When the magi had departed, an angel from the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, "Get up. Take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod will soon search for the child in order to kill him." Joseph got up and, during the night, took the child and his mother to Egypt. He stayed there until Herod died. This fulfilled what the Lord had spoken through the prophet: I have called my son out of Egypt. When Herod knew the magi had fooled him, he grew very angry. He sent soldiers to kill all the children in Bethlehem and in all the surrounding territory who were two years old and younger, according to the time that he had learned from the magi. This fulfilled the word spoken through Jeremiah the prophet: A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and much grieving. Rachel weeping for her children, and she did not want to be comforted, because they were no more. After King Herod died, an angel from the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt. "Get up," the angel said, "and take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel. Those who were trying to kill the child are dead." Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus ruled over Judea in place of his father Herod, Joseph was afraid to go there. Having being warned in dream, he went to the area of Galilee. He settled in a city called Nazareth so that what was spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled: He will be called a Nazarene. Matthew 2:13-23
The holidays are always a busy travel time. Families gathering together and really that season begins around Thanksgiving of people that travel home or come home for Thanksgiving and reconnecting with family and friends and likewise at Christmas. And in all of the reports leading up to the Christmas holiday, they'd said that it looked like travel numbers were going to be back to pre-pandemic levels and maybe even a little bit higher. And I think it was originally projected that around 85 million Americans, roughly a third of all Americans were going to be traveling over Christmas. Planes, trains, automobiles in some form, some fashion, people were going to be packing up and going somewhere. And a lot of those projections when they do that, they estimate that of those travel numbers, a significant number of them are traveling more than 100 miles. That it's not a small journey. That this season, this time of rejoicing and celebrating involves movement. Involves moving from one place to another.
Well, we know that even here locally that the weather was a bit disruptive and we're still hearing on the news of all of the delays and conversations going on about what happened and what didn't and why. But needless to say, travel still happened. People still gathered, even though schedules were changed and timetables altered. Travel seems to be an important part of what God is doing through this Christmas story that we're reminded of and that we celebrate each year. It began with a journey. Began with that census being taken that the emperor had ordered. Sometimes travel isn't ever at a convenient time. I don't know that Mary would have thought, hey, on the days leading up to my water breaking, let's go on a journey. Let's walk 60, 70 miles and go somewhere else, just because. There was a because. In some way, for reasons that are beyond us, God appointed that time. And yes, the emperor did his thing and so Mary and Joseph got up and they traveled to Bethlehem where her child was born.
We heard of those shepherds tending their flocks and the angels appearing to them. They didn't have to travel nearly as far. But after this announcement, the shepherds said to one another, come, let's go and see this thing the angels told us about. So they got up and they went. We didn't hear that part of the story in Matthew this morning of these travelers from the east, these wise men, of all of the players in the Christmas story, probably making the longest journey. Scholars, studiers of the stars, were told that they had seen his star rise. And they read in that something of importance. So they packed up, they loaded their treasures, and they began to follow the star. They got to Jerusalem thinking, okay, surely something significant, important, if it's happening in this part of the world is gonna happen in this city. So they go there and they go to the palace and they find Herod and say, "Hey, where's this new king?" Herod says, "New king? I'm the king, what are you talking about?"
So he dispatches them and says, go and see, go check in Bethlehem and come back and let me know what you find out. This baby had caused a stir. This child had prompted people to pack up and move and travel to go and see what exactly was going on for the shepherd, or sorry, for the magi, the wise men. Their journey didn't end. We're not necessarily told that they were religious people at the onset of their journey, but yet God came to them in a vision and said, hey, why don't you go home the roundabout way? You don't wanna go visit Herod again. And after they'd found the child, they departed. Herod's enraged. We have the story of his intentions to slaughter the children of Bethlehem in an attempt to protect his throne. Mary and Joseph had already been on one journey prior to Jesus' birth, and here they are with a vision of God coming to Joseph once again, saying, Joseph, get up and go to Egypt this time. You don't wanna be around when Herod and his soldiers show up. So Joseph packs the family up and they flee to Egypt.
