Don’t be Troubled by Dangers: an exhortation from John Chrysostom

Titian, Flight into Egypt; Oil on canvas; c. 1508.

While studying for my message at Eastbrook from this past weekend, “Refugee Messiah,” I came across these words by St. John Chrysostom from homily 8.2 on the Gospel of Matthew that were very encouraging in these days.

But why was the Christ child sent into Egypt? The text makes this clear: he was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt have I called my son.” From that point onward we see that the hope of salvation would be proclaimed to the whole world. Babylon and Egypt represent the whole world. Even when they were engulfed in ungodliness, God signified that he intended to correct and amend both Babylon and Egypt. God wanted humanity to expect his bounteous gifts the world over. So he called from Babylon the wise men and sent to Egypt the holy family.

Besides what I have said, there is another lesson also to be learned, which tends powerfully toward true self-constraint in us. We are warned from the beginning to look out for temptations and plots. And we see this even when he came in swaddling clothes. Thus you see even at his birth a tyrant raging, a flight ensuing and a departure beyond the border. For it was because of no crime that his family was exiled into the land of Egypt.

Similarly, you yourself need not be troubled if you are suffering countless dangers. Do not expect to be celebrated or crowned promptly for your troubles. Instead you may keep in mind the long-suffering example of the mother of the Child, bearing all things nobly, knowing that such a fugitive life is consistent with the ordering of spiritual things. You are sharing the kind of labor Mary herself shared. So did the magi. They both were willing to retire secretly in the humiliating role of fugitive.

[John Chrysostom, Gospel of Matthew, Homily 8.2 from Manlio Simonetti, ed., Matthew 1-13, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture 1a (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2001), 31.]

Christmas Joy

Merry Christmas! This is why we celebrate.

Fra Angelico, The Annunciation; tempera on wood; between 1433 and 1434.

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14)

For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given,
    and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
    there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
    and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
    with justice and righteousness
    from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
    will accomplish this. (Isaiah 9:6-7)

Sadao Watanabe, Nativity; Hand-colored stencil print on crumpled paper.

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David.  He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. (Luke 2:1-7)

The Simple Mystery of the Conception: a word from John Chrysostom

I came across this excerpt from a sermon by St. John Chrysostom that illuminated something Kelly and I could not address in our recent message on Mary at Eastbrook Church. Chrysostom was one of the most significant preachers in the history of the church and a powerful voice in the 4th and 5th centuries. This excerpt is taken from Homily 4 on the Gospel of Matthew.

Do not speculate beyond the text. Do not require of it something more than what it simply says. Do not ask, “But precisely how was it that the Spirit accomplished this in a virgin?” For even when nature is at work, it is impossible fully to explain the manner of the formation of the person. How then, when the Spirit is accomplishing miracles, shall we be able to express their precise causes? Lest you should weary the writer or disturb him by continually probing beyond what he says, he has indicated who it was that produced the miracle. He then withdraws from further comment. “I know nothing more,” he in effect says, “but that what was done was the work of the Holy Spirit.”

Shame on those who attempt to pry into the miracle of generation from on high! For this birth can by no means be explained, yet it has witnesses beyond number and has been proclaimed from ancient times as a real birth handled with human hands. What kind of extreme madness afflicts those who busy themselves by curiously prying into the unutterable generation? For neither Gabriel nor Matthew was able to say anything more, but only that the generation was from the Spirit. But how from the Spirit? In what manner? Neither Gabriel nor Matthew has explained, nor is it possible.

Do not imagine that you have untangled the mystery merely by hearing that this is the work of the Spirit. For we remain ignorant of many things, even while learning of them. So how could the infinite One reside in a womb? How could he that contains all be carried as yet unborn by a woman? How could the Virgin bear and continue to be a virgin? Explain to me how the Spirit designed the temple of his body.

[John Chrysostom, Gospel of Matthew, Homily 4.3 from Manlio Simonetti, ed., Matthew 1-13, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture 1a (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2001), 12-13.]

Mary

This past weekend we continued our series “Family Tree” at Eastbrook Church. This is the fourth week in the first part of our extended journey through the Gospel of Matthew. During Advent, we will focus on the genealogy of Jesus found in Matthew, chapters 1 and 2. It was a joy to co-preach this message about Mary with my wife, Kelly. The message is largely drawn from Matthew 1:18-25 and Luke 1:26-38.

You can view the message video and outline below. You can follow along with the entire series here and the devotional that accompanies the series here. You could always join us for weekend worship in-person or remotely via Eastbrook at Home.


“’The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’ (which means ‘God with us’).”  (Matthew 1:23)

The Obedience of Mary

  • Her place in the genealogy
  • Contrast with Eve

The Role of the Holy Spirit

  • God is fully holy and Mary is honored
  • Parallel with Genesis
  • Dignity of the body in the incarnation

Mary the Virgin Mother

  • This is something new and different through God’s power and initiative alone
  • Fulfillment of Isaiah 7:9-11
  • Significance of Immanuel

Mary the Highly Favored One

  • Although she has no position, she is the “favored one”
  • She responds with bold faith, surrender, and humble obedience

Dig Deeper

This week dig deeper into the life of Mary in one or more of the following ways:

  • Memorize Mary’s words in Luke 1:38 and/or 1:46-55
  • Consider reading about Mary in all of the New Testament accounts of her:
    • Matthew 1:16, 18-25; 2:9-12, 13-23; 12:46-50; 13:55
    • Mark 3:31-35; 6:1-3
    • Luke 1:26-56; 2:1-52; 8:19-21; 11:27-28
    • John 2:1-12; 6:41-42; 19:25-27
    • Acts 1:12-14
  • If you want to dig deeper into the life of Mary, consider reading St. John Chrysostom’s Homilies on the Gospel of Matthew, accessible online here
  • Consider watching the Bible Project’s video on the first two chapters of Luke here

Eastbrook at Home – December 20, 2020

Eastbrook-At-Home-Series-GFX_16x9-Title

Join us for worship with Eastbrook Church through Eastbrook at Home at 8, 9:30, and 11 AM. This weekend we continue our Advent journey with the series “Family Tree,” which explores the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew, chapters 1-2. This week my wife, Kelly, and I will speak about Mary, the mother of Jesus.

Also, don’t forget to join us for Christmas Eve services at Eastbrook on December 23 (6 & 7:30 PM) and 24 (1, 2:30, 4, 5:30 PM). More info here.

Join in with the Eastbrook 365 daily devotional for this series here.

We also continue in-person services at 8:00, 9:30, and 11:00 AM this weekend at the Eastbrook Campus, but you do need to RSVP ahead of time. Find out more info here.

Each Sunday at 8, 9:30, and 11 AM, you can participate with our weekly worship service at home with your small group, family, or friends. This service will then be available during the week until the next Sunday’s service starts. You can also access the service directly via Vimeo, the Eastbrook app, or Facebook.

If you are not signed up for our church emailing list, please sign up here. Also, please remember that during this time financial support for the church is critical as we continue minister within our congregation and reach out to our neighborhood, city, and the world at this challenging time. Please give online or send in your tithes and offerings to support the ministry of Eastbrook Church.