“ 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.” 14 And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt 15 and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”
16 Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men. 17 Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah:
18 “A voice was heard in Ramah,
weeping and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.”
The Return to Nazareth
19 But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, 20 saying, “Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child's when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there, and being warned in a dream he withdrew to the district of Galilee. 23 And he went and lived in a city called Nazareth, so that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled, that he would be called a Nazarene.” (Matthew 2:13-23)
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.” 14 And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt 15 and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”
The flight to Egypt. The holy family is on the run. Bethlehem, the town of Ramah in tears. Horrific evil erupts and Rachel is crying for her children. And why? All because an autocrat wants to secure his position. King Herod, he’s vilified in scripture because of this. You should read what Josephus has to say about the man. It’s an odd thing people wonder why the slaughter of the innocents isn’t recorded elsewhere in history, and then you read Josephus and you realize it isn’t recorded because during Herod’s reign of terror the slaughter of a bunch of children in a hamlet would not have registered as news. He was an upstart, a pretender to the throne with power on loan from Caesar from Rome, a puppet king who enjoyed the good life and wanted to keep it. He was constantly building fortresses and palaces, and ruling with an iron fist. Added to this, he was a megalomaniac. He actually planned to kill off the leading families of Israel at the moment of his death so that Israel would mourn. So at the hands of this man evil erupts surrounding the birth of Christ. The world just could not accept him, could not live with him, hear him, tolerate him, and the same is true today.
This is the world we live in, in many ways this is who we are ourselves. We will do almost anything to secure our own future. It leads to all sorts of nastiness all over the place. When we feel threatened we can hardly think straight. When our income is threatened we are terrified. There is hardly a day that passes when we truly relax our efforts? And for what? We know we are going to die. But we would rather build barns to store earthly perishables than store up treasure in heaven. Earthly perishables, food, money, clothing, power and yourself. And when things go well we hardly have the time of day for God, and when things go bad we use him as a scapegoat. We ask how there can be a God who will allow such disasters, such evil, earth quakes in Haiti, typhoons in the Philippines, hurricanes in Louisiana, and maybe these compare little with losing a job, or the death of a loved one. Can you imagine the anguish of Bethlehem the mothers and fathers, uncles and aunts grandparents and cousins who for two years played peekaboo and watched the little toddlers crawl and frown, walk and smile? The sons of Bethlehem, their own security in old age, the ancient safety net torn from their breasts and drowned in tubs, throats slit, suffocated by hand all because a king his beautiful hilltop palace, being served delicacies on silver platters by slave girls dressed in silk, and prepared by the best chefs money could buy feels threatened. And it bought him not one extra day, his anxiety gave him not one added hour to the span of his life. He dies amidst the insane throws of suspicion and paranoia surrounded by all the earthly treasures he could amass in this world, a worm of a man in bed a victim of the excruciating Fournier’s Gangrene. And this world offers us nothing more.
No, when we look to the things of this world for security we will live in suspicion and fear. What can offer us security in this world? What do people look to? The beauty that fades like that of a flower? Money? How many times in life has it been that we save up the almighty dollar to see it sift through our hands like the grains of sand in an hour glass, even as it weakens and the price of gas goes from 95 cents to four dollars overnight? Health? Who doesn’t know that that is a short term loan that can be taken from us at any moment? It’s a nice thing to have, all of these are nice things to have, but in this world they are fleeting and they never belong to us anyway. They are gifts from God in the first place, and in the end he will call into account how we have used them. You fool he says to the rich man and his barns, this very night your soul will be required of you. And these things you have prepared whose will they be?
And where is God in the midst of all this? Where is God who owns the cattle on a thousand hills, and from his great store of wealth has given you according to his good pleasure your beauty, your money, your power and authority, your children and your good health? Yes, indeed, God is dwelling bodily in a little boy fleeing for his life from the wicked and powerful of this world, running to Egypt to live as a refugee that the prophecies can be fulfilled in him and upon returning to his homeland he can secure for you a future brighter than you could ever imagine. Yes, the wicked want to secure their future with the death of God, but in doing so they only secure a future for us, for those who believe and having believed have been given the right to be children of God. When the evil powers that haunted and possessed Herod finally succeed in the extinguishing of the Christ child, well it is then that he returns to his father’s palace to prepare a place for you from among the many rooms. This is security, this is gift that will not be taken away, this is life purchase for you with the divine blood of Jesus the Christ who died that you would have life, who rose again from the dead that you could receive a spirit of adoption and live as children of God not falling back into fear, knowing that what you now suffer you suffer with God that in the life to come you will live in palaces more glorious than Herod’s summer home in Jericho, and eat and drink food richer than any pretender to the throne has ever dreamed.
The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord Amen.