December 6, 2011

Advent Greetings to All,

Sunday, December 11, is the Third Sunday of Advent.  My sermon will be taken from Matthew 2: 13- 18 and will be titled “A Gift To The Mighty.” In this text we learn that following the visit of the Magi,  Joseph, Mary and Jesus took refuge in Egypt from the treachery of Herod the Great, ruler of Judea.

Herod the Great ruled as King of the Jews from 37-4 BCE. (This means that Jesus was actually born about 6 BCE.)  The “Oxford Companion to the Bible” tells us that “Herod’s reign can be divided into three periods: consolidation (37-25 BCE), prosperity (25-14) BCE, and domestic troubles (14-4) BCE.  The Pharisees, the Sadducees, elements of his own family and Cleopatra of Egypt all, for different reasons,  objected to Herod’s rule and either wished that he would be deposed or worked to depose him.  Using his ability to curry favor, his willingness to assasinate his foes, and the Roman Empire’s admiration for his administrative skills Herod managed to hold on to power in turbulent times for over three decades. 

One of Herod’s main problems was the dysfunction of his personal life.  In the words of the Oxford Companion, “He had ten wives, each of whom wanted her son(s) to become his successor.”  In other words, Herod, for good reason, had a highly developed sense that someone was always out to get him.  Thus, he was was quick to eliminate any potential threat to his throne.  It was in this context that Jesus was born and that, no more than two years after his birth, the Magi (Persian Astrologers) arrived in Jerusalem seeking the newborn King of the Jews.  Their arrival put Herod’s secret police on high alert and put him into action resulting in the murder of any male child in the region of Bethlehem who matched the description given of the newborn king by the Magi.

It is clear that Herod himself viewed the birth of Jesus as a threat rather than a gift.  Is there anyway that the birth of was a gift to this mighty, fearful, desperate ruler?

We can only hope, and it is just that, a hope, that the news of Jesus’ birth served to remind Herod that before he was a king he was a human, and that after his rule ended he would still be a human, a human who was loved by and accountable to  his Creator.  Perhaps this knowledge served to prepare Herod to plead for mercy when he faced the Creator.  Admittedly,  mercy is something Herod frequently denied to  others, but the mercy of God, which the Christ Child embodied, is why we celebrate Christmas rather than Herodmas. Thus, let us hope that since his death, Herod has had the opportunity to embrace the meaning of Christmas. Further, let us learn from Herod’s example and embrace  the meaning of Christmas while it can make a difference is this life we share.

Prayers of the Congregation

  • Thanksgiving with Marie Johnson on the completion of  her knee surgery
  • Shirley Jones as she continues to recuperate from surgery
  • Thanksgiving that Bette Pancoe is home from the hospital
  • Thanksgiving the Susan Joachim is home from the hospital
  • Sheila Sims for her mom and dad
  • The people of Myanmar (Burma) who are hoping the Secretary of State Clinton’s visit to their country will help improve their situation
  • Thanksgiving with Debra Dizin that her daughter’s surgery went well
  • Sandra Dunn as she awaits her surgery which was rescheduled to this Thursday
  • Gloria and Phil Meads for Max Powers
  • Al Johnson and Roy Browner – health and peace for all
  • Kay Baxter-Reid for Jamie, Stacey and family
  • The ministry of our Lakeshore Children’s Center
  • Safe streets and good schools for all the people of Oakland
  • All who are traveling
  • Thanksgiving that Helen Harrison was able to be in worship
  • Our children and their leaders as they prepare for their Christmas play
  • Carol and Steve Leichter
  • All students, teachers and their families, especially those in the midst of finals
  • Ann Fields for her family

Announcements

Stand Against Violence – OCO is requesting that members from all its congregations participate in this Friday night’s action beginning at 5:00 at 65th and International Boulevard and continuing to Greenleaf Elementary School. Please let me know if you will attend.

Forever Young – Invites everyone to their Christmas Luncheon this Saturday at 12:30 in the Family Room.  Bring a “Surprise Gift” for the gift exchange.