December 28, 2020
Christ UMC Chattanooga
District Lay Leader
Matthew 2:13-183 When the Wise Men had left, Joseph had a dream. In the dream an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph. “Get up!” the angel said. “Take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you to come back. Herod is going to search for the child. He wants to kill him.”14 So Joseph got up. During the night, he left for Egypt with the child and his mother Mary. 15 They stayed there until King Herod died. So the words the Lord had spoken through the prophet came true. He had said, “I brought my son out of Egypt.”
(Hosea 11:1)16 Herod realized that the Wise Men had tricked him. So he became very angry. He gave orders about Bethlehem and the area around it. He ordered all the boys two years old and under to be killed. This agreed with the time when the Wise Men had seen the star. 17 In this way, the words Jeremiah the prophet spoke came true. He had said,
18 “A voice is heard in Ramah.
It’s the sound of crying and deep sadness.
Rachel is crying over her children.
She refuses to be comforted,
because they are gone.”
DevotionOften I've heard people say, "Hey, you want to hear this crazy dream I had last night?" It’s tough for me to trust in a dream. Nevertheless, Joseph trusts to the point that he leaves Bethlehem immediately, “by night.” Joseph sensed the urgency and acted quickly. This was, no doubt, a terrifying time for Joseph and Mary. They just had a new baby son and would now have to go to a country that they were unfamiliar with and stay until it was safe again.
Matthew often uses Old Testament parallels in his Gospel. Just as Joseph, of multi-colored dream-coat fame, interprets dreams, so does Joseph, Mary's husband. Pharaoh tried to slay all the male children of the Hebrews, only to have one of them, Moses, escape and become the savior of his people. The tyrant Herod, not wanting any threats, orders the massacre of all male children two years and under in Bethlehem and its vicinity. However, Jesus escapes, and he becomes the savior of his people. This text from Matthew is particularly challenging. The narrative elicits contrasting emotions. Joy at the birth of Christ is short-lived. The cross looms from the outset. He is a hunted child. Jesus, the hero and central figure of Matthew’s Gospel, escapes an early death. A terrible story follows the birth of Jesus. From joy and wonder, angels and wise men, we move to persecution and murder. Who would want to think of that when the Christmas tree is still green, the presents are still a novelty, and we still bask in the warm glow of good times with family? Yet, the passage ends with the unnecessary slaughter of innocent children. Matthew’s refrain, “this was done to fulfill what had been spoken by the prophet,” emphasizes that Jesus was the one prophesied in the Old Testament.
When we read the Christmas story, it is important not to just gloss over passages like this that may seem out of place. In the middle of the story about the greatest birth in human history, we see struggle, pain, and uncertainty happen. Jesus was born into a real family with very real pain. When we look at photos of baby Jesus with a halo around his head and all the world seemingly at peace, we can lose sight of the real story. Jesus was born into a broken world.
Salvation comes to us through this baby boy, the Son of God, who was born into the family line of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He took up his human life to show us that our story isn’t about death, slavery, and oppression. Our story is about freedom, hope, and liberation—all found in our life in Jesus Christ.