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at Arizona State University - 340 E. 15th Street, Tempe, AZ 85281-6612 (480) 967-3543 (map)
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Rival to the Throne

Pastor Gary McCluskey
Pastor Gary N. McCluskey

Pastor's Notes
Gary N. McCluskey, Pastor

We miss it this year. The gospel text from Matthew concerning Herod's order to slaughter children under the age of two who lived in and near Bethlehem. It was, according to Matthew, Herod's attempt to destroy the possible rival to his throne about whom the wise men told him.

Many years this is the gospel text the Sunday following Christmas. It is assigned for the First Sunday of Christmas. Merry Christmas indeed!?! It is bad enough that many years we sit in church following Christmas and the poinsettias are a bit droopy, the light is not the warm glow of candlelight, and the entire feeling and attitude is different. No more looking forward. No more expectation or preparing. It's over. And here comes January feeling like one long Monday.

I wonder, however, if in it's strange and horrifying way, this is where the rubber of the message of Christmas hits the asphalt of life? The incarnate one gets an immediate lesson that in life no one is immune from the difficult hurdles and dead ends that life can put in our path. Even one sent from God must deal with them. This time Jesus and his family escaped to Egypt. We who know the entire story know eventually Jesus comes to a time when he is unable to escape. Life eventually gets Jesus, too.

Author, poet, and speaker, Maya Angelou wrote a book titled, "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings". She says the whose wings are clipped, feet bound, and restricted to a small cage sings songs of freedom, songs of hope, and songs of things unknown. 

We who follow Jesus and proclaim him to be Savior of the world know that much of what makes the Good News of Jesus good is that in Jesus God has not come to be a spectator. Nor is God simply a fan to cheer from the sidelines or stands. What makes this news good is that God comes as one involved. God comes as one of us to be with us and to be one of us. God comes to face the very painful things we may face. The caged bird may sing songs of freedom, songs of things unknown, and songs of hope. in our very uncertain times we can sing. We can sing in harmony and in unison. We are not alone. There is nothing we can face that the God who comes in Jesus has not faced. 

We cannot laugh at the Herods of the world nor dismiss them. The horror they cause is real.

Yet neither the Herods of the world nor their horror need define us or define life. Caged birds do sing. Followers of a God among us can as well. Happy New Year? Happy New Year!


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