Bondone, Giotto di, 1266?-1337. Flight into Egypt, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. [retrieved January 5, 2022].

Christmas 2 in the Lectionary (Episcopal)
Jeremiah 31:7-14, Psalm 84:1-8, Ephesians 1:3-6 and 15-19a, Saint Matthew 2:13-15 and 19-23

When we finally arrive at the Nativity story of Saint Matthew, as we do today, we notice differences from Saint Luke, the old and charming story. Among those differences I would mention that the shepherds have been replaced with the wise men. Angels deliver their messages through dreams rather than direct announcement. And, finally, we have a narrative dominated by men rather than a narrative where women play prominent roles. Elizabeth is gone and Mary is present though without a speaking part.

Despite these differences, Matthew has a lot to offer to us early in the third decade of the twenty-first century. You can see Matthew’s individual perspective in today’s Gospel. The narrative of Jesus’ birth is being controlled inflexibly by the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The God of providential history, the God who moved Abram from Ur to the Promised Land, the God who wondrously saved his people by a miraculous departure from enslavement in Egypt, the God who similarly saved his people from destruction in Babylon and returned them to the Promised Land, is again at work.

Just as Pharoah and Nebuchadnezzar cannot enslave God’s chosen people, neither can Herod and his son Archelaus frustrate or prevent the birth of the Savior though they sense the threat presented by the Savior. Against the God of Israel, they are powerless.

I find this especially comforting. At a time when everything seems so complex, when our country has stymied itself by politicization and rancor, when the geopolitical balance of power similarly is held in check by forceful parity, Matthew’s narrative reminds us that our God has through the centuries moved according to his own purposes undeterred and unchecked by any temporal power.

Secondly, I find it tremendously comforting that our undeterred and unchecked God moves according to his own prophetic form. We have two examples of this in the Gospel today.

When Joseph takes the child and his mother to Egypt, we are told by Matthew, “This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, ‘Out of Egypt I have called my son.’”[1] And, later, when Joseph takes the child and his mother out of Egypt into the land of Israel, but is afraid to go to Judea and goes instead to Galilee to make “his home in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoke through the prophets might be fulfilled, ‘He will be called a Nazorean.’”[2]

In this Gospel and throughout the Gospel of Matthew, we are encouraged and comforted to know that God moves and acts in accord with his revelation of himself to us through the Scriptures and the prophets century by century, age by age. We can trust and hope in such a God who performs what he says he will perform, just as Jeremiah prophesied in the First Lesson, “with consolations I will lead them back. I will let them walk by brooks of water, in a straight path in which they shall not stumble; for I have become a father to Israel.”[3]

[1] Saint Matthew 2:14-15.

[2] Saint Matthew 2:23.

[3] Jeremiah 31:9.