The Escape to Egypt
Now after they 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.”
The Massacre of the Infants
When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah:
“A voice was heard in Ramah,
wailing and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.”
The Return from Egypt
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.”
As we think about clearing away our Christmas Nativity scenes for another year, as the twelve days of Christmas draws to a close, we are reluctant to allow this week's text to intrude into our carefully construed messages of hope, light, peace and joy that we have manoeuvred around since the beginning of Advent. We balk at introducing the bitter taste of reality into the cosiness of the Christmas story.
And yet, while those of us fortunate enough to be able to do so, have celebrated the season with family and friends, the scene played out in the wake of the Magi's visit has been the experience of many all over the world:
Young black youths massacred in policing gone wrong.
Ships full of Syrian refugees cast adrift in European waters.
Child trafficking rings catering for all manner of perverse pleasure.
Evil does not stop because a child is born. Power is still abused. The innocent continue to pay the price of perceived threat.
The difference that the birth of the Christ child makes is the knowledge of God with us in all of the world's evil.
God with us bringing a sliver of hope in despair.
God with us, bringing a glimmer of light into the darkness.
God with us bringing a thirst for peace in every conflict.
God with us bringing a stirring of joy in the depths of sorrow.
The God of love, born for us at Christmas, and present every day in all of life and death.