Christmas is not over – 3rd Sunday in Ordinary time – MT 4:12-23 OR 4:12-17

So what if you have removed your decorations and have stopped popping marzipan sweets in your mouth; Christmas is not over! Matthew, the evangelist seems to agree with me; not with my liturgical incorrectness but with my trend of thought. We are in Chapter four of his gospel this Sunday, and have left behind the narrative of his birth, his baptism, his temptation and technically are somewhere at the beginning of his Galilean ministry. Yet I insist on wishing you a happy Christmas.

What is Christmas all about? It’s the celebration of God who gave us his son, the light of the world; a son who, as the evangelist John tells us, is the “light of all peoples”. So Christmas is not the celebration of a mere birth but the gift of light and life from God, His Son our Lord. As we say in the creed, “God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God.  So each time we dispel the darkness and welcome the light, we celebrate Christmas; we celebrate Him, who is the light of the world. Today’s reading does exactly that. It reminds us why Jesus came into the world; he comes in fulfillment of the prophesy of Isaiah, chapter 9: 1 (Mat 4:16) “the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light”.

Let us understand this ‘darkness’ that Jesus steps into. Matthew is deliberately quoting Isaiah to make a point. Jesus in fulfillment of the scriptures enters Galilee of the gentiles, and makes his home in Capernaum by the sea in the territory of Zebulum and Naphtali. To understand this text and its consequences we have to go back in time.

In 722 BC , Tiglath Pillesar, the Assyrian king had conquered the northern half of Israel  namely Judah ( the region of Galilee in our text). Years later, the Babylonians captured Jerusalem in the south in 529 BC, destroying the temple and sending the people into exile. Seventy years later the exiles of the south returned to rebuild the temple during the Persian captivity (read the book of Haggai); but the north never really recovered and lost its strong Jewish identity to the cultural influences of the Gentiles who surrounded the land.

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