Sunday, December 29, 2013

Sermon for the First Sunday after Christmas

Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him

It is a rather sobering thought.

After Christmas, after the sparkle of the tree, the tinsel, the feasting, the lights, the presents, the time spent with family, the good cheer that this season brings,
we are faced with the massacre of babies.

We are faced with the fact the right from the start of his life,
Jesus was trouble for those in power.

Joseph, who was righteous in terms of the Law,
but became truly righteous with grace in his dealings with Mary,
was now the legal father of Jesus.
He had named him.

The Wise Men have come to pay homage and give Jesus gifts.

Joseph is again visited by an angel in a dream.

‘Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt,
and remain there until I tell you;
for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.’ 

Joseph must be used to angels by now.
He trusted the first visit.
And now again, he will follow the angels advice.

He takes Mary and Jesus to Egypt.

He is again visited by an angel in a dream,
this time telling him to go back to Israel.

Then again, he is warned in a dream about the goings on Judea,
and he goes to Galilee instead.

From his beginning, Jesus was homeless,
going from place to place to keep out of danger.

Right from the beginning, Jesus was excluded and dismissed.

There was no room for him at the inn.
The king at the time searches everywhere in order to kill him.
Later he will have no home, no stone to lay his head on.
He will be betrayed by one of his friends, Judas,
he will denied by his best mate Peter,
he will be abandoned as he crucified.

The same powers that yearned to kill him at his birth
will 33  years later get their way in his crucifixion.
Well, they think they will get their way.

It is that exclusion and dismissal by the leaders and powers
that should remind us of what being a follower of Jesus is all about.

King Herod wanted Jesus dead,
because he knew that this ‘King of the Jews’ would only be bad news for him.
He could feel his power being usurped.
Even if he knew that the Messiah as promised by the scriptures
would be the greatest thing for his people,
he could not let go of power,
and was willing to kill every boy under two to hold onto his reign.

The way of Herod was to destroy any threat to power.

This is opposite of the way of Jesus.

Throughout his earthly existence, Jesus was threatened by the powers.
They sought to kill him because he threatened their power.
Yet, in his dying on the cross, he showed that they had no power over him.
In his dying and rising, Jesus showed that death has no power.
The ultimate tool of the corrupt powers is deemed useless.

At the beginning of his life, the powers wanted to kill him.
When they heard what he was saying in his ministry, they wanted to kill him.

The way of Herod is the way the world runs.
The holding on to power at all costs.
It is way most organisations run.
It is the way politics runs.

The church is to run counter to that.
We are to take our lead not from Herod, but from Jesus.

Jesus resisted any form of power or status for himself.
We are called to renounce power and status.
Take the lowest seat at the table.
Not to accept honour in public.
To be alongside those who are suffering, not with those causing the pain.

We are to watch ourselves that we are not seduced by power.
It is better for us to sit with those with nothing than those with everything.
It is better for us that we let go of control than become controlling.
It is better for us to be suffering than to be the ones causing the suffering.
It is better for us to be like Jesus rather than Herod.

The way of Herod destroys any challenge to power.
The way of Jesus is to lay ones own life down for ones friends,
not to lay down others lives for oneself.
It is a very different way of being.
To this day, it is still an alternative way of being.
This is because the way of the Herod, the way of power is so seductive.

So while Herod sought to keep his grip on everyone by killing innocent babies,
Jesus never sought power.
On the cross, Jesus unmasked the religious and political powers to reveal them as the corrupt and deathly thing they are.
In his rising, he showed the world that the powers are powerless.

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