Happy New Year! Well, tomorrow anyway will be the start of the New Year. So I'm a day early!
At the beginning of a new year everyone thinks about what took place the year previously. It would probably be a better practice to take stock in the middle of the year, thereby giving us a chance to re-direct, but alas, hardly anyone I know does that. I don't want to discuss the famous celebrities who passed last year--although there were a few of note. I definitely don't want to discuss the new administration--this isn't and probably never will be a political posting place. There are plenty of other venues for that, just not here. Nope, what I want to draw attention to for the start of the New Year is the reading from Matthew, the second chapter. The Gospel lesson for the week is from verses 13 to 23. We refer to these passages as, "The Flight to Egypt" and the "Slaughter of the Innocents." Great discussion titles for Christmas, hunh? Certainly stops the conversation dead in its tracks.
The Flight to Egypt, the bible tells us is that Joseph, in a dream, is told to "get out of Dodge" because something awful is about to happen and he doesn't want to be there when it does. Because he was spoken to before in a dream and knows what THAT meant, he packs up the wife and kid and scoots across the border. The Slaughter of the Innocents is because, Herod, the weirdo, evil king at the time decides that since the Wise Men from the East tricked him by not coming back to him and telling him where the "King of the Jews" was, he would take care of the problem of a possible usurper to his crown and have all male children killed who were aged two and under. Every male child. This wasn't the scene in Star Wars where Darth Vader before he becomes Darth Vader goes berserker. This was a man who was paranoid and in power and didn't want anything to stand in the way of his being THE KING. He planned this.
Why are these stories told in the Bible? Why are these horrific things even mentioned? There are theories of course as to why. Many preached that these stories let you know that the world is an evil place (yeah, 'cause we didn't know that already?). Some even taught it was to "teach us a lesson". But what lesson could this teach us about the love of God and Jesus? I did some reading this week, in between family dinners and sleeping late. And I think the writers of the gospels wanted us to get a very specific message from all of their narratives. I think they wanted to make sure we knew that Christmas was ALL about Jesus being among us. Being scared, being vulnerable, being troubled. Jesus was there in the midst of all that stuff. As God is as well. God was with Joseph, Mary and Jesus in Egypt but he was also with the mothers and fathers of those poor innocent children. He is with those parents from Sandy Hook. He is with those families of the people shot in a church during Bible study, in the families of the loved ones in Berlin and Aleppo. God has NOT abandoned us in our trials and sad moments. As we worship him with songs of the coming of the Christ child, let us also recognize that He is there with us with the songs from family funerals and times we face of trouble and seeming inconsolable difficulties. God is with us. He sent Jesus to show us that--Emmanuel. So as we begin the New Year, let us bring this thought along with us in our walk everyday...God is with us. We do not walk alone or unloved. God is with us--Jesus showed us that.
Peace be with you this day and EVERY day.