Daily Devotion for December 28, 2011
Fourth Day of Christmas - Childermas or Holy Innocents
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever.
The Original Silent Night
Silent Night was written by a young priest in a humble village church in Austria in 1816 when the organ broke. It was sung to the accompaniment of the only instrument anyone knew how to play, a guitar.
This setting, accompanied by a solo harp, must be very close to the original version. I hope everyone knows the words well enough to follow it in German!
Prayer for the Morning
Heavenly Lord, you have brought me to the beginning of a new day. As the world is renewed fresh and clean, so I ask you to renew my heart with your strength and purpose. Forgive me the errors of yesterday and bless me to walk closer in your way today. This is the day I begin my life anew; shine through me so that every person I meet may feel your presence in my soul. Take my hand, precious Lord, for I cannot make it by myself. Through Christ I pray and live,
A Christmas Prayer
God of love, Father of all, the darkness that covered the earth has given way to the bright dawn of your Word made flesh. Make us a people of this light. Make us faithful to your Word, that we may bring your life to the waiting world. Grant this through Christ our Lord.
Dedication to Service
Now, oh heavenly Father, I ask to be called as a witness to your love by the love I extend to others; a precursor of your justice by my unfailing commitment to what is right and good; a lamp set on a hill, reflecting the light of Christ in my forgiveness, mercy and compassion; and a harvester of souls through my humble and dedicated servanthood. In Jesus' name, I pray,
(Additional prayers may be found at Prayers for All Occasions.)
God be with you 'til we meet again.
Cause Your face to shine,
And we shall be saved!
The Flight to Egypt
Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, "Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him."
And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, "Out of Egypt I called my son."
Notes on the Scripture
Today is Childermas, or Holy Innocents Day, the day when we remember the slaughter of Hebrew children by Herod, seeking to kill the child who is prophesied to become a great king. (Our timing is a day off; to keep the lesson from getting too long, the scriptural account of the massacre appears tomorrow.)
The timeline of the events of Christmas is a bit difficult to follow, because Mathew's account of Christmas ends with the flight to Egypt; Luke omits the story of the magi and the flight to Egypt altogether, but includes an account of Jesus' purification at the temple.
The flight to Egypt occurred immediately after Jesus' birth, for Joseph left as soon as the magi had departed. (The events in Jerusalem, contained in Luke and which we will read about in the next few days, would have occurred later.) Nobody is exactly sure how long the family lived in Egypt, because nobody is exactly sure of the date when Jesus was born. Herod the Great died in 4 B.C. and the best estimates of Jesus' birth are between 6 B.C. and 4 B.C.; so the flight to Egypt would have lasted somewhere between a few months and two years.
The prophecy ("Out of Egypt I have called my son") comes from Hosea 11:1. It is a bit of a stretch to make Hosea into a prophet who was intending to predict the coming of Christ; Hosea's prophecy was certainly talking about the early Hebrews. In a spiritual sense, however, Christ's flight to Egypt and return to Canaan is more powerful than a simple prediction of geography.
The flight to Egypt and return parallels one of the greatest moments in Jewish history, the enslavement of the Hebrews and their subsequent flight to freedom in Canaan, under the leadership of Moses. Jesus, by going to Egypt out of physical fear of Herod, recreates the slavery of the Hebrews. Adam became a slave to sin, and the Hebrews became slaves to Pharaoh. Jesus becomes human and takes on the slavery of both Adam and the Hebrews. But just as Moses led the Hebrews to freedom, Jesus will lead mankind to freedom. His flight and return are symbolic of his leading both Jews and Gentiles to freedom, but this time, freedom from the slavery of sin; for Jesus will have to become human and die, like all other men, before he can show his victory over death by his resurrection.