There is a tendency when telling the story of Christmas and the Epiphany to conflate the witness of the first and third gospels. It is not a bad practice and very often we are the better for hearing the accounts of Matthew and Luke enhanced with the prologue to St. John’s Gospel, just as we do at a service of lessons and carols. Bearing that in mind, there is also value in focussing on one of the gospels alone to see what was important to the evangelist, both in terms of the drama with its characters and events, and also to see which texts and ideas were used from the prophets and some of the Old Testament legends, in particular those surrounding the infant Moses and his escape from Pharoah.
I have spent some time this Advent reading St. Matthew (chapters 1 & 2) and enjoying the comings and goings of the characters, all of whom are significant. The importance of the Holy Family is self-evident, but apart from them the principal actors are the magi and Herod who spar with each other over the search for the new-born babe. In his account, Matthew begins by describing the lineage of Jesus with its focus on King David and then introduces Mary, Joseph and Jesus. He then recounts the creation of the Holy Family through the working of the Holy Spirit whose miraculous intervention effects Mary’s virginal conception and leads to Joseph’s role as guardian of the child.
The evangelist describes the arrival in the land of magi who have travelled from afar to see the holy child. There follows a meeting with King Herod which results in his attempt to find out what is going on and where so that he can act quickly to secure his throne. The magi on the other hand bring gifts for the child and on meeting him do him homage. In fact Matthew makes it clear that they fell down (prostrated themselves) and worshipped him which would be the only fitting response to a meeting with the deity (however the magi perceived ‘deity’). Herod then follows the magi with murderous intent.
As Matthew tells the story he is making it clear that this episode and those that follow will be about the battle between good and evil, between those who obey God’s purposes and those who attempt to thwart them. The fight comes to a head as Jesus, betrayed by Judas and abandoned by the people, stands alone before his accusers, first the High Priest and his entourage and then Pontius Pilate. This ensures that the story will not be an easy one told simply for entertainment or out of a desire to find an inspiration for piety. The story is to be one in which human sin does its worst and yet fails to triumph, the victory belonging instead to the child of Bethlehem whose perfect obedience to the will of his Father gains our salvation.
For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee. And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising. (Isaiah 60: 2-3)
But you knew that…
Read the story afresh this year, give thanks and be renewed in faith and discipleship for a new year.
From the diary
Monday 26th December, 9.30am Mass (St. Stephen, First Martyr)
Tuesday 27th December, 9.30am Mass (St. John the Evangelist)
Wednesday 28th December, 10.00am Mass (Holy Innocents)
Friday 30th December, 7.00pm Mass
Sunday 1st January, The Circumcision of Christ
… no midweek services
Sunday 8th January, The Epiphany of Our Lord
In addition to services at 8am and 9.30am: Family Service at 11.15am
Wednesday 11th January, 10.00am Mass
Friday 13th January, 7.00pm Mass
Sunday 15th January, Epiphany 2
Wednesday 18th January, 10.00am Mass
Friday 20th January, 7.00pm Mass
Sunday 22nd January, Epiphany 3
Wednesday 25th January, 10.00am Mass (Conversion of St. Paul)
Friday 27th January, 7.00pm Mass
Sunday 29th January, Feast of Dedication
Wednesday 1st February, 10.00am Mass (Presentation of Christ)
Friday 3rd February, 7.00pm Mass
Sunday 5th February, Septuagesima / Third Sunday before Lent
Pray for the renewal of the Family Service and the Parent and Toddler Group.
Pray for peace between nations, especially Ukraine and Russia.
Thank you to everyone who contributed to the day. The final total was £2,139.68 after expenses.