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The Word on the Week

Christmas 2013.

There had been hints and predictions but they were in the distant past and largely forgotten. The royal tribe of Judah had encountered bad times and been reduced to peasant stock. Not much could be expected from them. The myth of the Messiah! Country occupied by Romans. The Religious were squabbling over rights. Corrupt rulers only interested in retaining power. And not as much faith around as would cover a grain of mustard seed!

But then there was old Simeon. `Expect the unexpected with God` seemed to be his motto. The least likely the occurrence the more likely God was in it! So it was when the shepherds’ news broke, while others scoffed Simeon got ready. Nor was he disappointed. He was the first outside the family to recognise Jesus as God’s anointed.

You would have thought this would have brought the Priests running to meet Messiah but there was only old Anna the prophetess and she well over 80 years old. She differed from Simeon, who was now content that his life’s goal had been reached. She became the first active witness telling all who wanted to hear that the redeemer had come.

It was about six months later that some philosopher-priests, possibly Zoroastrians from Persia, arrived at Bethlehem. They were star-gazers and God had graciously used their craft to bring them to visit Jesus. On their way they visited King Herod and somewhat naively quoted to him from his own scriptures the prophesy: “But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel”

Now Herod believed the word and took the child’s arrival to be a threat to his throne. His slaughter of all children under the age of two has a contemporary feel to it as the stamping out of Christians continued today in various parts of the world.

Warned in a dream Joseph emigrated with his family to Egypt and stayed there until, with the death of Herod, the danger passed. Hosea’s prophesy “Out of Egypt I have called my son” has a fine ambiguity to it as Israel the nation was also referred to as “my son”. The redeeming of the nation from bondage in Egypt by the blood of a lamb was to find its ultimate fulfilment in the Son who is, as John the Baptist put it, “The lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world”.

So God continues to do the unexpected. As the hymn-writer has put it:

He left His Father’s throne above,

So free to infinite His grace;

Emptied Himself of all but love,

And bled for Adam’s helpless race;

‘Tis mercy all, immense and free;

For, O my God, it found out me.

And may this infinite grace of God continue the unexpected and find you this Christmas with his redeeming love.