The First Sunday After Christmas A
The First Sunday After Christmas A
“Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region…” (Mt. 2:16)
In the days of my youth, a dramatic television commercial for a certain brand of margarine depicted the product as being so good tasting that it even tricked Mother Nature into thinking it was butter. When the trickery became known, Mother Nature responded with anger and vengeance announcing, “It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature!” While we don’t give credence to a personified nature, this royal prerogative demonstrates that Herod’s response to being “tricked” resembled a force of nature—an opposite and unequal reaction. To trick a king compelled violence, bloodshed, and death. This vengeful incident, the martyrdom of the innocents, has led the church to consider them its first martyrs… has led to the establishment of a holy day in their memory (usually celebrated in the western church on December 28th)… has led to the composition of songs, hymns, and paintings commemorating and depicting the infamous executions. Herod’s vengeance at being tricked reveals the casual way that the world wields violence: death and destruction are merely the world’s last resort against those things that annoy those with the power to destroy and kill. The death sentence is the world’s pinnacle of coercive power. Yet, our Lord Jesus declares to those who would follow him, “It shall not be so among you” (Mt. 20:26). He then goes on to surrender such vengeance, the ultimate in coercive power available to a divine Lord, by dying on the cross. It is his glory.
Prayers from one who resists surrendering the coercive power of force, and only reluctantly taking up the authority of preaching the Word…
Father in heaven, your Son surrendered the use of power and refused to call down the heavenly host against his enemies, even as he died on the cross. Grant that I, too, would surrender such power and, instead, take up the authority of preaching Christ, him crucified, and him alone. I know I am to hand him over to be the life of dead sinners.
Father in heaven, your Son surrendered the use of power, demonstrating the forbearance of the heavenly court where forgiveness, not vengeance rules. Grant that I, too, would forgive sins rather than bring vengeance upon those who sin against me.
Father in heaven, your Son surrendered the use of power, and he was vindicated by his resurrection from the dead. Grant that I, too, may enjoy such vindication when my Lord Jesus Christ is manifest in all his glory.
Father in heaven, your Son surrendered the use of power and endured the cross. Grant that I, too, might bear my cross as I follow him into the world of usefulness to my neighbors.
Father in heaven, your Son surrendered the use of power, exchanging it for the authority of law and gospel, confronting and saving. Grant that I, too, may know their proper distinction and not confuse their use among my neighbors.
Father in heaven, your Son surrendered the use of power. Grant to the Institute of Lutheran Theology the attractiveness of preaching and teaching Jesus Christ, him crucified, and him alone and thereby win students.
Father in heaven, your Son surrendered the use of power and endured three days in the tomb, trusting and awaiting his resurrection. Grant to me such endurance as I live out the days of my baptism and wait out those nights in my grave until that certain day, the day of resurrection.
Into your hands, heavenly Father, I place all things, confident that you hear and answer prayers in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen