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THE TRIP AFTER CHRISTMAS


 

Matthew 2:13-15 13 When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” 14 So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, 15 where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”


 

Matthew 2:19-23


19 After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt 20 and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.”

21 So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, 23 and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets, that he would be called a Nazarene.


 

Ah, a trip after Christmas, what a glorious thing it is. Some, although not all, plan such trips each year in the days following the hectic Christmas season. A reward of sorts, an act of self care, a opportunity for repairing a sagging spirit, or rejuvenating ourselves to face the New Year that is approaching. That sounds great doesn’t it? I compare this experience to what we read in our Matthew text today, for here we encounter not a well planned and waited for trip for rest and relaxation, but an unplanned and sudden trip into an unknown future.


“Flee to Egypt.” Joseph got up, took Jesus and Mary by night, and went to Egypt. The names and faces might change but it’s a story that continues to be lived in lands throughout the world today. We’ve seen the pictures. We’ve read the news. We’ve heard and maybe even participated in the arguments over what to do about this situation. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph were not the first refugees, and we know they are not the last.


Pause for a moment in your reading today and reflect. What do you hear in today’s gospel, the flight to Egypt (Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23)? What feelings does it arouse? What images fill your mind? What prayers arise within you? What experiences does it recall from your life? What does it have to do with you and me?


I picture a little boy and his mom and dad. Violence, a bully ruler, an oppressive government, and the threat of death have them on the run. I feel the parents’ fear and the knot in their stomachs. As a parent and grandparent, I am certain that their one thought, their only priority, was to protect the child and keep him safe. I see them feeling their way through the darkness of night hoping not to be noticed. With each passing moment they are a bit further from what they know and are familiar with, and bit closer to the unknown and the unfamiliar. The questions. When will we get there? How much further is it? What will we find? What will it be like?


I am not talking about only Jesus and the Family; I’m also talking about every refugee family’s experience. I truly believe that God’s heart is with the refugee. In the birth of Jesus, in the angel of the Lord who spoke to Joseph in a dream, and in the Holy Family’s flight to Egypt God has revealed himself to be aligned with the refugees of this world, with you and me as well.


Now maybe I am taking a big leap here, but I feel like our Gospel story today confronts us with our own “refugee status” and brings to mind the times we have fled to Egypt. Some of you may be on that road now.


If your life has ever been disrupted and you needed a safe place to get away to; if you’ve ever known it was no longer safe or good for you to stay where you were or to stay the way you were; if you’ve ever left the known and familiar and traveled in darkness to the unknown and unfamiliar; if you’ve ever realized your life was at risk and you had to make a change; if your survival depended on crossing borders into a new and foreign land; if you’ve ever experienced these or a thousand other things like them, then you know what it’s like to be a refugee. And my guess is that we all know what that’s like.


Our realities may not be the same experience as Jesus and his Family or the stories of other refugees. Yet, I believe we share a common story and a common standing. I read one time that “Herod is not just a king in Israel some two thousand years ago. In every age Herod is the power, circumstances, and abuses that disrupt and seek to destroy life. Herod is that one who creates refugees. For every refugee there is a Herod, and there are all sorts of refugees and all kinds of Herods.”


You see, being a refugee is not only about tyrant kings, oppressive governments, and threats of death. It’s also about a deep longing and drive for a new life and a new place in life. It’s hearing and responding to the calling of God. The refugee life is neither easy nor safe, but we never go alone. We go with the God of refugees, the God who “has nowhere to lay his head” (Matthew 8:19-20). We go with the promise that our Egypt has already been made sacred and prepared by the presence of “this child” who is God with us” This child knows the way.


I don’t know what your refugee story is, but I’ll bet you have one. I’ll bet you have had at least one time in your life when you had to get to Egypt. Your life depended on it. You left home for a better place, a different life, a new way; and you left not really knowing where you were going or what you would find when you got there. You trusted the child to show you the way. You followed in the footsteps of the Holy Family, as we call them, and with each step along the way your life was the retelling of today’s gospel reading.


 

PRAYER


God of the refugee,


Who guided your people in exile.


Provide safe passage to those fleeing their homeland.


By your justice


Dismantle oppressive regimes


And systems that disturb public order.


May your church,


Called to follow a displaced man from Galilee named Jesus,


Provide hospitable welcome to the refugees in our midst.


Amen


(Prayer Written by Joshua Baron)

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