Matthew, in his recording of the visit of the Wise Men in chapter 2 of his gospel, draws the account to a conclusion by saying the following:
After the wise men had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, ‘Get up! Flee to Egypt with the child and his mother, stay there until I tell you to return, because Herod is going to search for the child to kill him’. That night Joseph left for Egypt with the child and Mary his mother, and they stayed there until after Herod’s death.Matthew 2:13-15
I have always thought that Joseph was the ‘silent hero’ in the Nativity Story. But imagine this:
You are engaged to be married; your wife to be informs you that she is pregnant but you are not the father. You agree to the marriage but you are unable to consummate the marriage until after the child is born. As the birth of the baby draws ever closer you are unable to stay in Nazareth because of a census – (A good job there was no Covid travel restrictions in place!!!!), and when you arrive in Bethlehem (your family’s home town) you are unable to have even a guest room because the town is heaving!
After the baby is born, you are unable to afford anything other than the meanest of temple offerings to celebrate the new baby’s birth. After the birth, those in charge of running the country begin a systematic programme of slaughtering baby boys in order to protect their throne. You are unable to stay in Bethlehem and unable to return home to Nazareth, so you escape at night as you are unable to travel in the day. You live in Egypt but are unable to return home until Herod is dead, then you discover his son is the new king and you don’t trust him either! Not the greatest of starts for a new family!!!
As we look back over 2020 there are many things that we have been unable to do, people we have been unable to see and places that we have been unable to visit. As a result, it’s easy to become frustrated, angry, and disappointed because things haven’t gone as we had planned or hoped for.
We might have faced many restrictions and difficulties this Christmas, but at that first Christmas, so did the parents of Jesus, yet the plan and will of God was still accomplished and fulfilled!
As we ‘stand at the door of 2021’, many of the restrictions we experienced last year are still with us; we have been placed in what feels like ‘another national lockdown’, but in the Government Briefing on Wednesday, much was spoken of the new vaccine that will be rolled out across the nation in the coming weeks/months – a vaccine to defeat the virus and bring hope to us all.
My own Advent devotions began in Genesis 2 and have ended in Revelation 22. Both chapters refer to a ‘tree of life’ – one in the Garden of Eden and the other in the ‘Heavenly City’; both chapters speak of hope and promise. In spite of man’s disobedience, hope was promised through Jesus; God had a plan and Christmas heralds its arrival. But that was then, and John, in the final chapter of Revelation, reminds us of the ‘Second Advent’ – and if Revelation was written for tough times, the promise of Jesus is to hold on – the tough times won’t last forever. Jesus, himself, declared, ‘I am coming soon’ – so, we need to wait just a little while longer; but waiting expectantly and waiting in the knowledge of a glorious future!
Happy New Year to you all.