In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
“The First Sunday after Christmas.” Seems like sort of a let-down, doesn’t it? All the gifts have been given and received. The paper and ribbon that took, if you’re like me, half an hour to apply, were gone in a matter of seconds. Your family has gone home or you have returned. All that build-up, all that planning and decorating and buying and baking, and here we are, the few left standing.
But don’t take the lights and the tree down just yet; this is not the end. We’re only getting started! That’s the beautiful thing about the Church year: when the stores have moved on to Valentine’s Day, we’re still basking in the light of the life of Jesus. And it’s just starting to get exciting. Even after no room in the inn, fear-inducing angel armies, and joyous shepherds, the toddler Jesus meets magnificent Magi, comes into contact with conspiratorial kings, takes part in a midnight flight for the border, and lives for a time in a foreign land. And those are just the mountaintops! Let’s lean in a little closer as Matthew tells the story: “Now when [the Magi] had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Rise, 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.’ And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet [Hosea (11:1)], ‘Out of Egypt I called my son'” (Matthew 2:13-15). Why did the angel tell Joseph to go to Egypt rather than some other place? There were other countries to the North and to the East to which they could have gone. Perhaps the route to Egypt was the least difficult, but why connect it to prophecy, then? There is something more here than mere ease of travel. It is what Egypt represents that is important. When God gives the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20, how does He identify Himself? “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the land of slavery” (Exodus 20:2). In Psalm 80, what does the psalmist Asaph give as an example of God’s mercy? “You brought a vine out of Egypt; you drove out the nations and planted it” (Psalm 80:8). When their children and grandchildren ask about the celebration of the Passover, what are the people of Israel supposed to tell them? Deuteronomy 6:21: “We were Pharaoh’s slaves in Egypt and the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand.” The Exodus becomes a picture of God’s salvation throughout the Scriptures. In fact, Egypt becomes short-hand for “slavery.” And Yahweh is the mighty warrior who rescues His people from that slavery. Continue reading