As we celebrate the Twelve Days of Christmas, our gospel today confronts us with the death of innocent children at the hands of Herod. The birth of Christ does not remove the power of evil from our world, but its light gives us hope as we walk with all the “holy innocents” of past generations and today who have suffered unjustly. In our gathering around word and meal, God continues to redeem us, lift us up, and carry us as in days of old.
Readings and Psalm
Israel saved by God’s own presence
The splendor of the Lord is over earth and heaven. (Ps. 148:13)
Christ shares flesh and blood to free humankind
The slaughter of innocent children
First Reading: Isaiah 63:7-9
God does not
delegate divine intervention to a messenger or angel. God’s own presence
brings salvation. The prophet and all who read these words join in
celebrating God’s gracious deeds. God trusts that God’s people will not
act falsely.7I will recount the gracious deeds of the Lord,
the praiseworthy acts of the Lord,
because of all that the Lord has done for us,
and the great favor to the house of Israel
that he has shown them according to his mercy,
according to the abundance of his steadfast love.
8For he said, “Surely they are my people,
children who will not deal falsely”;
and he became their savior
9in all their distress.
It was no messenger or angel
but his presence that saved them;
in his love and in his pity he redeemed them;
he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old.
Psalm: Psalm 148
The splendor of the Lord is over earth and heaven. (Ps. 148:13)1Hallelujah! Praise the Lord| from the heavens;
praise God | in the heights.
2Praise the Lord, | all you angels;
sing praise, all you | hosts of heaven.
3Praise the Lord, | sun and moon;
sing praise, all you | shining stars.
4Praise the Lord, heav- | en of heavens,
and you waters a- | bove the heavens.
5Let them praise the name | of the Lord,
who commanded, and they | were created,
6who made them stand fast forev- | er and ever,
giving them a law that shall not | pass away.
7Praise the Lord| from the earth,
you sea monsters | and all deeps;
8fire and hail, | snow and fog,
tempestuous wind, do- | ing God’s will;
9mountains | and all hills,
fruit trees | and all cedars;
10wild beasts | and all cattle,
creeping things and | flying birds;
11sovereigns of the earth | and all peoples,
princes and all rulers | of the world;
12young | men and maidens,
old and | young together.
13Let them praise the name | of the Lord,
whose name only is exalted, whose splendor is over | earth and heaven.
14The Lord has raised up strength for the people and praise for all | faithful servants,
the children of Israel, a people who are near the Lord. | Hallelujah!
Second Reading: Hebrews 2:10-18
suffering and death, the trail to eternal salvation has been blazed for
us. We do not fear death, because he has conquered the power of death.
Thus Christ, our merciful and faithful high priest, has the final say
over the destiny of our lives.10It
was fitting that God, for whom and through whom all things exist, in
bringing many children to glory, should make the pioneer of their
salvation perfect through sufferings. 11For
the one who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one
Father. For this reason Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and
“I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters,
in the midst of the congregation I will praise you.”
“I will put my trust in him.”
“Here am I and the children whom God has given me.”
14Since, therefore, the children share flesh and blood, he himself likewise shared the same things, so that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death. 16For it is clear that he did not come to help angels, but the descendants of Abraham. 17Therefore he had to become like his brothers and sisters in every respect, so that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make a sacrifice of atonement for the sins of the people. 18Because he himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested.
Gospel: Matthew 2:13-23
In a dream, Joseph is warned to flee to Egypt to protect the infant Jesus from the jealousy of Herod.13Now after [the wise men]
had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said,
“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.” 14Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, 15and
remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had
been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, “Out of Egypt I have called
16When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. 17Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah:
18“A voice was heard in Ramah,
wailing and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.”
19When Herod died, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, 20“Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the child’s life are dead.” 21Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. 22But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And after being warned in a dream, he went away to the district of Galilee. 23There he made his home in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, “He will be called a Nazorean.”