Matthew 2:13-15 – Familiarity breeds indifference

Matthew 2:13-15 – Familiarity breeds indifference

“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.'” – Matthew 2:13-15NIV

There is a saying “Familiarity breeds contempt.” I have heard it used most often to supposedly explain why marriages go sour. I don’t know if that adage is necessarily true in most circumstances, but I have found familiarity tends to breed indifference. The more we are exposed to ideas or experiences, the less they seem to impact us. It’s why ski jumpers progressively have to hit higher jumps. It’s why travelers always want to see new places. It’s part of why kindergarten is fantastic and junior year is terrible. It’s part of why people cheat in relationships or people get new jobs. Once the newness wears off, the ordinary no longer holds our attention.

It’s true with travesty, too. In our post 9/11, post Columbine, post Black Lives Matter, post #MeToo world, we hardly go a day without news of a new war, a new terrorist attack, a new shooting, a new politician spouting hatred, a new beloved icon turned out to be a monster. It’s so expected it rarely excites us. Rarely holds our attention. The movements which spawned in response to these atrocities and abuses slowly lose momentum as we become used to them being part of the news and our lives.

So it is with the story of Jesus’ birth. Every year, we read about Mary’s and Joseph’s dreams, Elizabeth’s testimony, the journey to Bethlehem, the angels singing, the shepherds rushing, the Magi journeying, the star shining, Herod’s slaughter, and the escape to Egypt. Memorialized in ornaments and cute manger scenes and Christmas lights…there’s a blurry, soft edge to the account. Something familiar and comfortable. We focus on the fluffy lambs, the excitement, the cooing baby, the adoring family, the hope of nations… and forget the nightmare. Forget the courage and desperation and fear.

Mary was probably thirteen or fourteen years old when Jesus was born. Shockingly early for our world, but the age of many new brides in first century Israel. Joseph…no more than a teen himself. He was probably between seventeen and nineteen, as Jewish men often married shortly after completing their apprenticeship in their family trade. No more than children themselves, they’d also probably rarely been far from home and family. First century people did not travel the world as we do today.

Yet now, a new husband, a new father, a new wife, a new mother…the angel appears to them to proclaim, “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” (Matthew 2:13b NIV). They are being hunted by the ruler of their land. Personally. For death. So, in a world where being an unprotected stranger often left you killed or enslaved, these teenagers had to flee to the very country from which God had liberated the Jews hundreds of years before. A land with no family or connections with whom to claim refuge. It was roughly a 200 mile journey just to the border of Egypt, into a life they had never planned for.

It was a call to extraordinary courage from a young, inexperienced, unprepared couple from rural Israel.

As we begin a new year, hoping it will be better than the last, getting wrapped up in the new demands and expectations of our lives… Don’t forget the courage of two ordinary believers caught up in the work of the extraordinary. Don’t set aside the account of Jesus’ birth with your ornaments and trees and lights until next December. Don’t forget what God achieves through the most unexpected means.

Remember…remember the courage of Christmas. Remember what God’s strength made Joseph and Mary capable of. Holding the Savior in their arms, they journeyed in fear and doubt, yet with the God of the universe right there in their midst.

And as with them, so with you. The God of the Universe is with you as you face the unknown, perhaps with your own fears and doubts. He does not abandon you to the evil intentions of others or the uncertainty of the path. He gives you strength to face the day. To face your times: through the Bible, through worship, through fellow believers, through the miraculous in every day that we so easily overlook.

Have courage, my friends. The Author of Life is with you.

  1. How does your life feel overwhelming right now?
  2. If you’ve never considered the courage of Mary and Joseph before, how does it impact you to think on it, now?
  3. How is it different to try to be courageous versus trusting God to provide you with the strength you need for your challenges?
  4. Challenge for the Week: Courage happens through small instances of acting in trust in God’s promises. Pray for an opportunity to practice courage this week. When it comes, take steps into it.

Isaiah 9:6 – Christ Goes With You

“For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” – Isaiah 9:6ESV

The day started out like any other; the alarm went off at 6AM, followed by my morning devotions, and all the self-preparation a morning requires before beginning the inevitable struggle through Denver commuter traffic. I was a little more alert than usual for a night owl caught in an early bird’s lifestyle, so I was pulling together the ingredients for a slightly more ambitious breakfast than my usual coffee and meal bar when the text message came in. It was a text message that ended up defining 2017 for me.

My husband had collapsed at work and was headed to the ER. What followed was a tense hour-and-a-half drive to the ER, a transfer to a hospital, IV fluids and blood transfusions, and test after test. We had this delusion the week would end with a discharge and prescriptions. Instead, it ended with a diagnosis and transfer to yet another hospital because my healthy, vital, young husband had leukemia.

It didn’t take us long to realize he should have died at work and nearly did in the ER; to understand he’d been dying all summer and we didn’t know. Like the cancer cells tainting his blood, the knowledge poisoned every good memory of that summer with the revelation of what had been going on, hidden and unseen beneath the surface the whole time. Like a thief, this diagnosis in those closing months of 2017, often stole our energy, our happiness, our plans, and our time.

Yet 750 years before Jesus would be born, Isaiah prophesied in this passage that Jesus, the God we follow, would be known as the “Prince of Peace.” What peace? There has been nothing but war and strife all the way up to Jesus’ birth and long after His ascension back to Heaven. My husband and I have given our lives to Him, yet my husband has cancer in the prime of his life. It’s easy to say that very little around us, and even IN us, looks like the Prince of Peace reigns.

Yet Jesus is still the Prince of Peace. In these last six month, I have watched my husband’s strength melt away. The man who could leg press 1000lbs. can now barely climb a flight of stairs. A former record-holding sprinter, now he gets tired going for a walk. I’ve watched his full beard and hair grow patchy and fall out in hours. I’ve sat through the darkness of night with him through agonizing bone pain and throwing up from chemo. We are tired and sorrowful…and yet in some way, despite our circumstances…joyful.

The joy flows from a deep well of peace. Peace knowing God has not abandoned us but is actively thwarting Satan’s intentions of evil through it to accomplish beauty in our lives. Peace knowing the hardship of this disease is peeling away the influence of our fallen world to set us free to become even more than we would be capable of otherwise. Peace knowing the absolute Truth of the promise of Jesus in Matthew 28:20, “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

He is with us, and His Peace does not come because of our circumstances but in spite of them. This same Peace allowed the Apostle Paul to fiercely proclaim the gospel before Emperor Nero, the Caesar of Rome, who would bring about some of the most brutal, sadistic persecution of Christians history has ever seen. This Peace allowed the Apostle Peter to walk the road to Jerusalem, knowing he walked to his death, to proclaim the life of Jesus to the lost. This same Peace has allowed the millions of Christians throughout history to proclaim Jesus’ name in the face of certain death, social censure, and even “simple” fear of rejection.

We may not see perfect peace around us, but the Prince of Peace is with us. With YOU! He has drawn near. He has revealed His true self to you in the Bible, in the loving hearts and hands of His people, and in every “good and perfect gift”(James 1:17ESV) you experience in this life. In 2018, go into storms or fair skies, go into the great unknown of what will be, and go boldly! For Christ and His Peace go with you.

  1. Describe the most peaceful you’ve ever felt. Really try to dig into what that felt like.
  2. Have you ever felt peace in a situation that was anything but peaceful? Describe the situation and where your peace came from.
  3. Where do you wish you were experiencing more peace in your life?
  4. Challenge for the week: look up the word “peace” in the bible. Pick one passage that stands out to you and write it on a sticky note. Put it where you’ll see it every morning and spend some time focusing on it periodically throughout every day.