Category: Robert Creech

Matthew 1:18-25

This text is used for the Lectionary Year A on December 22, 2013.

Sometime the greatest challenge for the preacher is not the mysterious text, but the familiar one.  We confidently approach familiar texts presuming to know what they say, and we find it difficult to really listen to them.  We present them to congregations who yawn when they see the text printed in the order of worship because they, too, assume that they know these passages.  Matthew 1:18-25 is such a text for preaching.

The initial challenge of this text is to allow it to stand on its own.  We easily conflate the story of Joseph’s encounter with the angelic messenger and Luke’s account of Gabriel’s visit to Mary (Luke 1:26-38).  However, allowing Matthew’s account to stand on its own first would be a valuable discipline.  Matthew does not have a footnote that says “for more information, see Luke 1:26-38.  He says, “The birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way . . .” (Matthew 1:19, NRSV).  He simply states as a fact that Mary was “found to be with child by the Holy Spirit.”  He does not explain how she knew that.

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Matthew 11:2-11

This text is used for the Lectionary Year A on December 15, 2013.

The journey from expectation to disappointment is often short.  For John the Baptist, expectation peaked beside the Jordan River when he witnessed the Spirit descend on Jesus of Nazareth like a dove (Matthew 3:13-17).  From that moment he expected Jesus to be the promised Messiah.  Even when John was arrested for speaking truth to power (Matthew 4:12) he did not falter in his confidence, for he was certain that Herod’s reign was over.  It would be a matter of days before the baptism of fire, the threshing of the wheat, the chopping down of the fruitless trees would all begin (Matthew 3:11-12).

But that did not happen. The days in Herod’s prison at Machearus east of the Dead Sea stretched into weeks and then months.  No rumors were afoot about the Messiah mustering an army to overthrow Rome and its puppet king Herod.  Nothing occurred resembling any messianic expectations held by John and other faithful Jews.  It looked more and more like Jesus of Nazareth might not be “the coming one” (Matthew 11:3; Psalm 118:26; Malachi 3:1; Daniel 7:15).  How could Jesus be Messiah and John his herald if John were languishing in prison and opposition to Jesus were growing? John’s journey to disappointment was not yet complete, but he could see the city limits from his prison cell.

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Matthew 3:1-12

This text is used for the Lectionary Year A on December 8, 2013.

All four gospels open with the figure of John the Baptist and connect his ministry and message to Jesus.  Each draws attention to John’s role as a fulfillment of Isaiah 40:3.  In the Fourth Gospel John the Baptist has the exclusive role of introducing Jesus as the Lamb of God and pointing his own disciples toward him.  However, in the Synoptic Gospels John is primarily a prophet of repentance anticipating the appearance of the Messiah and the advent of the Kingdom of God.

Matthew summarizes John’s message simply: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come” (3:2).  He identifies John as the one prophesied by Isaiah who would prepare the path of the Lord in the wilderness, making smooth the way of his coming to his people.

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Matthew 24:36-44

This text is used for the Lectionary Year A on December 1, 2013.

Christian hope is our confidence that God is the God of the future as well as the past and present. He is the One who WAS and IS and IS TO COME. He is both Alpha and Omega. That hope grows out of the consistent biblical message that God is working out his loving purposes in human history for all of creation. The events of history, despite human pride and violence, cannot frustrate those plans. In God’s own time and in God’s own way the reign of God will be extended to the entire creation. Jesus reaffirmed this hope as an essential part of his message about the dawning of the kingdom of God (Matthew 4:17).

The certainty of the consummation of the age to come is not questioned in Jesus’ teaching and ministry. The acts of power he performs — healing the sick, giving sight to the blind, even raising the dead – foreshadow the coming day when all who know him live forever in wholeness, joy, and peace in the presence of God on earth (Revelation 21:3-5). In fact, this consistent affirmation of hope became part of ancient Christian creeds: “He will come again to judge the living and the dead.”

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