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December 31, 2023

Can We Linger Around the Christmas Story?

Pastor KJ Kim

Matthew 2: 13-23

Although the church prefers a romantic and warm Christmas story, we prefer to skip over this brutal story a week after Christmas; this story tells us about the reality of what happened to the holy family after the first Christmas and what is happening to us today.

At Christmas, the baby is honored, worshipped, adored, and respected—with gifts and treasures of gold, incense, and myrrh. Well, a week later, who can imagine that everything has changed? One character we should linger on this season is the angels. This angel, who must have soloed at Bethlehem, appears twice in today’s passage.

First, “Behold, an angel of the Lord appeared and said, ‘Get out of here with the baby. Herod will kill him.’” And then the angel led the baby and the parents to the safety of Egypt, out of reach of Herod. Next, “When Herod died, behold an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream and said to Joseph, ‘Take the child out of Egypt, back to the land.’” The angel leads another Exodus out of Egypt, just as the angel had long ago led Moses out of danger.

The angel takes the initiative in keeping the baby safe from the rage of the empire. The angel is a force to protect the blessed baby from the crazed king. This angel is an agent to bring the baby to the land of promise. This angel is the wild card in God’s divine drama that makes all the other characters sit up and take notice. What changes all that is that “an angel of the Lord appeared.” The angel came, and the story is changed.

Today, the last day of 2023, New Year’s Eve, we look at the world, the cunning power of Herod is always massive on the way to brutality, while the innocent presence of Jesus seems always vulnerable. That is where the story puts us and where faith always must live.

Today’s passage tells us, “An angel of the Lord appeared and said. The angel came, and the story is changed.” Sometimes, the angel appears in a sweet voice. Sometimes, the angel appears in a risk-taking voice. And who are we?

Maybe our calling as a church is to appear and raise our voices as an angelic voice and a prophetic voice for others and the community-—the ones who take the initiative in keeping the vulnerable, the weak, the poor, and the neglected safe; the ones who are a force to protect them from the crazed and hate-filled world; the ones who are an agent to bring God’s people to the land of promise; the ones who are upsetting all of our settled, organized, greedy and brutal ways of the world; the ones who are overriding all other power arrangements, and the ones who are making new things possible.

Let us keep being an angel for one another—that the places we appear, then someone’s stories are changed. Let us keep raising our voices—as angelic sweet voices as well as prophetic and challenging voices.

Thanks be to God.

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