Sunday, December 21, 2008

Egypt and the Christmas Story

Mathew 2:13 reads, “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.’”

As a part of the lesson, a Sunday school teacher asked each of her students to draw a picture of a story from the Bible. After collecting the drawings, she noticed that one little boy's drawing depicted an airplane with four people abroad. Curious the teacher asked what the picture was. The boy answered, “This is Joseph, Mary and Jesus’ flight to Egypt. The teacher then asked who the fourth person was in the picture. The boy replied, “That’s Pontius the pilot.”

The flight to Egypt is “a small incident in the Christmas story, usually overlooked and seldom portrayed in church pageants; [however, it] looms large in the salvation narrative. Occurring immediately after what often is presented as the climax of the story—the visit of the Magi—Joseph has another nighttime encounter with an angel. This time, God’s messenger tells him to flee with his family to Egypt. They had just entertained Eastern celebrities bearing fabulous gifts for their child-King. Now, abruptly, they are to run for their lives. And the destination—Egypt.

“The phrase ‘out of Egypt’ appears in nearly 150 biblical texts. This ancient enemy symbolized oppression and slavery, and often God’s people would recall that the Lord had freed them and delivered them from that place. Yet God says, ‘Go to Egypt.’ What is Joseph thinking and feeling? His first encounter with an angel announced a ‘virgin’ birth. Then, the baby, born in a stable, was visited by shepherds and kings. And now, this!

“We don’t know Joseph’s thoughts, but we do know his actions. He obeyed. And Jesus escaped Herod’s murderous wrath. And we celebrate Christmas. ‘But,’ we protest ‘we’d obey too if we knew God was talking!’ Really? He speaks to us daily, but do we listen? Unlike Joseph, we have God’s written Word, filled with direction and instruction. May we, with Joseph-like faith, obey and get moving.” (Dave Veerman)

Christmas is a wonderful time of giving and remembering all the wonderful gifts we receive from the Savior of the world. We give gifts to family and friends but what gift can we give to Jesus. All the possessions we have are actually things Christ has already given or loaned to us. While we should give of our possessions to build the Kingdom of God, is it really a gift if we are simply returning to Christ something that is already His? There is one thing we have to offer to the Lord that is not already His—our will. Our obedience is the gift we can truly give to Christ this Christmas. May we give Christ the Christmas gift of obedience and follow His example when he said, “Father . . . not my will, but thine, be done.” (Luke 22:42)

“The submission of one’s will is really the only uniquely personal thing we have to place on God’s altar. . . when you and I finally submit ourselves, by letting our individual wills be swallowed up in God’s will, then we are really giving something to Him! It is the only possession which is truly ours to give!” (Neal Maxwell)

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