Summary: As long as there are wars there will always be refugees from wars. How do we receive refugees?
The escape to Egypt
When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. ‘Get up,’ he said, ‘take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.’
So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘Out of Egypt I called my son.’
When Herod realised that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled:
‘A voice is heard in Ramah,
weeping and great mourning,
Rachel weeping for her children
and refusing to be comforted,
because they are no more.’
The return to Nazareth
After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, ‘Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.’
So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets, that he would be called a Nazarene.
Traditionally the first sermon in any New Year focus’s on what changes we will make to our lives in the new year to come, and I am going to do some of that today, but I also want to look back on what we have done with our lives last year, and in the years before that.
I often wandered why God chose to send His son into Egypt and why He allowed the massacre of the innocents.
Last week we mentioned the Prophecy made by Hosea in Hosea 11:1, “Out of Egypt I called my son”, made some 721 years before their actual escape and we use it to show that its was Gods intent that Jesus should be a refugee before His mission to the world even started. More proof that He is who scripture says He is, but also proof, I think, that God places special significance on Refugees, their status and the way they are treated.
Scriptures tell us nothing about the time that Jesus and His family spent in Egypt but its reasonable to assume that God, The Father, provided for them. After all He had made complex and intricate plans for everything else. We know, for instance, that they had with them the gifts given them by the Magi. Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh.
We also know that Joseph was a skilled carpenter, able to make a living, just about anywhere, and to support his wife and son.
So! All good then! Nothing to worry about, or is there?
The people of Israel were Jews, Hebrews by another name, and Mary and Joseph were devout Jews, followers of the One True God Of Israel.
They were righteous. That’s why God selected them to bring Jesus into the world, from all the other people that He could have chosen.
In the Jewish mind ‘Righteousness before God’ involved strict observance of The Law Of Moses and all the rules attached to it.
The land of Egypt is not a Hebrew nation, it is a land of gentiles, non-Jews, and in ancient Judaism it was considered fact that Gentiles, whoever and wherever they were, did not observe the strict Jewish Purity Laws.
But it is also deceptively simple to assume that Gentiles, who did not observe purity laws, would have been considered ritually impure as a matter of course.
In fact the situation is a bit more complex. Ancient Jewish sources reflect two conflicting tensions. On the one hand, both biblical and rabbinic law considered Gentiles to be exempt from the laws of ritual purity. On the other hand, Gentiles ate impure foods, came into regular contact with impure substances, and–what is worse–committed idolatry and defiling sexual acts.
And practically the very first thing God commands the Holy Family to do is to go into a land full of people that righteous God fearing Jews would not normally associate themselves with.
If they were to end up in an Egyptian Inn at the end of their three to five day journey, 75 miles, from Bethlehem to the border of Egypt, strictly speaking they would not have been able to eat the food.