Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Christmas story part 4: Matthew 2 continued

Today we have the last part of Jesus’ birth story as told by Matthew. As a kid, I always thought all of these events happened in one night. He was born, the magi visited, and they immediately fled to Egypt. Instead, there was a small bit of time between all these when Jesus and His family returned to Nazareth. Once there, they unfortunately had to flee to Egypt to escape Herod’s wrath.

13When 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." 14So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, 15where 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." – Matthew 2:13-15

It is amazing to see that this is a sad theme during Jesus’ earthly ministry. Even as an infant, someone who posed no threat to anyone, Jesus was hunted down. Those in power felt threatened by Him because they feared losing their power. That was Herod. Instead of embracing the birth of the Son of God and worshipping Him (thus giving him even great power), he chose to hold on to his earthly power.

That is really what it breaks down to. In Jesus, we gain the kingdom of heaven. Even serving in the kingdom of heaven is greater than having power here on Earth. Many of us are never presented with the power to run a small nation like Herod. I can see, however, where that power is tempting. Fortunately, God was in control the entire time. After a brief time in Egypt, Jesus and His family were able to return to Nazareth where he had a fairly normal upbringing.

Which brings me to my final point today. Between His birth and around the time He was 30, we have only one story of Jesus as He was growing up. I think this is important. It shows His humanity, as He did not grow up pampered in some earthly palace. We know that he grew up learning Joseph’s trade and practicing as carpenter. In that regard, He was as normal as you or I. This connection with humanity was essential for His mission.