The Duke warns Joseph

Christmas 2A: Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23

2075500063_3ec1fcf42aAfter the wise men are warned in a dream not to return to Herod, an angel warns Joe in a dream that Herod is searching for Jesus and that they should giddy-up (I’m picturing an angel played by John Wayne). Joe is obedient—one mustn’t defy The Duke—and he takes Jesus and Mary into Egypt.

And now we skip over Matthew 2:16-18, three verses that describe a massive slaughter of toddlers by Herod. NBD

But Herod dies, and The Duke comes back and tells Joe, “You can mosey on back to Israel now, pilgrim. The coast is clear.”

Interesting that God chose to use Egypt as a hiding place for a child in danger. In Israel’s memory, Egypt was a place where God rescued children from danger, and now it is a safe haven. Is this move a bit of ironic storytelling on Matthew’s part, or is the flight to Egypt based on historical fact and the act of a good-humored God?

While we cannot answer those questions definitively, we can contemplate its significance on a different level.

If God can use such a notorious place to rescue Jesus from a notorious person who rules in the land of promise, then God can do just about anything—anything is possible.

“Anything is possible” is easily plastered on a motivational poster, but really think about it—the statement has negative and positive ramifications. The most vile people and destitute places may well be redeemed, and the most noteworthy and popular people and places can fall—reputations can be shattered. Anything is possible.

God does call us to hope, but not without calling us to discernment, cleverness, and action. There are pharaohs and herods and egypts and babylons in the world, and whether or not we are the captives or innocents, we have roles to play in safeguarding those seeking safe havens from their oppressors.

This could mean that we might find ourselves able to identify with any of the cast of characters in this tale—Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, the magi, the angels, or even Herod and Archelaus. Anything is possible, and God invites us to expect the unexpected while seeking justice for the oppressed, without pretending that the oppressors are unredeemable.

The Rev. Curtis Farr is the assistant rector of St. James’s Episcopal Church. He blogs for St. James’s every Wednesday, offering reflections on the readings of scripture from the upcoming Sunday. His personal blog is entitled Bowing to Mystery, on which he posts sermons, articles, pictures, videos, etc.

This is a weekly contribution to the creative and imaginative process of interpreting the black and white fire of Scripture. Using an adapted process of Midrash, the author includes historical/cultural information, personal anecdotes, and other theologians’ ruminations on selected passages from the upcoming Sunday’s lectionary readings. All are welcome to journey into the fire by using the comment sections on the blog itself, or on Facebook or Tumblr.