Pastor’s Message | December 2019
First things first…
The Gospel of Matthew is placed first in the order of books in the New Testament. Its placement at the beginning of the Christian Scriptures makes a good hinge with the end of the Hebrew Scriptures, which we often call the Old Testament. In this account of the life of Jesus the author continually points out how he sees Jesus bringing to completion the words of long ago. A frequent phrase in Matthew’s Gospel is “this was to fulfill what the prophet said…” Matthew quotes the Hebrew Scriptures over 60 times in his telling of the story of Jesus Christ.
As we come to Advent we begin a new liturgical year. With each liturgical year, we begin walking through a different Gospel account: one year Matthew, the next Mark, and the last in the cycle is Luke. The Gospel of John is scattered throughout the three year cycle, and does not have a year of its own. This year, as you may surmise, we return to Matthew.
Matthew is unique in many ways. One is the way in which this Gospel ties Jesus to the fulfillment of prophecy, and related to this is the use of images showing Jesus to be a “new Moses.” Another unique feature of Matthew’s Gospel is his account of Jesus’ birth.
We are most familiar with the story of Jesus’ birth from Luke’s Gospel: the angel appearing to Mary, the shepherds heading to Bethlehem to see the sight, the heavenly host singing “Glory to God in the Highest.” We often hear this in movies, and it is the centerpiece of “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”
In the Gospel according to Matthew Joseph takes center stage. An angel appears to Joseph in a dream, telling him the news and assuring him his wife has not been unfaithful. In this account we see parallels to Joseph the son of Israel, who also had visions and dreams for the sake of the people of God. In the birth story we see connections to Egypt, and the way in which God brings his people “out from” danger and slavery and “into” a new promised land.
As we begin this new year, listen to the ways in which Matthew shares the story of Jesus. Look for the ways in which promises are fulfilled. Look for the ways in which God brings us into a new relationship with God and each other through Jesus. Look for the ways in which we are called into the journey from exile to home, from death to life. Look for the ways in which this Gospel can be a hinge between the Hebrew Scriptures and the Christian Scriptures, and between the Christian Scriptures and your life today.
Thank you, Pr. Karl Richard, for sharing these thoughts with us. May we all have joy in the discovery.
God’s Peace to you all,
Pr. Leslie M. Richard
Pastor Leslie M. Richard