Throughout the Old Testament, we hear stories of God coming ‘just in time’ before it was too late to rescue His people. He was waiting for just the right time to enter into creation and finally defeat death, once and for all. Immediately when the world heard of His glorious birth, the world through King Herod, rejected God and sought to kill Him. If Christ had died then at birth, He still would have defeated death, but nobody would have believed it. It was necessary that He die publicly so when He rose from the dead, everyone would believe Him. God’s Timing is everything.
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Thank you for tuning in to another episode of Be Transfigured, where we invite you to live a new life in Christ. We pray that this episode is a blessing to you and will inspire you to rededicate your life to Jesus Christ. We invite you to join us for worship or study at the Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Tarpon Springs, Florida, where visitors are always welcome. We'll be back in a few moments to share some more information about our ministry.
So in this morning's gospel, my brothers and sisters, we read this particular passage always on the Sunday following Christmas, and we hear in the gospel a couple of very important truths. The first truth is that immediately after our Lord was born, part of the world immediately rejected him. He was not universally accepted. He was not universally loved. If you remember what I said on Christmas Eve, when the shepherds heard the angels, they ran immediately to greet him. When the Magi saw the star, they ran immediately to greet the king. But this morning, we see a different response. We see Herod, who was King of the Jews, so he was one of God's chosen people, but he was so wrapped up in his own power that hearing that the King had been born immediately tried to do away with Christ. And it says that Joseph being warned in a dream, he says, "They're trying to kill him. Go and take the child and his mother and flee to Egypt. Stay there until I bring you word, for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him." And so Joseph, who is also celebrated today as the protector of Christ, the betrothed of Mary, Joseph takes the Panagia and Christ and he goes to Egypt for safety.
Now, in the meantime, Herod slaughters thousands of innocent babies. Thousands of innocent children lost their lives, and Christ, as an infant, was safe in Egypt. And we might ask ourselves, why did God allow some 14,000 babies to die? Why couldn't God protect them? You also might ask, why was it so important for Jesus to be saved in that moment? Why not, if he's going to allow 14,000 babies to die, why not allow Christ to die? If we remember the theology of Christmas and the beautiful icon of Christmas, Christ, in the icon of Christmas, is depicted in the cave, wrapped in burial clothes. We know that Christ was born in order to die.
Many of our protestant brother and sister Christians, they focus on the death of Christ as necessary for our salvation. And so you might ask the question, then why not let Christ be killed? Because if Christ had died on that day from Herod, he still would have resurrected and he still would have accomplished the salvation of the entire human race, but nobody would have believed it. This is why in the scriptures we hear the fullness of time. We hear Christ saying, "My time has not yet come." This story in the gospel of Matthew is only the first of several attempts to kill Jesus Christ and he escapes every one but the last one. And so Christ is telling us something important here, it isn't just about his death, but that his offering of himself would be believed. St Athanasios tells us in this famous book “On the Incarnation of Christ”, forgive me, now I'm going to paraphrase, he says that Christ could have been taken behind a rock and killed and he would have come back to life and he would have destroyed death for all eternity. But no one would have believed it. And if we don't believe it, then we're not going to accept God's gift. And St Athanasios tells us that Christ waited for the right time to allow himself to be killed.
You could say that he died ... We're going to celebrate this, of course, at Pascha on the most public day, in the most public city, in the most public fashion, Christ finally allowed himself to be killed, because then, everyone would have believed who he was. And so this morning, my brothers and sisters, this very important truth of Christ, Christ has come to save us, but he waits for us to believe in him. He doesn't force us to believe. He gives us the opportunity to believe. Now, these 14,000 children were immediately welcomed by God into heaven. They are martyr saints of the church. God took care of them, consoled their families, and now he gives us the opportunity to believe in him. There's another thing that we have to remember in this morning's gospel, and this important connection to Egypt, because this relationship between Israel and Egypt is an ancient one. Joseph, not Joseph the betrothed, but Joseph of the Old Testament fled, was sold into slavery in Egypt. Moses, who was an image of Jesus Christ, Moses rescued God's people from where? From Egypt. And so Christ, our savior, also comes, he flees to Egypt and he comes from Egypt.
There's a beautiful continuation here and it's not an accident. It's for us to look back at the Old Testament and to read just how dedicated to us God has always been. From the moment he created humanity, God has always been right there with us looking out for us, preparing to save us. What did we learn a few weeks ago? Moses didn't see the promised land, because he chose to disobey God. All of these opportunities, if we wish to experience God's love as heaven, our opportunity to believe him, to believe in his salvation, to believe in this great gift of Christmas, is so vitally important. Finally, an angel goes to Joseph and says, okay, Herod is dead. It's now safe to come back. While on his way back, he gets bad news. Archelaos is now in charge and he wants to kill him too, so he veers off and goes to Nazareth. My brothers and sisters, the world will never stop trying to stop God from saving us. Every day we wake up and we reorient ourselves toward Christ, we say our prayers and we say, "God, give me the strength to stay on the right path today," and every day the devil is going to try to throw us a curve ball.
Every day, he's going to try to veer us off the path. Don't let him. Don't give the devil the control that he deserves. We have the choice to engage Christ in his path. We have the choice to accept and to worship him as the magi did and as the shepherds did and as millions of Christians have done before us. But Herod was from within. He was the King of the Jews and he didn't accept Christ. Some of our own will also choose to reject Christ and we will weep for them and we will pray for them. But these are the realities that God is showing us today, and he will never abandon us. Every step along the path, he walks with us, preparing us for salvation, preparing us to enter into the kingdom of heaven with him on that glorious day. That is that great gift of Christmas that he's given us, and that is how we can accept the gift and dedicate our life to staying on the right path and to defeating the devil and his antics, because Christ will return for us. He is coming back to rescue us. Don't lose sight of that. He's been doing it since the very first day of creation, and that's what this story this morning teaches us. That's how much God loves us. Glory to God for all things.
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