Saturday, December 25, 2004


Matthew 2: 13-23

The birth of Jesus comes to us a festive retelling- with the excitement of angels singing, shepherds coming to visit, the incredible scene of Mary and Joseph not finding room in the inn and settling down in a stable for the delivery, animals around, a bright star, and then several months later- strange star gazers coming to bring gifts for child. What a way to start your life…

But my thoughts quickly turn to what was going on after the birth. When Jen had both Jonas and Abby I think of the number of family members we had waiting in anticipation in the waiting room for me to come out and say, “He’s here, or she’s here”. And then the excitement that came with that. In then since then, the support and nurture that has come with having family to surround and love Jonas and Abby. This has been a large part of our lives.

But for Mary and Joseph, what should have been a time to enjoy this new baby, God’s child of hope and promise, through a dream God came to them and tells them to leave their home, family, and sense of comfort and community and head to Egypt.

(When have you had to leave a place or a way of life for another?)

Now in the midst of Mary and Joseph taking Jesus and heading to Egypt, we hear about Herod. Rome has occupied Israel and appointed Herod, a Jew, as the king over this area of Palestine. Herod was known as ruling with an iron fist. He was the kind of leader who reacted ruthlessly and violently if he felt his power was in some way threatened. So when Herod hears from the wandering magi that they have come to worship a king- the king of the Jews, Herod becomes concerned, to say the least. So concerned that in a drastic action to make sure this child doesn’t continue to be a threat- he orders that all male children 2 years of age and younger be killed. It’s interesting how far leaders in the world will go to “KEEP THE PEACE”.

In Christian tradition this story has been known as the slaughter of the Holy Innocents. The children killed are called holy innocents because they represent the people of our world who have no voice, who have been marginalized and victimized.

(Who are the “holy innocents” in our world today? Who are the babies and children at our mercy in our public life – who suffer from the lack of clean air and water, medical care, good schools? Who are the holy innocents who suffer in war, who endure violence in their homes and neighborhoods, who have no voice in the life of our community? Do we recognize them and speak out on behalf of them, or simply read about them, and then turn the page, and move on with our lives?)

When I hear the story of Joseph having the dream where God tells him to take Mary and Jesus and head to Egypt, it connects them into the story of God calling God’s people into a certain way of life.

We recall Abraham hearing the voice of God come to him saying, “Abraham, I want you to leave your country and way of life and go to a place that I’m calling you to. If you go I will make you a parent to a nation of many people. So in a sense, God is calling Abraham to become a refugee and to uproot his family and go to a new place. With that new place comes a promise from God.

We recall Moses who lives in Egypt, whose people are being oppressed by the Pharaoh. God calls Moses to lead the people out of Egypt into a “promised land” where God will be their God and the Israelites will be God’s people. And so this people become refugees wandering to a new place.

God’s calling Joseph, Mary and Jesus to leave their home and head to Egypt is calling them to become refugees- uprooted from their family, community and way of life, but it also suggest two things
1. Jesus is living out of the same “way of life” as those who have gone before him.
2. Jesus’ leaving his homeland for Egypt, the place his ancestors where oppressed, enslaved, and brought out of is a symbolic act of reconciliation. Through Jesus, God is bringing people together, tearing down walls that separate us, bringing peace where there is division, and, through Jesus, embracing all people as The People of God.

(When have you experienced God’s presence when you didn’t expect to?)

I want you to consider the idea that God is calling us as God’s people to become a refugee people- a people that gives up places of power and are open to God’s leading and direction. Because it’s when we allow God to lead us that we are able to meet and become a blessing for those in our world who are the voiceless, the needy, and powerless.

Maybe God wants the church to look like a refugee camp- providing friendship, hospitality, basic necessities to those who have been uprooted and driven away from their home. Why, because our God is a God that entered the world as a baby who quickly became a refugee.

Last week I worked at the 61st Ave. UMC “Last Chance Toy Store”, where we gave out toys to low income families so they would have gifts for their children. In the course of 4 days, over 3000 children were served. On Tuesday I carried gifts to the car for a young Hispanic woman. I tried to talk to her, I know no Spanish. Very quickly it becomes apparent that she knew no English. But every time I asked her a question, she smiled and said, “Merry Christmas”. In fact, she probably said Merry Christmas at least 10 times to me with such joy. At this refugee camp- where people came to receive gifts of hope that their children would have a meaningful holiday- I met and angel who blessed me, and hopefully I was an angel to her as well.

May we be both refugees in this world and a refugee camp for the world. Amen.

No comments: