December 27, 2020

Sermon – The Sunday after the Nativity

PASTORAL SERMON
The Sunday after the Nativity
By V. Rev. Timothy Baclig
December 27, 2020

Today is the “Third Day of Christmas” and the Sunday after the Holy
Nativity of Christ. Today’s Gospel reading is the continuation of the events
of the Holy Nativity according to the St. Matthew. It covers the period of
time that begins with Mary & Joseph, who after facing the hardship of not
having a place to lodge, were forced to become refugees in Egypt, in order to
escape from the wrath of Herod, who forced the killing of fourteen thousand
innocent children, who are commemorated on December 29. Following the
death of Herod, the Gospel records that Jesus journeyed with Mary and
Joseph to their home in the city of Nazareth in Galilee.

The sequence of events of the birth of Christ can at times be somewhat
confusing. That is because we are often presented with the nativity scene
with everyone in place: Mary, Joseph, the Baby Jesus, the shepherds and the
Wise Men – all there at once! Today, “Joseph,” who is called “the
Betrothed,” is among our commemorations. He is described in the Gospel as
a righteous man. His role is often overlooked. In the first chapter of St.
Matthew’s, just prior to today’s reading, we hear: “Then Joseph, ...being a
just man ... did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him” (Matthew
1:19, 24). We learn by the example of Joseph what it means to fear God
more than men; also what it means to obey God more than men (Prologue of
Ohrid).

The Apocryphal book called: The Proto Evangelium of St. James
described Joseph as a master builder, a craftsman who was very gifted with
his hands. We are told that he was married to Salome and together had four
sons: James, Joseph, Jude, and Simeon; also three daughters: Esther, Martha,
and Salome. Joseph and Simeon, the elder sons of Joseph were married and
had families of their own. Their daughters were also married and lives in
their own homes. So there remained in Joseph’s house Jude and James – who
has the honorable title “James, the ‘brother’ of the Lord;” who was also the
first bishop of Jerusalem – commemorated today with David the Prophet and
King, and Joseph “the Betrothed.” Joseph’s wife, Salome died after a
blessed marriage of about 40 years.

Joseph, therefore, was a widower and was chosen by the Temple priests
to be betrothed to the Virgin Mary. Following the events of the Annunciation,
when Mary was in her sixth month of pregnancy, Joseph was
overwhelmingly troubled in learning that Mary was with child. This image is
shown to us on the icon of the Holy Nativity. But as a man who was a
“servant of the Lord,” he heeded the Angel of the Lord who spoke to him in a
dream: “...do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in
her is of the Holy Spirit; she will bear a son, and you shall call His name
Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” (Matt. 1:19-21). Joseph,
who was a man knowledgeable of the Law and the prophets remembered the
prophesy of Isaiah: “Behold a Virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and His
name shall be called ‘Immanuel’” (Is. 7:14). Being a just man, he resolved to
care for Mary by keeping her safely in his home; accepting her as his wife
(Matt. 1:24) and in this way protected her from being stoned for adultery.

In obedience to the Law of Moses, Joseph took the Child and His
mother and had him circumcised on the eighth day, and named Him “Jesus.”
(Luke 2:22). This commemoration is this Friday, the eighth day of following
the birth of Christ. It happens to also be our Civil New Year and the Feast of
St. Basil the Great (when we will also serve the Divine Liturgy).

It cannot be overstated that while Joseph was an accomplished
builder and carpenter from a family well known in Galilee as well as
Judea and to the Jewish leaders, his spirit was refined and elevated with
the knowledge of the scriptures. Joseph was the head of his household,
however, it was a home governed by love and devotion to the Law and
the Prophets. Most importantly, Joseph was a man of God who not only
faced great challenges, but made some very difficult choices.

Joseph was able to make wise decisions because he learned to respond
to God’s call, readily, willingly and repeatedly. In a few passages of the
Gospel, Joseph appears as a strong, courageous man; a working man; yet in
his heart we see a tenderness, which is not the trait of the weak, but instead a
sign of strength of spirit with a capacity for concern, love and compassion.

As a man of faith, that the scripture also describes as a righteous
and just man, Joseph was a man of great kindness and compassion. This

righteousness was not “self righteousness.” Nor is it based upon self-
interests. It is a righteousness grounded in compassion and mercy. It is a

righteousness that is rooted in love and obedience. Most importantly,

Joseph’s righteousness is grounded in his relationship to God. It defines who
he was. His righteousness was not even based upon what he was called to do
or even the fact that he did it. Joseph, the son of David, was simply a
committed “servant of the Lord.”

For a man in today’s world, and certainly no different from the
spirituality of women, Joseph models the importance of being vigilantly
attentive to God; open to the signs of His presence, receptive to God’s plans
and not our own; realizing that without God, life is futile. (What a message
for our day!) The man, Joseph is also a “protector” and responsible
guardian. Discretely, humbly, silently, but with patience, diligent
attentiveness and fidelity, Joseph took care of Mary and gladly dedicated
himself to Jesus’ upbringing, even when it may have been hard to
understand—from the time of his betrothal, to the finding of the 12 year old
Jesus in the Temple in Jerusalem. Joseph is present with loving care as the
spouse of Mary. He is at her side in good times and bad, on the first journey
to Bethlehem, and then to Egypt, and for the frantic search for the child in the
Temple; later in northern Palestine, in a day to day life in their home at
Nazareth; in the workshop, where (tradition tells us) he taught his trade to
Jesus.

And so here is the point of the lesson: Joseph is able to hear God’s
voice because He made it his purpose to seek and to be guided by God’s
will, and for this reason is all the more attentive to Jesus and Mary who
are entrusted to his care and safety.

God has given us hope in the Feast of His Birth in the revelation of
God born as a little child, and in the Feast to come: being Baptized at the
hands of John on Holy Theophany – bringing not only you and I, but the
entire creation, of which we are called to be stewards. It is a message hope of
renewal and sanctification. For you and I, Christ’s life in us is our hope for
all that really matters.

St. John Chrysostom describes Joseph’s hope and trust in God this way:
He says, “It is like the sun not yet risen, but from afar more than half the
world is already illumined by its light. [And] So did Christ, [who was
anticipated and promised] ...before his birth—cast light upon all the world.
In this way, even before [His Mother’s] birth pains, prophets danced for joy
and women foretold what was to come.” May we have this kind of hope that
is grounded God’s real presence with us. May we have the courage of

Joseph, the purity of Mary, the diligence of the shepherds and the wisdom of
the Magi to be servants of God our King, and truly glorify Him! Christ is
جدوه! !born
ِد، م ِ
َسيح ول
ال Χριστός γεννάται!

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