Scripture Reading: Matthew 2: 13-23
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By this point in the story Joseph was used to angels. And now he needed their timely warnings more than ever. Jesus was barely a toddler and his trouble with the Roman Empire had begun. Jesus, the Savior of Humankind becomes a refugee–forced from home by oppression and violence.
The story of Jesus, from its very inception, is a story of unlikely characters. Old people becoming parents, a pregnant virgin, carpenters, shepherds. Now enter magi–who come from a different place, culture and religious practices… they intersect with the story and they become messengers that spread the birth of a “King” to the “powers that be.”
The magi come looking for a King and this is important to what happens next–there can only be one King in an authoritarian hierarchy. This proclaimed “King” that the magi found was born of Jewish parents and so no doubt Herod’s fear is about an uprising, so he ordered that all the young children be killed. To enact a genocide is the ultimate in apathy toward a people’s humanity and dignity. Indeed, to regard a people as less than human is what is required for genocide or oppression in any form. Regarding people as less than human – we have certainly seen far too much of this in recent years in our world. And evidence of it in our own country through our dark history of residential schools.
Out of Herod’s fear, he orders complete destruction, destruction of families and destruction of communities as a result.
At this point in the story the angel appeared to Joseph again. The angel’s role here is as one who issues a “wake-up call” to Joseph to flee to Egypt. They become refugees on the move to save their very lives. The message is clear–it is time to act. “Get up” is a word Joseph needs to hear in order to protect his family. This time there is no question, he recognizes the call of God, and he does what is necessary.
Once Joseph hears the news that Herod is dead, the angel appears one more time and says “get up and go” back to Israel. So he headed back and settled in Nazareth in the district of Galilee.
So just as we have had an invitation each Sunday in Advent, we have one last invitation – this time what we are to think about is how we might usher in more life in the face of that which feels destructive.
What must we do to protect life and the most at-risk people in our day who are being threatened and oppressed? We have to be awake–to shake off apathy, to awaken from our sleep, to set aside our fear in order to “get up” and act. One last time in this series we hear the message Do Not Be Afraid to get up and go–leaving those things that weigh us down and moving into the new year with new life.
As we face a new year and have trained our ears to hear God’s call in the world, we must commit to make the journey, letting go of what we don’t need so that we can continue to embody the messages of hope, peace, joy and love and full life for all people. When we are messengers of more hope, peace, joy and love, to people around us, we can see evidence of more life.
So now you have two questions to think about and discuss with those around you…
As the new year approaches, can you think of something in your life or connected to you that is destructive, that needs some new life? How might you bring more life to that situation?
During Advent this year, as you have been invited to be messengers of hope, peace, joy and love, can you think of an example where you’ve seen new life come from that interaction?
We hope that throughout this Advent series Angels Among Us, you have been able to pay more attention to the angels that are among us. And that you have had the opportunity to be an angel to someone else during this season.
At The End Of The Year by John O’Donohue
As this year draws to its end,
We give thanks for the gifts it brought
And how they became inlaid within
Where neither time nor tide can touch them.
The days when the veil lifted
And the soul could see delight;
When a quiver caressed the heart
In the sheer exuberance of being here.
Surprises that came awake
In forgotten corners of old fields
Where expectation seemed to have quenched.
The slow, brooding times
When all was awkward
And the wave in the mind
Pierced every sore with salt.
The darkened days that stopped
The confidence of the dawn.
Days when beloved faces shone brighter
With light from beyond themselves;
And from the granite of some secret sorrow
A stream of buried tears loosened.
We bless this year for all we learned,
For all we loved and lost
And for the quiet way it brought us
Nearer to our invisible destination.