bring. If it brings peace, how thankful we shall all be. If it brings us continued struggle we shall remain undaunted. I feel that we may all find a message of encouragement in the lines which, in my closing words, I would like to say to you: ” He then read from a poem given to him by his then 13-year-old daughter, Princess Elizabeth

I said to the man who stood at the Gate of the Year,
‘Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.’
And he replied, ‘Go out into the darkness, and put your hand into the Hand of God.
That shall be better than light, and safer than a known way.

He concluded saying, “May that Almighty Hand guide and uphold us all.”


Almighty God,

in the birth of your Son

you have poured on us the new light of your incarnate Word,

and shown us the fullness of your love:

help us to walk in his light and dwell in his love

that we may know the fullness of his joy;

who is alive and reigns with you,

in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and for ever.