Archive for "December, 2010"
Since 1993, Franklin Graham’s ministry, Samaritan’s Purse, has been working to ease at least some of the world’s suffering through Operation Christmas Child. Each year, thousands of donors pack shoeboxes full of toys and other items for children.
It is easy to understand why we would skip the story of the Holy Innocents in our telling of the Christmas story. The cruel, meaningless death of a handful of babies and toddlers is completely out of place amid the sentimentality that usually marks the season.
This story, like the one preceding it, is closely linked to Scriptural texts (Hos 11:1 and Jer 31:15), which again makes clear that Matthew wants to suggest that these events should not be unexpected, since they were in fact predicted.
But if Herod was successful politically, his personal life was an unmitigated disaster. As Josephus succinctly (and mildly!) put it: “In revenge for his public prosperity, fortune visited Herod with troubles at home” (BJ 1.22.1).
Dr. Joe McKeever, Baptist pastor and cartoonist, tells of a visiting pastor who said to him, “Joe, do you ever get up to Memphis?”
The Gospel of Matthew ends with Jesus’ command to take the message of Jesus into all the world. We don’t often note that the Gospel begins (after the genealogy and the birth narrative) with a story about the world–in the form of exotic visitors from the east–coming to Jesus.
As noted in the introduction, wise kings are portrayed as having counselors or sages as advisors in antiquity. Part of the building up of the picture of Jesus as a kingly figure like Solomon comes already in a passage like this when the magi are subject to discussion.
Matthew records the visit of magi from the east (traditionally thought to be Persia, Babylonia, or Arabia) who worshiped the newborn Jesus. The fact that their pilgrimage was prompted by celestial phenomena (i.e., the star, 2:2) suggests that they were astrologers.