This post is part of a series of Christmas Devotionals by Dr. John Neihof, president of Wesley Biblical Seminary. You can find all of the devotionals by clicking here.
Scripture passages: Matthew 2:13-15, Hosea 11:1
It is very hard for me to hear when Jesus tells me to leave. The difficulty is compounded when I have roots with people and place. When I settle in a place, I work to make life comfortable, orderly, predictable, and within my ability to control.
Beth and I lived 21 years on the campus of Kentucky Mountain Bible College. I taught at KMBC for 23 years. Beth was the school library media specialist at Jackson Independent Schools, Jackson, Kentucky for 25 years. It was home. Then Jesus called us to leave our comfort and take the biggest risk of our lives to follow him.
Surely Joseph and Mary felt the same way about Bethlehem. The details are sketchy, but God’s Word leads me to understand that Jesus’ earthly family settled briefly in Bethlehem after His birth. Perhaps it was because of the support of the community and the kindness of the shepherds’ families, all touched with the brush of Your holiness.
The threefold command was a disturbing one: rise, flee, and stay. Joseph, Mary, and baby Jesus were angelically awakened with alarm, insisted to leave that instant, and ordered to stay in Egypt until word of safety came allowing them to return to their homeland.
Why Egypt? Perhaps previous Hebrew flights from oppression in their homeland to Egyptian cities had left Egypt dotted with communities of Hebrew ex-patriots, safe havens to which troubled Jews could flee. Had God the Father prepared such a city of refuge for His only Son, the Messiah of the world? God’s thought and preparation for the incarnation was centuries in the making! He was preparing the fulfillment of Hosea’s prophecy, over 700 years before the birth of Jesus Christ, that the Messiah would be called by God to emerge from Egypt.
But it took an angel to convince the holy family to depart the apparent safety, predictability, and order of what they knew within their own culture and homeland!
Why this story? Why the command to the Christ child’s family to “Get out”? Is there a message in the story of Christmas for you here? Are God trying to shatter your illusion of control? Is God seeking to make you willing to go? Is He reminding you that all too often you put down roots that make you intractable–unmovable?
Guilty as charged. I think God has identified both you and me accurately. Following a miraculous change of life direction that is clearly wrought by God’s hand, we tend to settle back into our previous patterns, seeking safety, comfort, order and predictability. We tend to get my hand back on the rudder of life and think that we are in control.
Prayer: “Oh, God, keep me teachable. Help me to listen to You. I don’t want to have to experience tragedy in order for You to get my attention and tell me to “Get out of here!” I want to hear, listen, and obey. In the Name of the God of the Angel Armies, who leads me. Amen.”