In today’s Gospel reading, we are taken on a twelve-year journey in the life of Jesus in a just a few lines. Joseph and his family have been forced to leave Bethlehem to leave Judea in order escape the wrath of King Herod. This has lead to a lot of speculation over what took place during those “lost years”.
Are we going to talk about all those “stories”? No. Why? For one they do not add to the message of the Good News, and another there is little truth Biblically to be found in these lost gospels. They would make a good Bible Study though, and maybe a series some day.
So why include it? We know from Isaiah that it was prophesied. For another it gives us a historical reference in the Slaughter of the Innocents in Bethlehem by King Herod. In fact, that is what this Sunday is officially known as. It is something isn’t? We go from the beautiful image of Jesus being born to within a week to an image of babies being slaughtered because of the fear of a king.
As we know Jesus and his family made their way to live in a Jewish community in the land of Egypt. We can guess with Joseph’s skills he took up the carpentry and settled into the community without raising any suspicion.
We can assume that Mary set up home with her new born son and remained pretty much anonymous. I do not expect Jesus acted like anything, but the small child he was. I would reckon that to be, at least it is what I would do if I did not want to attract the attention someone.
Now what are we supposed to take away from this story? Some people, especially those working for the rights of illegal immigrants, point to this as an example of a savior in their midst.
The problem with this idea is Egypt at this time in history was no different than Judea in its status in the world. Egypt was a province of the Roman Empire. The last pharaoh of Egypt had been dead for nearly 30 years, with the suicide of Queen Cleopatra the IX.
In other words, for Joseph’s family their travel from Judea to Egypt was more like going from Texas to Tennessee rather than going from the United States to Mexico, for example. True there were different local customs and different forms of language, however they were still under the same government and governed by the same law, Roman law.
So why do people compare “The Flight to Egypt” with the plight of refugees from other countries? I guess it would have to be the strangers in a strange land scenario. We don’t know what the local Egyptians felt. We can assume the Jewish community in Egypt was fairly old, probably dating back to the time of the Babylonian Exile around 640 B.C.
We can assume they went there knowing no one at all. We know that God told Joseph to go to Egypt. We know that Joseph was righteous and that his faith in God was very strong. And in that knowledge we can deduce that Joseph figured God would not lead him into harm’s way and that everything would be all right.
Or we can also assume that maybe Joseph had relatives living in Egypt. This is quite possible, that there were members of the tribes of Judah and Levi living in Egypt. Probably even members of the House of David as well. So Joseph knew he could probably find some of them there and settle in amongst them as well.
Even today people make these same assertions when they move from one area to another. Often times people who are forced to leave their homelands and settle in with people of the same backgrounds so to have that familiarity of custom and knowledge.
In the 1840’s the Irish who came to America settled in Boston and New York City, in and around those who shared their heritage. The Scotch-Irish settled in the mountains of Appalachia in terrain very similar to what they left behind along the border country of England and Scotland.
Even amongst our newest influx of immigrants they too settle into communities and family units of the same nationality, not necessarily out of fear from the native population, but out of familiarity and need of reminder of things from back home. When Luann first moved to Iowa from Mississippi, she too felt the desire to hold onto that connection she had with the south. She hung pictures of magnolias in our home and placed around the home different items she had brought with her from the south. While she was fine with living in a different part of the country, she still wanted that familiarity.