Now when they 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.” (Matthew 2:13).
The first advent of Christ was filled with conflict, change and confusion. Herod first received the Magi to hear their message of looking for the king of the Jews. He then sought out the Chief priests and scribes to figure out where Christ was to be born (2:4). Finally he consulted with the Magi again to give the impression he wanted to worship this new “King” and “ruler” (Matt. 2:2-6) but he was deeply disturbed by any thought of a rival to his power and control (2:3).
The Magi are warned by God to avoid Herod at all costs as they departed and went home (2:12). The angel appears to Joseph in (another) dream to flee to Egypt because “Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him”. When Herod figures out that the Magi tricked him, he becomes enraged and slaughters all the male children, under the age of two years, who were in Bethlehem and all the surrounding districts based on how much time had passed based on the information he had heard from the Magi. In order to be successful in destroying this new king, Herod slaughters every male child under two years of age.
Fortunately for Mary and Joseph, they were not only warned by the angel to flee to Egypt, but God had provided considerable wealth through the gifts of the Magi who came to see Jesus. In the midst of all this hostility, anger and death, God protects this small family. That being said, there is considerable suffering by many innocent people who probably would never understand the rationale and horror of Herod’s soldiers coming into the districts around Bethlehem and literally killing new born male infants. However, this was what Jeremiah spoke about in Jeremiah 31:15 – “Thus says the Lord: “A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children; she refuses to be comforted for her children, because they are no more.”
Even when the angel appears to Joseph a third time (1:20; 2:13, 19) and tells them to return to the land of Israel, when they heard that Herod’s son, Archelaus (2:22) was ruling on the throne, they detoured to Nazareth. This detour, coincidentally, fulfilled what Isaiah spoke about that the Messiah would be a Nazarene (2:23).
In the midst of all this human chaos and unforeseen circumstances, Christ enters the world and begins his journey. His journey unfolds in the backdrop of power struggles, anger, death and fleeing for their lives. All of which coincides perfectly with the prophet promises of God made hundreds of years earlier. What an astounding set of circumstances and yet God has his fingerprints on every move that Joseph and Mary make to navigate these landmines of humanity to keep the Christ Child safe.
It is amazing how “unsafe” the world can be for a vulnerable family like Joseph and Mary. This does not sound like much of a plan to start a new family in any way, shape or form. Yet God was their refuge and hiding place as they make divine adjustments to avoid the broken evil of humanity. Of course the difficulty of all this are all those families that lost their male children to the wrath of an evil ruler. Someday, God will become the refuge of many who know him and yet still suffered under the horror of evil.
May you have a grace-filled Christmas and His peace for the New Year.