What Will We Find In Egypt?

February 1, 1999
by Sylvia Cleland

Matthew 2:13 – 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." (NRSV)

In January, as I recalled the blessings and joys of our family's Advent preparation and the twelve days of Christmas, I remembered we had neglected a family tradition. We usually schedule a marathon family video time. We build a roaring fire in the fireplace, we snack on popcorn and Christmas goodies, and we watch hour after hour of Christmas specials, old and new!

Perhaps this year, we will institute a new tradition and celebrate our video session during the season of "Sundays which follow Epiphany". One favourite we often watch is "The Sound of Music." I am not sure why we watch it at Christmas, we just do. I suppose this movie is truly more appropriate to Epiphany. After all, the story line is about how the Von Trapp family escaped from the Nazis during Austria's occupation.

I know people who, like the Von Trapps, have escaped from unjust and oppressive regimes. Some of these refugees carried infants and children with them and I have heard about what they left behind: friends, families, material goods. I have heard about their fears. What and who would they find in the country into which they fled? I have heard how it was to travel to a place where they could not speak the language, or understand the culture and traditions. How it was to find no place where they could worship in their own language, or eat the food to which they were accustomed. How it was to keep on adjusting day after day, year after year, in the knowledge they may never return home. When I read the account in Matthew about the flight of the Holy Family to Egypt, the stories of these other flights influence my understanding of the experience of Mary and Joseph.

I wonder what the Holy Family packed? Did Joseph have time to gather some of his carpentry tools? Did Mary fear the sound of footsteps behind her? Did they try to disguise themselves? Did they weep as they left neighbours to face the fate the angel foretold? Did they take time to warn friends and family? How wonderful they had the magi's gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, an amazing resource. Or did they have to leave even these gifts behind in their haste to follow the angel's directions?

Mary and Joseph, the Von Trapps, my refugee friends, escaped from totalitarian, oppressive, and dangerous regimes. There are other kinds of dangers, other kinds of oppression. From what oppression or danger does God's angel warn you and me to escape? Is it a habit? A life-style? A circumstance? A group of friends? An unhealthy relationship? A place? A job? A fear? An attitude?

From whatever we seek to escape, no matter what we must leave behind, God will be with us as we travel. Jesus promised.

Prayer: Gracious and merciful God, as you call us out of danger and oppression, and into "Egypt" we give you thanks that as we move onward, we carry with us your son's promise: "I will be with you always." Grant us confidence in your presence, and faith in your love as you lead us forth in Jesus' name. Amen.

About the author:

Sylvia Cleland
North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

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