Christmas in Egypt

Adam_Elsheimer - Flight to Egypt.jpg

As tears hit the page, this is the story of my covenant children and yours.

Years ago in my search for a good Christmas card, I came across one with a painting of a beautiful work of art entitled, “Flight into Egypt” (Elsheimer). The work moved me deeply to think of this young couple, already emotionally exhausted with the miraculous birth of an infant, inundated by strange visitors from the sky, fields, and palaces, now having to run away to a foreign land “for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” (Matthew 2:13).

In our school community, we, like Mary and Joseph, also value our children. And if we were told to flee to Egypt in order to save our child’s life, there is not one of us who would hesitate to do it. We all believe and know that the life of every conceived child is precious, and we believe that all measures should be taken to protect his right to life. There was a little more riding on the protection of this child’s life, at least at that point. Though not fully clear to them yet, Mary and Joseph were beginning to grasp that this was a very special newborn, and somehow He was caught up, not only in His destiny but the destiny of all mankind. Yet, the angel who spoke to Joseph in Matthew 2:13 did not say he was sending an army with him to protect that son of his; instead, he just said: “. . . take the child and escape.” In Joseph’s mind, it was his responsibility.

Now many great artists have painted scenes of the “Flight to Egypt” including Rembrandt and Rubens; some call them the “Rest” or the “Repose” on the Flight. Somehow I don’t think there was much of either on that trip, especially for Joseph. They spent their first Christmas in Egypt, far from home. Some say they stayed for two years until he got the new message, “those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead” (Matthew 13:20). Anxiety and fear had to rule the minds and hearts of these parents. Perhaps even the horrible account of the massacre of babies in Palestine had reached their ears, heightening their worry.

So why did God put those parents through that? The God of the universe can’t squash a pitiful man like Herod to keep His Son from having to be road-tripped as an infant? Well, of course, He can, but He did not. When God said in Hosea 11:1, “out of Egypt I called My Son,” then it is going to happen in spite of inconvenience to Mary and Joseph. He will do what He chooses with the Son He loves. As tears hit this page, this is the story of my covenant children and yours. The whole of Hosea 11:1 is: “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt, I called my Son.” But God, I don’t want my child to go to Egypt! I don’t want to have to fear for his life. And even if the Egypt trip turns out okay, I really don’t want him to go to a cross! If that is going to happen, it hurts too much! Maybe I wish You had never let him be born! Would Joseph and Mary have ever said that about their son? Would we ever say that about ours?

At Christmas, we celebrate the glorious birth of a Child born to die. Yet God had a purpose for His Son, and He has one for our covenant children as well. Let’s don’t waste our joyous holiday with fear and anxiety over the future. We may have to flee to Egypt. God lives there, too. And after the cross . . . a glory unable to imagine!