Saturday, December 20, 2014

Advent Reflections: December 20


"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 realized 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.” 

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."

Mathew 2:13-23


We like to be in control, don’t we? Like the favorite circus act, we like to attempt to keep as many plates spinning at one time as possible. Living in a self-driven individualistic culture, we’re taught from an early age the myth that control equals success, and lack of control reveals failure. When we feel that we’re in control, we feel better about ourselves and better than others. We feel a sense of accomplishment and peace that everything is right in our little world. We continue to try our best to control all of our circumstances, and we might succeed for a period of time. But eventually we realize that too many plates are spinning. One by one, they begin to slow down. We do our best to keep them spinning, but they soon begin to wobble, and inevitably crash at our feet. We stand there, feeling overwhelmed, exhausted and defeated, wondering how we kept the plates spinning in the first place.

Today we reflect on the story of Mary and Joseph’s flight to Egypt with Jesus. At first glance, we might have the tendency to see a picture of circumstances that appear completely out of control. When reading these words and putting ourselves in this young couples place, we can imagine many plates spinning and a frantic attempt to keep them from crashing down. Mary and Joseph are new parents. That’s one plate. And their new baby happens to be God’s only Son. Now there are two plates spinning. They are warned by an angel that Herod is planning to kill Jesus (third plate), and they now have to flee the stability of home and move to Egypt. Four plates. Add the daily worries of food, shelter and the absence of the comfort of family, and they have five plates spinning at once.  

After three years of living in a foreign and unfamiliar country, they are told by God that the coast is clear. They can finally return home. Just as it seems that all the plates are now spinning in unison and things are under control, another is added to the balancing act. With five plates now beginning to wobble, Mary and Joseph find that they will have to build a new life in obscure little town called Nazareth. How many plates are spinning at this point?   

As we come to the end of the third week of Advent, we might ask ourselves how “Joy” can be found in this story of spinning plates. From our perspective, we may only see a series of events that would cause most of us stress and anxiety. We see a situation that seems confusing, frustrating and apparently becoming more out of control with each passage. But it is in the last verse that we grasp the true perfection and stability of this situation. “So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets, that he would be called a Nazarene.”  

Everything was divinely fulfilled exactly how God intended it to be. Every detail of Mary and Joseph’s situation was under God's control, and although the bible tells us nothing of what they were going through emotionally, somehow I think they were doing OK. Somehow I think that despite the overwhelming circumstances that surrounded them, they chose to trust in the God that had fulfilled His promise. No plates were spinning. None wobbled and fell to the ground. In fact, I don’t think the balancing act ever began.      

Lord, as we conclude this third week of Advent, enable us to remember that our joy does not come from our circumstances. It doesn't come from how much control we have in our life or how in control we may appear to others. Our joy comes only through our complete trust in you and our faith that you keep our lives in complete balance. 


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