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MATTHEW 2: 13-23
(The First Sunday after Christmas)

The flight into Egypt draws our minds to the captivity of Israel there, & their subsequent Exodus. It also draws our hearts to our own various captivities & escapes. For those who will bear to face it, it confronts those of us in countries faced with 'boat- people' (or land people) seeking refuge or asylum with the question of what attitude we should take to them. Often, that will not be  a hard-hearted, hard headed government line, & will bring us into conflict with that. Maybe, too,we're challenged to look at why earlier migrants - however they came - often take a hard line against those who want to come next, unless they're rellies?

The holy family's flight into old enemy territory sets the scene for Jesus' cosmic Exodus in his death & resurrection. Sometimes we, too, have to enter 'enemy territory' if we're to have any real exodus of our own. In so doing, we have the example & encouragement of those who've passed that way before as we enter into their story & make it our own.

An angel, perhaps a well-placed, sympathetic human messenger (does it matter, so long as the story happens?) comes to the rescue & helps Joseph frustrate Herod's evil plan. Two questions occur: (1) Are we ourselves aware enough of the Type 1 (supernatural) or Type 2 (human) angels God provides among us? also, (2) Are we ready to don 'wings' (or, shed them?) should God call us on Dial an Angel when someone needs protection from villains?

Herod's reaction's as predictable as that of today's power brokers when their plans are frustrated. Rage still does a lot of violence to people today, in their (our) homes, on the roads, at work, in school......nationally & internationally. Rednecks are becoming cheaper by the dozen. How can we who sit under God's Word make, & help others make, connections between this story of the massacre of the innocents & those others taking place all round us? If we can't, what's the use of us re-telling this story anyway? Recognize any Herods or would-be-victims on your patch? In the congregation? Can we become 'angels' & maybe lessen if not prevent the slaughter? Help break patterns of violence? Encourage counselling? Give on-going care & support as people try to change? Help refugees of any kind survive?

Joseph is the protector of his little family. Once more he models a positive & wholesome male role for today's males, many of them confused & angered by changing societal expectations. As Moses flees from Egypt (to Midian) to escape an avenging Pharaoh, the Greater than Moses flees to Egypt to escape Herod. Keep an eye out for divine irony. It's too good to miss! Note PS139:7. The passage quoted from HOS 11:1 (with early Christian flair for the 'this means that' way of re-reading the Hebrew scriptures) points up the contrast between the continuing disobedience of Israel, the son called out of Egypt, on the one hand, & the total obedience of the Son called out of both Israel & Egypt on the other.

There's no mileage in bogging down in chronological calculations about the star, the Birth, & the massacred innocents. And Jeremiah might be surprised to hear something he says relative to the deportations that set out from Ramah in his day being quoted now as prophecy of Herod's massacre. At the level of primary meaning, it's a bit far fetched, but the 'this means that' re-reading of Hebrew Scripture keeps connecting us back to earlier parts of the one, same, continuing story. It won't let us or the story go. Rachel may be forgiven if she's a bit confused over which children she's actually weeping for, but she's still weeping! The strong thread between the old tale of uprooting & this new one illustrates one way prophecy may be seen to be fulfilled. Even if it seems far fetched, a story comes to life again as it's re-told & re-lived in a new generation. Are there local elements that make for our own Bethlehem or Ramah? Unpick any connections & re-tell the story in today's setting.

The angelic messenger's still on the job. As a class, angels are too valuable for us to pass them up so readily as we do today. Bad spirits are very much 'in' in a lot of circles. Allowed to take over, rule the roost. Help the good guys & gals make a comeback. For starters, why not become one?