0:05:34.3 S1: Now, as much as we love this silent night, holy night, all this calm, all this bright vision and seeing of the nativity, the birth of Jesus didn't necessarily have a hallmark ending. It doesn't end by saying, and they all lived happily ever after. Getting Jesus into this world was no minor task with the census and the travel and the angels and the announcements and all of this going on. And then on top of that, a murderous king driving them to go to another country for safety. Not that happily ever after. Jesus coming into this world stirred things up. It prompted people to get up from where they were and to begin moving. But it wasn't just random. It wasn't haphazard. It was directed by God. It was a movement that required listening to God. It was a movement that required obedience. It was a movement that served God's purposes and intents for what was going on. This journey to Bethlehem was so that Jesus could be born in the city of David. This movement to Egypt, as the text tells us, fulfilled what was spoken through the prophet Jeremiah. But more importantly through all of it, God was the one that was planning the journey.
0:07:45.8 S1: Now, the thing about the journeys that God plans is that if we were to plot a map, they look a lot more like those single-pane family circus cartoons where one of the children has a simple task to do that somehow involves them hitting every corner of the backyard and every piece of play equipment and the neighbor's backyard and through the house and then back out. It's a very convoluted, very roundabout way and yet in the end, when we listen to God, when we trust God, we find that we end up right where God intends for us to be.
For Mary and Joseph, that trip to Egypt was not a part of the plan, was not a part of the agenda of having a new child brought into their family, but we're told that after Herod had passed away, the angel came once again to Joseph in a dream and once again said, "Joseph, get up, get the child, get Mary, it's time to go home." But they also ended up in Nazareth, in Galilee, not where they'd started out, but yet exactly where they needed to be. It had been quite a journey for them, particularly when you think that at that time, most people probably were born, raised, lived, worked and died in the same village or same region their entire life. We live in a very mobile world. Many of us probably have family who are scattered across not only the United States, but in some cases around the world. But for Mary and Joseph, well, they were very much jet setters for their day, going from here to there and back and forth.
Having Jesus in their life seemed disruptive, didn't it? But here's the thing, having Jesus in any of our lives should be a bit disruptive. When we think about the invitations that Jesus gave to people, it wasn't like that line that we hear in the theme song for The Beverly Hillbillies, sit back, set a spell, take your shoes off. Jesus never makes an invitation like that. Jesus never says, "Come in, settle down, relax, take your shoes off." Jesus' invitations were very similar to the ones that we see take place in Mary and Joseph's lives, in the shepherd's lives, in the wise men's lives, get up and go.
Jesus' invitation to the disciples when we hear of his ministry beginning are, come and see, come and follow me, go and tell. It's about movement, it's about trusting, it's about knowing that Jesus really never stayed in one place for too long. Jesus was always on the move from here to there, going to heal the sick, feed the hungry, and most importantly, proclaim good news to people that needed to hear it. So often we think of our journey of faith as being one in which we receive Jesus into our hearts. And yes, there is an element of us responding and receiving, but more importantly, this journey of faith is about Jesus calling us alongside of him to fall in, to step along with him and see where this journey is gonna take us. Being on the road with Jesus isn't always easy. Being on the road with Jesus for Mary and Joseph meant uprooting from their homes, traveling, having a baby in a barn, fleeing to Egypt, and yet knowing that each step of the way, God was in control.
It seems like an appropriate text on this first Sunday after Christmas, seems like a hard text too, to go from joy to the world and peace on earth to Herod wanting to slaughter the children of Bethlehem. And yet it reminds us that there is much work to be done in this world. This child of hope, this child of joy, this child of peace and love can't stay rooted in one place, but rather he needs to be on the go, on the move, going and meeting people where they're at and inviting them to get on board and join the journey. As we begin this new year, as we begin thinking about what does it mean for us this year to continue to be on the road with Jesus, means that we may not know where we're going. It means that there may be some detours and side trips that we take at Jesus' behest that put us exactly where we need to be so that we can be the one to help to share that love and joy and peace in the lives of others.
Always heard the saying that if you want to make God laugh, tell Him what your plans are. Kind of like what many of those travelers experience with canceled flights and delays and frustration of re-booking and trying to get where they're going. So often we want to be in the driver's seat. So often we want to have complete control of what's going on. But following Jesus is first and foremost about listening and obeying. Friends, each of us is on a journey with Him. Each of us need to consider where Jesus is calling us and leading us and directing us in our lives at this point. But it's important for us as a community of faith together to be mindful that many of us have very similar journeys and together God is guiding this body of Christ to go and be, to go and tell, to go and share that love in this world. We may not always know where it's going to take us, but trust that God already knows. And if we're faithful, we'll bless others and discover a blessing of our own along the way. May this new year be an opportunity for us to faithfully journey with Jesus, trusting and believing that wherever we end up is exactly where He intends for us to be. Amen.