Gospel Reading: Matthew 2:13-23

Christ is born! Glorify Him!

This morning’s Gospel reading comes from St. Matthew, and is the reading that follows immediately after the reading we had for the Feast of our Lord’s Nativity. So we’re continuing the story – the function of the Gospels is to tell us the story of Christ. And we see in the way the Father’s look at this morning’s Gospel that all of the Scriptures are telling the story of Christ, or preparing the way for that story to be heard.

In the trip described in this morning’s Gospel, we see in the life of our Lord a recapitulation of the story of the people of Israel, and in many ways a healing of the mistakes of the people of God. Christ flees the wrath of Herod and goes to Egypt. And if we look into the Old Testament, the two lands of evil for Jews were Egypt and Babylon. St. Theophylact writes, “By means of the Magi He accepted the adoration of Babylon, and Egypt He sanctified by His own presence.” This reminds me of the way we hymn the feasts of Christ—in baptism He sanctified the waters, in His ascension He sanctified the airs, in burial He sanctified the earth and even goes in Hades—the presence of Christ in a place brings healing and redemption and sanctification.

By the time He was only a few years old, our Lord had already received the worship of the Babylonian people who were constantly persecuting the Jews (held them as captives on multiple occasions), and He travels from the Holy Land to Egypt (like Joseph and Jacob and his kin in the famine), and at the end of this morning’s reading, He’ll travel back to the Promised Land from Egypt, like Moses. This trip to Egypt fulfills the word of the Prophet, “Out of Egypt have I called My Son.” Originally a reference to the calling of the Chosen People out of Israel, and now referring literally to the Son of God. The original trip made by a Hebrew people who constantly returned to idol worship was a foreshadowing, St. Theophylact writes, of a greater truth that was to come—the Son of God come in the flesh.

We see another parallel between Herod and the Pharaoh of the Old Testament—Pharaoh killed all the male children of the Hebrew people, and Herod did the same thing. Pharaoh was really a murder of children two times—the male children of Israel to prevent population growth, and the firstborn of all Egypt in the 10th plague which was caused by Pharaoh’s stubbornness. We’ll hear the question, “why did all of those children have to die in Bethlehem,” and I’ll read St. Theophylact’s explanation. “The children [were] allowed to be slaughtered…so that Herod’s wickedness might be revealed…they [the Holy Innocents] were not wronged but were made worthy of crowns. For anyone who suffers some evil here, suffers either so that his sins might be absolved, or so that his crowns might be multiplied. So it is with these children; for their suffering they will receive a greater crown in heaven.” And in fact we do remember the slaughter of the Holy Innocents in the Church, and all of the infants murdered for Christ are counted as martyrs and saints (Feastday December 29).

So that puts Christ now in Egypt. In the Gospels and in the regularly accepted apocryphal works, there’s no mention of how our Lord spent His time in Egypt. What we do know for certain is that at the death of Herod, Joseph has a dream and the family returns again to Israel. But our Lord ends up spending His childhood not in Israel proper, but in Galilee, which was a land with many Jews living there, but is was the land of Gentiles. Christ’s family settles in Nazareth, and our Gospel reading ends by saying, “he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene.” We don’t have the exact quote to point to here – theories about the reference abound, from Nazareth being a place despised and our Lord being despised [St. Matthew trying to make a connection there], to perhaps this being an unwritten or unrecorded prophecy. It doesn’t really matter. It is interesting to note that the word nazarene means “sanctified,” holy. This title for our Lord is right – the Holy One of Israel is a title used by many of the Prophets.

So we see even in this short reading that all of the history of the people of God is going to be brought together and sanctified in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ. And now our lives are to follow the pattern of the life of Christ. It’s not that the life of Christ followed the pattern of Israel—He was foreshadowed by Israel, and now we’re called to follow Him. Christ is the archetype of man. He is everything that we are created to be. Mankind is created in the image of the image of God – we’re created in the image of Christ, Who is the exact icon of the Father. The axis around which all of human history revolves is the person of Christ. Time before Him pointed to Him, rushed toward His coming in the flesh. And time now pushes on to the Second Coming, when the saved [those in Christ] will be joined to the presence of their Creator for all eternity.

Christ is born! Glorify Him!