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Thursday, January 6, 2022
Today’s Scripture Reading | Matthew 2:1–12
In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet: ‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.’” Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.”
When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road. (NRSV)
Somebody should tell Matthew to keep his politics out of his religious story. We all know about the menace Herod. He’s all the news ever talks about. We come to the Baby Jesus story to catch a break from all that and to enjoy some space for quiet pious reflection. Leave Herod out of it, please.
This part of the Christmas story always reminds me that there is no separating the “religious” part from the “political” part. Bethlehem, Judea, even the amorphous “East” are political entities, actual places where people live and make decisions about taxes and water and trash. Even the religious people—the Jews—are a political entity within an empire. We need not dwell overmuch on Herod, as if he’s the only political part of the story. He’s not. It’s all political. We’re all political. Jesus is political—though not partisan.
The Christian story has never privileged any particular political ideology or party, neither Pharisees or Sadducees, Republicans or Democrats. But it has always been political, which is to say public. From the birth story onward, Jesus of Nazareth is a public person who interacts with a public in revelatory and transformative ways. If he didn’t, his story would not have the climax it does, and it would not have affected the world the way that it has.
The world’s systems of deliberation about and administration of human affairs—courts, schools, prisons, water pipes—are just as much the domain of the good news announced at Christmas as any individual heart or any congregation.
God of the magi and of Herod, move in our polis in this season, that our politics might be more just and more equitable and that life together might be more truthful, honoring and respecting all persons, particularly those maligned and marginalized. In the name of Jesus, whose parents fled to save him. Amen.
Written by Rocky Supinger, Associate Pastor for Youth Ministry
Reflection and prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church
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