Rev. Katherine Todd
Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23
I will recount the gracious deeds of the Lord,
the praiseworthy acts of the Lord,
because of all that the Lord has done for us,
and the great favor to the house of Israel
that he has shown them according to his mercy,
according to the abundance of his steadfast love.
For he said, “Surely they are my people,
children who will not deal falsely”;
and he became their savior
in all their distress.
It was no messenger or angel
but his presence that saved them;
in his love and in his pity he redeemed them;
he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old.
Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23
Now after the wise men had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, “Out of Egypt I have called my son.”
When Herod died, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the child’s life are dead.” Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And after being warned in a dream, he went away to the district of Galilee. There he made his home in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, “He will be called a Nazorean.”
Can you imagine the journey Mary and Joseph have been on?
First Mary is confronted by an angel who tells her she will bear God’s child. So she becomes pregnant and is totally at the mercy of Joseph and the society, for in that day women who had slept with someone outside of marriage could be stoned to death. Her fiancé Joseph figures out that she is pregnant…and not by him. He plans to dismiss her quietly – breaking their engagement. But instead he is instructed by an angel in a dream to take Mary as his wife – that she is pregnant by the Holy Spirit.
What a roller coaster! Had either or Mary or Joseph imagined their wedding day, their marriage, conceiving a child, etc.,…they could not have imagined THIS. The order is all out of whack. One would hope to wed and then conceive and birth a child, but instead a child is on the way before they even are intimate or married.
Now Joseph has all the power here. He can marry her, have her killed, or dismiss her quietly. He can carry out his own plan, or he can follow what the angel tells him in a dream. And he chooses to follow. He marries Mary.
And THIS is where they might hope to settle down, find their stride, set up home, and build a life together, but alas, there is a census. Everyone must travel to their city of origin – to be counted. And so Mary, very pregnant, and Joseph must travel over hills and valleys to Bethlehem.
When they arrive, all they want is a soft bed and warm food. All they want is a place lay their heads and close their eyes. But perhaps they were slower on the road. Perhaps their journey took a tad longer. Whatever it was, Bethlehem was full to the brim. There was no room for them. All they were offered was a cattle shed out back.
And our very-pregnant-Mary goes into labor.
Nothing about their engagement, wedding, first year of marriage was going according to plan. None of it was what they’d dreamed of.
And now, they were giving birth to their first child, in an animal barn out back.
But God showed up. The brightest star shone overhead – as though God’s light was breaking through the heavens to pour warm light on God’s Son. Angels broke through the heavens with singing – before the only ones keeping watch that night, the shepherds. And when they took their beautiful baby boy to the temple to be circumcised, Anna and Simeon greet them with joyous prophecy; their son is the long-awaited one! And over time, that bright star guided Wise Men from the east, who would travel long distances to find the newborn King and pay him homage.
Gifts and provision.
The red carpet was not rolled out.
They were not teleported to their destinations.
Doors did not magically open.
But God showed up. Angels showed up. God spoke to them in dreams, in signs and wonders, and through the people around them…those who were watching, those who were seeking, those who were waiting.
And so we would hope that at this point in the story, they would joyously make their way back home. But not so. Again, Joseph is visited in a dream. He is instructed to flee to Egypt with his family – that Herod is coming to destroy their perfect baby boy.
And again, Joseph has a choice to make – to stay or to go. I imagine both he and Mary must ache for some normality, some comfort, some routine, some family, some coffee, a night off, some familiar… But the storm of Herod’s fear and jealousy is coming like a fury. And this precious family has no protection, except the voice of God breaking into their reality.
God breaks through.
Joseph again chooses to obey, to follow after God, to believe, to trust, to place his hand in the hand of God.
And so they flee.
They flee to Egypt.
And God instructs them to stay until Herod dies. Which they do.
Can you imagine?
GOD is doing amazing things. GOD has come. GOD is turning the world around. GOD is breaking through, into our reality, into our lives, into the order and disorder of things…
God is breaking into hearts by an infant –
an infant whose tiny hands grasp our flawed fingers,
an infant whose wrinkled feet are swaddled in rags and laid in straw,
an infant who learns his first words following the faces and sounds of his perfectly imperfect parents.
And after learning from us, this infant would grow to be a boy anointed and a man full of grace and truth. For GOD has broken through – through the hardened edges of our religiosity, our legalism, our nationalism, our egos and errors and fears.
GOD is breaking through.
And GOD is breaking through still.
And like that first Christmas, God comes still through the perfectly imperfect.
God comes when nothing goes according to our plans.
God comes when we, like Joseph and Mary, choose to follow God’s leading, God’s nudge.
God comes when we are seeking like the Wise Men
Watching like the Shepherds
Waiting like Anna and Simeon
Will we have listening ears,
Get ready. Have a bag packed. Keep your cell phone charged, gas in your car, bus money in your pocket, walking shoes on your feet – for our God comes.
Will you be ready?