Herrenhuter readings for Saturday, the 27th December (Holiday of the apostle and evangelist St.John)

Begstvo_v_Egipet._Nachalo_XVII_vArise therefore, and be doing, and the Lord be with thee. (1 Chronicles 22:16) and Behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him.”(Matthew 2:13) 

King Solomon was not to lie low, but get going and start building that temple of God and get it done and finished. The Lord was behind this work. It was not just his own doing, but part of God’s mission and plan for his people in Israel: The temple in Jerusalem. And what a magnificent temple it became. It became proverbial in the ancient world and even today there are those with lots of money to spare, who emulate this temple of days and times long past. The living God however does not what us to replicate old buildings, traditional foods, seasons and fancy dress parties and then think, we are doing his will and that he will then bless us. The Bible is no book of do-it-yourself recipes. Not by a long shot. Rather there is is much more to it and much less too. It’s the Holy Spirit, who leads in all truth, who calls us to Jesus Christ and keeps us with him – and some even through this very same holy word of God are hardened in their sinful desires, malice and vain ways to stumble forth into perdition. Yet this calamity is not of God’s design or merciful will, but rather due to their callous hearts and wrongful ways. You don’t hear of Jesus or his apostles rebuilding the arc or the temple or playing at a dress rehearsal for being high-priest. God’s will for us and in our calling is a different one to Samuel, Solomon or Saul. Therefore we should first of all attend very carefully to what God is indeed saying and to whom and what he really wants. Here it very clear, that he wants King Solomon to build the temple and to get on with it without undue delay – and he would be with him in all his doings.

The second reading is from the Christmas gospel and tells about the angels next visit to St.Joseph after the wise men had departed and gone home. The angel appears to him in a dream and orders him to get going too, but not to start building or crafting some carpentry in his workshop, but rather to let everything just be and flee. Leaving all behind and fleeing without delay to escape the cunning wiles of King Herod, who was out to kill the little baby – King Jesus – the Messiah and Saviour of the world. St.Joseph was not to act heroic and make a last stand of note, but rather to move out, push off and get lost in the African desert up in Egypt. Migrants, refugees, exiles! That’s the band Jesus was joining in his earliest days. Not last man standing! No – tomorrow on the Holiday of the holy Innocents we’ll hear of those, who many babies and infants, who had stayed in Bethlehem. Slaughtered and massacred like vermin by all the king’s men. Joseph, was not in hiding. He was not in the underground, but had moved off, made way, fled. Thank God for the gold given by the visitors from the east. Thank God too for the myrrh and incense.  It surely would come in handy on the way and to pay for their stay in the foreign country and to get by all those tax-collectors, border posts and policemen out to make a quick buck from desperate refugees fleeing as hastily as they could.

Two very different stories and yet they both show us very clearly that God wants us to listen to him, do what he calls us to do and yet not just duplicate the business of another. That’s why we pray: Your will be done with us also! That’s why we don’t just assume that God will bless all our thoughts, words and deeds – no matter what. No, we are careful to listen to his guidance, do as he bids us do in his ten commandments, keeping to his fundamental rules of loving, trusting and fearing him above all else – and our neighbour as ourselves and going about the business of our training, job and calling as he would want us to. Looking up to Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith, striving to live according to his ways and to be very open for correction, critique and also repentance and turning away from ways that are obviously against his divine will – even if we only realize that in hindsight. Open for confession, looking for forgiveness and crawling back into our baptism daily. This makes the life of a Christian unique and quite exiting really. It’s never boring. Never just as has been, but always God’s wonderful and merciful way with his faithful in new times and new places. It’s never just a replica, but rather his unique call to obedience and faithful discipleship wherever we are – even if it means fleeing and rushing off into the unknown, over traditional boundaries and way beyond our comfort zone.

Often St.Joseph is depicted as an old and rather uninterested party at the nativity. Well, the angel addressed him and obviously got him to get baby Jesus and his blessed virgin mother to safety. He was active as a carpenter in Nazareth, got his wife lodging in the overfilled Bethlehem – even if it was only to have the little baby find rest in a manger – and he brought Jesus safely to and from Egypt. That alone is a story to tell. I regret that St.Luke never got to tell us that too.

The Angel here focusses Joseph on his message. Now you go – and then you stay until I give word to you again. So just like St.Mary, who kept all these words and moved them in her heart, Joseph too is for us an example of one listening to the words of the Lord. Don’t forsake Mary. Don’t be afraid to take her under your care. Now go to Egypt and wait until I call you. Not much really, but Joseph did as he was told. Jesus was born in Bethlehem. Jesus got to safety in Egypt – and to Africa. Even at the very end of his earthly life an African carried his cross (Simon of Cyrene) and the Church has always found refuge in Africa again and again. It sounds as if that is happening even in these our latter days: Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Tanzania. Faithful havens of the true gospel and the place where God’s holy Word is heard – loud and clear, unadulterated and all that he himself taught his one holy Christian Church. Amen.

“Christ the Lord to Us Is Born” by unknown Bohemian

Christ the Lord to us is born,
Hallelujah!
On this joyous Christmas morn,
Hallelujah!
Of a virgin lowly,
He the King most holy,
He the King most holy,
Born this day to save us.

2. Prophesied in days of old,
Hallelujah!
God has sent Him as foretold,
Hallelujah!
Of a virgin lowly,
He the King most holy,
He the King most holy,
Born this day to save us.

3. Our poor human form He took,
Hallelujah!
Realms of heaven He forsook,
Hallelujah!
Of a virgin lowly,
He the King most holy,
He the King most holy,
Born this day to save us.

4. Prostrate lies the Evil One,
Hallelujah!
God has saved us through His Son,
Hallelujah!
Of a virgin lowly,
He the King most holy,
He the King most holy,
Born this day to save us.

5. Grace divine, be with us still,
Hallelujah!
Keep us from all harm and ill,
Hallelujah!
Of a virgin lowly,
He the King most holy,
He the King most holy,
Born this day to save us.

6. Grant us, Lord, a blessed end,
Hallelujah!
To our souls Thy comfort send,
Hallelujah!
Of a virgin lowly,
He the King most holy,
He the King most holy,
Born this day to save us.

The Lutheran Hymnal Hymn #86 Text: Luke 2:11
Author: unknown Bohemian author ab.1400 Tune: “Salvator natus”

About Wilhelm Weber

Pastor at the Old Latin School in the Lutherstadt Wittenberg
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