Out of Egypt Have I Called My SonFr. Barnabas Powell
Christ is Born! Glorify Him!
The Christian Church has been around a long time! And the place it’s existed the longest is the place where it first sprang up. The Church is, at it’s heart, a Semitic Faith, an Eastern Faith. And that’s because the Christian Church is the fulfillment of the promises made by God to Abraham, the father of the Faithful. So there are a lot of Jewish elements in the history of the Christian Faith. In fact, all of the early Christians were Jewish!
But Christianity didn’t stay there in Palestine, because Judaism was an empire-wide religion in the Roman Empire. And the fact that the Church quickly covered most (if not all) the territory of the Roman Empire meant that it included people from different cultures, language, and ethnicity.
Look at our lesson today Matthew 2:13-23:
When the wise men departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there till I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” And he rose and took the child and his mother by night, and departed to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt have I called my son.”
Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, was in a furious rage, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time which he had ascertained from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah: “A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they were no more.” But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.” And he rose and took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaos reigned over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there, and being warned in a dream he withdrew to the district of Galilee. And he went and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled, “He shall be called a Nazarene.”
Why did God send the Holy Family to Egypt? Was it because God wasn’t able to protect the Lord and His mother and foster-father? Of course, that’s ridiculous. God isn’t weak.
But He is loving, and He loves all His creation. And God wants all His creation to know Him in His fullness. And, since that’s actually not possible because God is forever beyond us, God enters His creation as a human through one of our human race. The eternal reality of God’s difference from us is insurmountable to us. He is Uncreated and we are created. He is the Cause of being and we are beings. He is Noncontingent; we are forever contingent. We are dependent for our existence on Him and He is dependent on no one for His existence. This is a big deal!
And it’s why we Orthodox insist on the cosmic worship that draws us to awe and not merely reduce worship to religious education or moral education. We NEED AWE to ever enjoy being with our AWESOME God.
So, after all that, why Egypt? And the reason is because God wanted Egypt to have a heritage of Christianity; to have a cultural memory that would be the seed of Faith for the African continent. And, in fact, the Christian Faith was planted in Egypt by St. Mark, the Apostle around 50 AD. The Faith spread there quickly and St. Mark may have encountered people who “remembered” the Holy Family in Egypt when Christ was born! What an amazing reality!
The whole purpose of this narrative about the Family escaping to Egypt and eventually returning to the town of Nazareth was to further the planting of this amazing event of God Enfleshing Himself for our sakes! And to do this in such a way that would change human history forever!
So, today, as we continue the celebration of the Incarnation; God’s loving invasion of rebel planet Earth, know God’s purpose is to have you fully embrace the amazing message of Joy and Hope in seeing God’s display of His loving Power in coming as a humble and weak baby that would grow to be the Risen Conqueror of Death and hell!
P.S. Just a few days left in this year. Start turning your thinking to 2017, not with dread, but hope and joy. And do that by embracing the rhythm of prayer and worship in our precious Orthodox Church!