Too Blessed To Be Stressed? Yeah Right! (Part 2)
Those familiar with the events of Jesus’ birth as outlined in the beginning of the second chapter of the Gospel of Matthew will recognize that the Great Spirit Ochbak is indeed God, and this is really a take on the events surrounding the birth of Jesus Christ. It is indeed a historic document and looking back at this through 21st Century eyes makes us ask several questions about the nature of God Himself and His way of doing things. Basically, we are brought face to face with the very perplexing and sometimes maddening issue we call God’s Will. On a more personal level, we often ask the question, what is God’s will for MY life?
I took the liberty of reworking the story of Jesus’ birth as seen from a heavenly perspective. I am, of course, rather limited in how that perspective was at the time as it is impossible to know what really was taking place in the cosmos. I would also venture to say that my perspective here on the actual events that took place several centuries ago is also limited. But I am on planet Earth and I am flesh and blood like Mary and Joseph and, therefore, I can more accurately understand some of what they may have felt because I can view their challenges with greater empathy.
If Mary and Joseph felt fear, I know what fear is. If they were confused and living in a fog of doubt and uncertainty, I know all about that. If they had to deal with the long, frustrating silences of God, I too, know about that. If they were perplexed with the lack of details about what the will of God concerning their flight to Egypt and a place to stay once they got there – welcome to my world!
I find the account of the birth of Jesus absolutely riveting because it is the perfect will of God. At times we feel justified in asking if God is really in control when we witness the horror of mind boggling events across our planet. This time, the events of His son’s birth are orchestrated by God Himself. The same God who created the universe, the planets, our planet, the ecosystems, their functionality, the seasons, the weather and all the creatures that make up this unique place in the universe called Earth is the same God who is directing the script concerning His son’s entrance into our world.
And that entrance is far from being drama free. In one way, the whole story of Jesus’ birth reeks of poor planning and poor timing. Most accounts in the birth of Jesus as outlined in the sweet, syrupy 21st century Christmas tradition focus on the Silent Nights, Holy Nights and the O Come All Ye Faithful and Away in a Manger approach thus neatly sidestepping some of the unbelievably disturbing facts surrounding the birth of this King of the Jews.
The human mind swirls around questions such as: Surely, could not God have chosen a better time for the entrance of His son into the world?
Why didn’t God just kill Herod and avoid all that madness, the charge across the desert at night, the slaughtering of all those infant boys?
It gets frustrating to think that the same God who created the unfathomable Universe could have wiped Herod out with a flick of His pinky. Yet that did not happen. Herod was allowed to remain and slay babies and toddlers and cause impossible grief among families throughout the region. If God had chosen to arrive on the planet at another time and place, those babies would not have been killed.
The unsung hero of this story is Joseph, the husband, the child’s earthly father – the carpenter. I imagine that Mary was probably looking forward to settling down to the life of being his wife and living in a home that had decent furniture. Instead she is being dragged across the desert during the night to a strange land. This is the true definition of a refugee. Leaving Mary with her family back in Judea was not an option for Joseph since she was needed to take care of the child.
Think of the turmoil in Joseph’s mind as he first became burdened with accepting someone else’s baby and saddled with the responsibility of caring for a son that was really not his own. Then this son is the reason for the upheaval of his otherwise peaceful life. He had to plan the logistics of the trip to and sojourn in Egypt as the responsibility for that fell on his young shoulders. Furthermore, he had to do it in haste and without much time for detailed planning. When I peel away all the layers of fluff and sugary sweetness of the Christmas story, I see an incredibly courageous man who is thrust into the perfect will of God and is forced to live with all its concomitant responsibilities and stresses.
All this most likely had to put a serious strain on the marriage. They had to put their heads together and handle the stresses and issues as best as they could. I imagine that in that home there were rough days and periods of anger with long, sullen silences. They probably had to use the gifts given to them by the magi to finance their trip to Egypt. Plans to use those gifts to start them out in their marriage most likely had to be shelved. I am not sure in those circumstances how much time the young couple had for romantic evenings and deliberately long, drawn out tantalizing love making.
I think the most explosive part of this narrative is when we see the little royal family rushing across the arid landscape at night. This is the only time in the Bible where it was recorded that Almighty God Himself ran away from a human being!
God exchanged his citizenship of his homeland to become a refugee by living in another country at the mercy of the inhabitants in that country. The family had to depend upon the graciousness and kindness of whomever they chose to live with in Egypt. Even if the persons with whom they were living were other Hebrews or even relatives, they were still dependent upon their kindnesses.
So God waits for Herod to die and sends an angel to inform Joseph of this stating that it is safe to take the child back to his homeland. I am not sure how much longer it took for Herod to die, but it required some patience on the part of Joseph.
I’m quite curious about the life of Mary and Joseph while they lived in Egypt. What did Joseph do for a living? Did he have to look for work or did the gifts giving to them by the magi sustain them throughout their stay? Was the family relegated to second class citizen status and did it feel the sting of being reminded that they were foreigners in a strange land and that they really didn’t belong there? Were they welcomed warmly and treated with dignity and respect? What kinds of adjustments did Mary and Joseph have to make in order to exist in such a place? Did the locals look at the family with suspicion? If indeed Joseph found work, did locals taunt him with derisive remarks about him taking away jobs from local people? If Joseph did find work, was it at carpentry or did he have to do something menial such as cleaning the street of all the animal dung or collecting dung for fuel for well off clients? Or cleaning the latrines perhaps? After they returned to their homeland, did they look back at the time they spent in Egypt with fond memories?
The scripture does not record if God gave Joseph specific directions about where to live in Egypt and what sorts of adjustments he needed to make to see the family through. I strongly suspect that God expected Joseph to use his intelligence and wit and keen sense of timing to make those decisions.
I am sure it is a wiser and wearier Joseph and Mary who head back to Judah. They are not fleeing back to their homeland, but rather going at a slower, more contemplative pace. Behind them is the place where God selected as their temporary homeland with all its memories and experiences, good and bad. It would have been impossible for Mary and Joseph to understand certain dynamics and issues about living if they were not forced to leave their homeland and rush off to Egypt. Now they know. The life lessons they learned could only have been learned in Egypt. If ever you want an example of God taking someone out of their comfort zone, just look at this Christmas story. This is an example of the deliberate, deeply thought out actions of a loving God who is always in control.
The huge question we should all be asking is this: “When we think of God’s will for our lives, do we consider that our personal comforts may not be the most important thing in that plan?”
Keith Yearwood, Storyteller