By Not Known
Matthew writes well. His telling of the Christmas story keeps our attention as he
moves from one dramatic scene to another. But in all this he keeps our focus
where he wants it to be – on Jesus.
Consider the way Matthew treats his characters. In just two chapters he introduces
at least 45 identifiable characters, plus an unknown number of Jerusalem officials
and families caught up in Herod’s infanticide. Each character points our gaze in
just one direction, for they are all introduced in their relationship to Jesus.
Matthew’s Christmas story is shaped around who Jesus is and how people respond
to him. Yet, oddly, Jesus is entirely passive. All we read is that Jesus was born,
named, taken home and later carried to Egypt. He neither speaks nor acts – yet he
is the focus.
What is going on? Let’s answer that question from today’s reading (Mat 2:1-11).
Herod gained power by betraying his own folk (an Arabic people) and the Jews to
seek Rome’s favour. He maintained power by murdering many family members
(starting with his wife and sons) and the many others caught up in his paranoia.
Then we have the mysterious eastern visitors who read their horoscopes and came
looking for the king of the Jews.
Both Herod and the Magi shaped their actions around Jesus. Herod set out to
eliminate him. The Magi worshipped, gave gifts and quietly left for home. Both
these are strong reactions – one of infanticide and the other of worship.
What is it about Jesus that provoked these reactions? As is always the case with
Jesus, the who determines the what. Herod ‘saw’ a rival and acted with murderous
intent. The Magi ‘saw’ a king and gave homage.
Each of us faces the same questions as Herod and the Magi: Who is Jesus and how
should I respond to him!
By now Matthew has told us much about Jesus, even though the baby has not
opened his mouth. Matthew’s 45-plus characters testify to Jesus as the fulfilment
of God’s promises to Abraham and David, along with being Israel’s Messiah,
Saviour, God-with-us and now as Israel’s King.
Let’s keep our focus on Jesus. We do this as a church by keeping the focus on Jesus
in all our Christmas activities and conversations. We do it personally by building
our lives around the Jesus that Matthew introduces us to.