This year our December youth group lesson series was entitled “The Place of Christmas.” For three weeks, we focused on the locations mentioned in the Biblical story of the birth of Jesus.
First, we looked at Nazareth as the place the angel spoke to Mary. It was there that she said “yes” to the work of God in her life. Second, we looked at Bethlehem as the birthplace of Jesus. It is at the center of the Christmas story, in fact, we sing about it each year. Finally, we taught about Egypt. This is a place of escape during the incarnation story.
Most nativity sets contain the baby Jesus, Mary & Joseph, shepherds and wise men. Well, I hate to ruin your set, but the book of Matthew says that the Magi or wise men arrived to see Jesus at a house (Matthew 2:11). Before they arrive, they stop and have a talk with evil King Herod. After their visit with Herod, they go by the house where Jesus was staying. Finally, they return by another route being warned in a dream about Herod’s true intentions of killing Jesus.
The book of Matthew pauses for three verses to tell us that God used a final angel to warn Mary and Joseph about Herod and that they should flee to Egypt until Herod was dead. I admit that I have never preached or even taught on these verses. Honestly, I have never heard anyone preach or teach about them.
The night of the birth of Christ was a silent and glorious night. A young man and his wife visited by shepherds who spoke of angels. Quietly beside the manger looking at their first child and contemplating all the various angel’s words must have made the couple nervously excited about the future. Then a sometime later one more angel shows up, and they quickly pack up and take off to Egypt. They take roughly a 430-mile journey with a baby to a city they had no familiarity with that we know about. It must have turned a silent night into a hectic journey.
The couple and baby Jesus flee to Egypt. There are three reasons for this journey. First and most simply, God is keeping them safe. Second, it fulfills a prophecy from the pen of Hosea. Finally, Jesus is portrayed the new Israel. He spends time in Egypt before returning to the promise land just like the Israel of old.
It is an odd story, but it contains some interesting lessons for us. It gives us a picture of God’s grand design over history and the life of Jesus. It interconnects the Bible prophecy and fulfillment as only God is able.
The story also holds a very practical lesson for us today. God’s plan is never easy for anyone, even Jesus, and his parents. God could have taken care of Herod and left baby Jesus family happy in a stable home in Bethlehem. Instead, he takes them on a distant journey to fulfill his bigger plan.
Is it possible that your life might be a difficult journey right now? Is it also possible that God may use that as a part of his bigger grand design? I think so. Jesus was called out of Egypt and not saved from going there.