I Have Heard You Calling in the Night, Part 2
Heard you calling, continued...
Sometimes, when we think of the Christmas story, we combine what we read in Luke, what we read in Matthew, and what we traditionally have heard. I think it is good to take a moment to pull the pieces apart, and look at each of them separately. The birth narrative in Matthew focuses on Joseph – it is in Matthew that we see the angel visiting Joseph in dreams – first to convince him not to abandon Mary, and now again in these verses. Remember that one of Matthew’s purposes in writing his Gospel was to place the story of Christ in a framework for the Hebrew people. If you read this passage carefully, you can hear the story of Moses echoing through it. Think about it. Both what we read today and the story of Moses include a trip to Egypt (for Moses’ ancestors), a baby in peril from power as children are massacred and a return from Egypt. When we read the first two chapters of Matthew, we get a better picture of Joseph – and I think we can place ourselves in his shoes – or maybe sandals – a little bit better.
The passage from Matthew (see yesterday) can easily be divided into three parts, and I want us to look at each of them, and see what God is telling us today in these words written 2000 years ago. What does God’s call on Joseph’s life say to us? What about the killing of the young boys? And what about the return to Israel from Egypt? These words weren’t written about us, but I think we can hear God’s words to us in them.
We pick up the story right after the wise men leave. After they left, Joseph is told in a dream to take Mary and Jesus and flee to Egypt, and to stay there until Herod had died. Think about that for a minute. I wonder if Joseph had been a world traveler before this? I’m guessing not. So, in a dream, God tells him to leave, right now, with his baby and wife, and go across a desert to a land where he hasn’t been before, and stay there, for who knows how long. And what does Joseph do? He obeys. How would he have felt? I imagine he was afraid – that both of them were afraid. I imagine that they would rather have stayed where they were – a place familiar to them – than go to Egypt. Our nativity scenes don’t depict this – they don’t show a Joseph and Mary who are refugees, far away from home. This is not an “Away in the Manger” story – this is a story of a family fleeing the country for their lives – or at least for the life of their child. Joseph and Mary go – because God calls.