URC Daily Devotion 29 December 2023

Friday, 29 December 2023

St Matthew 2: 19 – 23
When Herod died, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said,  ‘Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the child’s life are dead.’  Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel.  But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And after being warned in a dream, he went away to the district of Galilee.  There he made his home in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, ‘He will be called a Nazorean.’

Andrew Roberts in his book Holy Habits begins by looking at the first Jesus’ call to discipleship of the first disciples.  As I read this passage there were two things that struck me in connection to making disciples and Joseph.

Firstly, in the Gospels call narratives, the first disciples’ obedience is really striking.  They must have heard murmurs about Jesus’ radical teaching; nevertheless they leave their nets and follow Jesus, to a life they know nothing about, to sacrifices they know nothing of, but also to a kingdom greatness they know nothing of. 

Joseph here does the same thing. He is now the earthly father to God incarnate; he knows little about what his future holds, of the sacrifices he will have to make, of the kingdom greatness that he is contributing to, yet he still obediently follows God’s command to return to dangerous Israel.

Second, keeping with the call of the disciples, Philip famously says in John 1:46 “can anything good come out of Nazareth” or in The Message translation, “Nazareth? You’ve got to be kidding” and here we have Joseph and the family going to settle in Nazareth. Clearly, something good can come out of Nazareth, because over 2000 years later, we are still talking about and know where Nazareth is – perhaps for different reasons than where Jesus lived!

Obedience is something we are called to as Christ-followers, not something that is easy, but when we obey God’s command to follow him as disciples, we are generally agreeing to a life we know nothing about, to sacrifices we know nothing of, but also to a kingdom greatness we know nothing of. And yet, we have obeyed and still continue to do, because we have been called to the greatest adventure of our lives in following someone from an obscure town, who has inextricably changed not only our lives but the world.

We pray in the words of Walter Brueggemann (in Awed to Heaven, Rooted in Earth: Prayers of Walter Brueggemann, (Augsburg Fortress, 2003, p. 90).

You are the God who makes extravagant promises. 
We relish your great promises of fidelity and presence and solidarity, and we exude in them. 
Only to find out, always too late, that your promise always comes in the midst of a hard, deep call to obedience.

You are the God who calls people like us, 
and the long list of mothers and fathers before us, 
who trusted the promise enough to keep the call.

So, we give you thanks that you are a calling God, who calls always to dangerous new places. 
We pray enough of your grace and mercy among us that we may be among those who believe your promises enough to respond to your call. 
We pray in the one who embodied your promise and enacted your call, even Jesus. Amen.



Today’s writer

The Rev’d Ruth Armstrong, Minister at The Vale URC and Hardres Street United Church, Ramsgate


New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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