An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you…‘ – Matthew 2
Though it’s not the stuff of Christmas cards, Jesus is born with monsters at his manger. Because the story of the Holy Family’s flight to Egypt and Herod’s bloody reprisals typically gets read the Sunday after Christmas, few Christians are even aware of the story.
Biblical scholars will tell you how Matthew depicts the flight to Egypt in order to buttress the similarities between Moses and Jesus. Just as Moses leads his people from Egypt to deliverance so too does Jesus go down to Egypt and later deliver his people. Just as Moses threatened and incurred the wrath of Pharaoh, Jesus also ignites the fears of Herod the Great.
The parallel with Israel is instructive.
When God delivered Israel from Egypt and instituted the covenant with them, God included the stipulation that Israel was to care for the stranger and the alien among them for they too once were strangers and aliens in another land. In other words, because of their saving story they were called to identify with others. Whatever else Matthew may want us to know about the flight to Egypt, I think he also wants us to identify with refugees for Jesus himself was once a refugee in anther land. It’s not enough to say, tritely, that Jesus is born ‘into poverty.’ It’s better to say that Jesus was born into the sort of family we see so much of in our community- poor families who’ve fled their homeland and live, legally or not, among us. Of course, these are the same ‘refugees’ who are missed by many of the families in Guatemala you serve this week. Too often Christians treat such strangers as a political problem or a social cause but fail to, firstly, see them as Jesus.