From the Dean: January 5, 2018

“What did I miss?” is a wonderful piece from the musical Hamilton, sung by Thomas Jefferson as he returns to America after having been in Paris for the entire revolutionary war. It is a good question for many of us who, caught up in celebrating Christmas and moving on into the New Year, missed much of what happened after the shepherds and angels departed the pageant stage. (The biblical narrative, by the way, is clear that the wise men did not come to the manger at the first Christmas Eve but may have arrived as much as two years later. The wise men, however, will be the focus of this coming Sunday’s celebration of the Epiphany, so we will leave them alone for now.) There are at least three other pieces of the puzzle that were missed. They are not easy or sentimental but are applicable to Jesus’ story and our own.  First, The Holy Innocents and the Flight into Egypt (Matthew 2:13-18). This tells us how because of Jesus, Herod ordered the death of all male children under two years old but that having been warned in advance by an angel, Jesus, Mary and Joseph had slipped away in the night and fled to safety in Egypt (from which they returned – going to Nazareth – after Herod had died). This is important, not just as a lesson of what insecure rulers do when they feel threatened, but also as a reminder that Jesus – like so many new Mainers we meet today – was a political refugee, who sought asylum in a foreign country, with a foreign language, foreign religions, and customs not his own.  That experience of diversity, racism, and cultural adaptation formed Jesus and had a huge impact both on his ministry and the church that would bear his name. It also set Jesus up as the “second Moses,” who like Moses escaped  genocide,  would come out of Egypt, and would climb another mountain to bring people a new way of living (in Jesus’ case though the beatitudes).  Then there is Holy Name and feast of the circumcision (Luke 2:15-21)  which solidified Jesus’ Jewish identity, and his purpose (the name Yeshua means “the one who saves.”)    This is important for us who sometimes forget that Jesus was Jewish, that we share a heritage with our Jewish brothers and sisters, and that from the very beginning, Jesus’ purpose was to save the whole world from sin.  The identity and vocation of Jesus is also made clear in Jesus’ baptism, (Mark 1:4-11) which we would celebrate this coming Sunday if we weren’t using the lessons for Epiphany.  With the words “This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased,” Jesus learned who he was and whose he was. He was reminded how much he was loved and given strength, not only to go through temptations, but for his ministry to begin. As we wrap up the Christmas season and fill in the pieces we missed, may the same thing happen to us.

Dean Shambaugh