December 26, 2013 #654

Since I am retiring next Tuesday this will be the last e-mail devotional you will receive from me. God’s blessings on your New Year.
                                                                                                    ~Pastor Duane

When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. Matthew 2:16 (NRSV)

It was Christmas morning, a chance to relax after the Christmas Eve services when I received the phone call to come up to the hospital. There I found a member of Trinity had been brought in by ambulance after suffering a massive heart attack. Attempts to get the heart going had failed. So after administering last rites I spent time ministering to a grieving family whose plans for a joyous family gather had come to a dramatic end. I share this story because this coming Sunday the assigned gospel for the First Sunday after Christmas includes the story of the slaughter of the innocent children in Bethlehem. I love children and have always hated this text. It is one of the reasons I usually take the Sunday after Christmas as a vacation Sunday so I don’t have to deal with it. Like most people I want Christmas (including the 12 days of Christmas) to be filled with joy and warm fuzzy feelings. I do not like to have those emotions sabotaged by a story of the killing of innocent children. But the fact remains that this story brings us back to reality. Even though we love to live in our make believe world where every family gathering is perfect and every story has a happy ending the reality is, the world is not like that. Innocent children are killed in a school shooting right before Christmas and there are children throughout the world who go to bed hungry on Christmas Eve hoping that Santa will bring them something to eat for Christmas. And as Image of the Nativity Scenemuch as we wish it wouldn’t happen, people do die on Christmas Day. Thankfully the message of Christmas is not about having a warm, fuzzy, emotional high, but rather about a God who comes to dwell among us, born in a manger in Bethlehem. Jesus still dwells with us, especially in the midst of hardship. When the sufferings of the world overwhelm us it is important to remember that Jesus is our Emmanuel, God with us and know that through the suffering and hardships of the world Jesus will always be there. That was the promise Jesus made before he ascended into heaven “And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20 (NRSV) Thank-you Jesus for being our Emmanuel, especially during the difficulties of life. Amen.