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Epiphany
Series A

The First Sunday After Christmas

Option #1: "When the Time Had Fully Come"
Galatians 4:4-7
Rev. Wayne Dobratz

I. God’s Christmas preparation
     A. The people of Israel
          1. They hadn’t had a prophet in over 400 years
          2. They were eager to listen when John came–Matt 3:3-6
          3. John told them to prepare their hearts–Matt 3:8-11

     B. The Roman World
         1. The Pax Romanum–Roman Peace–helped to spread the Good News
         2. The Roman roads provided safe transportation

     C. The Language

          1. Since God wanted to unite Jew and Gentile into one body–Gal 3:28, Rev 5: 9–the Greek language, the language of commerce, made communication possible (see Barnes below)

          2. Greek culture always wanted to hear something new–Acts 17:19ff

II. God sent His Son
     A. Born of a woman, yet without sin–Heb 4:15

     B. Born under the Law to keep its provisions–Rom 3:22ff, 8:3ff, Col 2:13-15

     C. To redeem those in its slavery and condemnation–Rom 6:6, 16-17, 20; Gal 3:13-14; 1 Pet 1:18-20, 3:18

III. The result
     A. The slavery of the Law is ended–cf Gal 4:8ff, Rom 6:6 & 17 

     B. You have a heavenly Father–Gal 3:26ff, John 1:12, also Isa 63:16, Rom 1:7, 2 Thess 2:16 

     C. You have a heavenly inheritance–Matt 25:34; 1 Cor 3:21-23, Eph 1:18ff, Col 1:11-14, Rev 21:6-7

Albert Barnes explains what is meant by the “fullness of time”:

(1) it was just the time when all the prophecies centered in him, and when there could be no doubt about their fulfillment. It was important that such an event should be predicted in order that there might be full evidence that he came from heaven; and yet in order that prophecy may be seen to have been uttered by God, it must be so far before the event as to make it impossible to have been the result of mere human conjecture.

(2) it was a time when the world was at peace. The temple of Janus, closed only in times of peace, was then shut, though it had been but once closed before during the Roman history. What an appropriate time for the “Prince of Peace” to come! The world was, to a great extent, under the Roman scepter. Communications between different parts of the world were then more rapid and secure than they had been at any former period, and the gospel could be more easily propagated. Further, the Jews were scattered in almost all lands, acquainted with the promises, looking for the Messiah, furnishing facilities to their own countrymen the apostles to preach the gospel in numerous synagogues, and qualified, if they embraced the Messiah, to become most zealous and devoted missionaries. The same language, the Greek, was, moreover, after the time of Alexander the Great, the common language of no small part of the world, or at least was spoken and understood among a considerable portion of the nations of the earth. At no period before had there been so extensive a use of the same language.

(3) it was a proper period to make the new system known. It accorded with the benevolence of God, that it should be delayed no longer than that the world should be in a suitable state for receiving the Redeemer. When that period, therefore, had arrived, God did not delay, but sent his Son on the great work of the world’s redemption.
 

+  + + 

Option #2: "Divine Star Wars"
Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23
Rev. Kelly Bedard

A. The Empire Strikes Back!

    1. Forced moves: leaving comfortable(?) confines not knowing what lies ahead

    2. Seeking to destroy what it does not see and/or fails to understand

B. Return of the Jessite

    1. "The Force" moves: our with-us God (Immanuel) is present even when running for His life

    2. Understanding--forgiving--those who seek to destroy and do not see  

Notes

1. Poem written by Evan D. Baltz:

    'Twas the day after Christmas and all through the house  not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.  Wrappings from papers still covered the floor;     no one had touched them in the rush to the store.

    The children had been nestled all safe in their bed  when mom came and woke them with a pat on the head:  "It's time to go shopping and exchange what we got.   Let's hurry now, children, before full is the lot."

    And then with a shout and great loud commotion the family was gone, the van now in motion. "Do you have the receipts?" then mother did cry. "In my coat pocket," came the reply.

    The roads were all crowded, but dad would get through. In search of a sale, no stop lights would do. "Where off to first?" he then did inquire. Here is the list that mom did inspire:

    Now Target, now Dillard's, now Broadway, Wal-Mart; on Marshall's, on Macy's, on Mervyn's, K-Mart. To all of the stores we must go in a flash, so take out your wallet and pull out the cash.

   As we pushed and shoved and forced our way through, my impatience for Christmas just grew and grew. The aisles were packed with children and carts; our progress became just short stops and starts.

    The line for exchanges was three miles long, about the same length as my tie from Hong Kong which was given to me by my some distant cousin who had brain cells, I thought, not more than a dozen.

    Why couldn't people just give us some cash? This sweater I'm wearing is giving a rash. And who ever heard of eating fruit cake? I'm sure that those "fruits" are really just fake.

    Greed and desire were driving this race to see who could spend at the fastest pace. It was video game this and dinosaur that, but all I wanted was gloves and a hat.

    We got what we wanted and then flew to the door, back to the car and to the next store. It was like this all day from sunrise to set, our busiest year, I would venture to bet.

    This was Christmas, perhaps not at its best, cuz a Baby was born with no place to rest. But it didn't seem to matter too much on this day. Christmas was over; it wasn't here to stay.

    It's here once a year for us to get gifts and maybe occasionally our spirits it lifts. But that's all there is; it's nothing much more than turkey and presents all bought from a store.

    It's sometimes more trouble than it really is worth, all this commotion over a simple birth. Let's just relax and call it vacation; there's no need to jump and shout with elation.

    If this story of Jesus was really true I am sure there would be more for us here to do than shopping and eating and watching TV. There'd have to be more in it for me.

    But nevertheless I go on my way not thinking of such or stopping to pray.   It's on to the mall 'til we're out of sight. Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.

2. Since to be a Nazarene was a special mark of holiness, it seemed natural that the Messiah would be a Nazarene; but Matthew shows how this was true in a different way--He was from the city of Nazareth, though not a Nazarene through a vow. (David Guzik)

3. "He will be called a Nazarene" (v23): The best explanation of the origin of this name appears to be that which traces it to the word netzer in Isaiah 11:1--the small twig, sprout, or sucker, which the prophet there says, "shall come forth from the stem (or rather, 'stump') of Jesse, the branch which should fructify from his roots." The little town of Nazareth, mentioned neither in the Old Testament nor in Josephus, was probably so called from its insignificance: a weak twig in contrast to a stately tree; and a special contempt seemed to rest upon it--"Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?" (John 1:46)--over and above the general contempt in which all Galilee was held, from the number of Gentiles that settled in the upper territories of it, and, in the estimation of the Jews, debased it. Thus, in the providential arrangement by which our Lord was brought up at the insignificant and opprobrious town called Nazareth, there was involved, first, a local humiliation; next, an allusion to Isaiah's prediction of His lowly, twig-like upspringing from the branchless, dried-up stump of Jesse; and yet further, a standing memorial of that humiliation which "the prophets," in a number of the most striking predictions, had attached to the Messiah. (Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible)

4. Nazoraios (v23): of Nazareth; Nazarene; Nazarite = "one separated"; an inhabitant of Nazareth; a title given to Jesus in the NT; a name given to Christians by the Jews, Ac 24:5.

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