ISAIAH 63:7-9 AND MATTHEW 2:13-23
Scriptures: Isaiah 63:7-9 and Matthew 2:13-23
63:7 I will recount the gracious deeds of the LORD, the praiseworthy acts of the LORD, because of all that the LORD has done for us, and the great favor to the house of Israel that he has shown them according to his mercy, according to the abundance of his steadfast love.
63:8 For he said, "Surely they are my people, children who will not deal falsely"; and he became their savior.
63:9 in all their distress. It was no messenger or angel but his presence that saved them; in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old.
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; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him."
2:14 Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt,
2:15 and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, "Out of Egypt I have called my son."
2:16 When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men.
2:17 Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah:
2:18 "A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they are no more."
2:19 When Herod died, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said,
2:20 "Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the child's life are dead."
2:21 Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel.
2:22 But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And after being warned in a dream, he went away to the district of Galilee.
2:23 There he made his home in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, "He will be called a Nazorean."
Matthew 2:13 is an interesting place to start, because it starts with, “Now after they had left…” But then, most stories really start in the middle of something. One thing starts, another thing ends, yet another is continuing. All these threads weave together and create the tapestries that are our lives. Threads break, we make mistakes, and in the end it doesn’t turn out as we’ve planned, but it turns out all the same.
The wise men (or magi, or kings) got to Bethlehem (as Herod had ordered them), they paid homage to the Christ child, and, because they were warned in a dream, they returned home by a different route that kept them away from Herod. Joseph, too, had a dream, and he took his family away to protect the baby Jesus from Herod. Off into the unknown – the wise men take an unanticipated route home, and the holy family goes into exile.
But what has come of this warning from the angel of God? Surely the intent was not to send Herod into a rage such that he would order the death of all the babies in Bethlehem! Should this have been anticipated? Could it have? Does the fault then lie with God and the angel? No – the fault lies with Herod. We are responsible for our own actions; God has given us free will.
Free will. We have choices to make all the time. Could the angel have chosen not to warn Joseph about the danger? And what then? We are sometimes paralyzed by our fears of what might be – but not making a choice is, in itself a choice.
We mourn for the slaughtered children of Bethlehem. Matthew quotes Jeremiah – “Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.” We mustn’t forget when the consequences are severe, but we go on – we persevere. Threads break, but we tie knots, we remember, and we weave the tapestry in a new way.
In the end, the choices we make, journeys we take, become the fabric of who we are. There may be sadness, but there is always hope. This reading is juxtaposed with Isaiah. It begins like a hymn of praise, and it ends in hope for those in exile, “…he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old.”
Lord God who is with us in the darkness and the light,
May we be reminded of your presence as we weave our way through life;
May we feel your hand guiding us as make the difficult choices of our lives; and may we know your love and comfort in our own times of exile.
Wesley Theological Seminary