Saturday after the First Sunday after Christmas
Scripture: St. Matthew 2:19-23 (NKJV)
19 But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, 20 saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the young Child’s life are dead.” 21 Then he arose, took the young Child and His mother, and came into the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea instead of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And being warned by God in a dream, he turned aside into the region of Galilee. 23 And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, “He shall be called a Nazarene.”
After Herod died, the holy family could finally depart from Egypt. But still, they had a long way to go. Even after Egypt, Jesus still wasn’t safe. For upon returning to Israel, Joseph found out that Herod’s son, Archelaus, had become ruler of Judea, the province that contained Bethlehem. Once again, an angel intervened and directed Joseph to Galilee, where the family settled in Nazareth.
Now, to be called a “Nazarene” wasn’t a compliment. It was something you whispered under your breath. Nazareth was unknown and undistinguished. Many Roman soldiers lived there, and Nazarenes were looked down upon as being compromisers with the Gentiles and enemies of the Jews.
Nazareth isn’t even mentioned in the Old Testament, and it hardly carries any distinction in the New. Remember when Philip found Nathanael and told him they’d found the Messiah in the person of Jesus of Nazareth? Nathanael replied, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”
But Nazareth would be the ideal place for Jesus to “set up shop.” The Despised One would fit right in with the despised town. He was called the “little branch” or “tender shoot.” In Hebrew, nazar. Jesus, the little green shoot from the stump of Jesse, came from this little, frail, despised town named Nazareth. “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from His roots shall bear fruit” (Isaiah 11:1). And so, from the Old Testament root word nazar, we get the New Testament word “Nazareth.” And from “Nazareth,” we indeed get something “good.”