Flee to Egypt

Second Sunday of Christmas: Jeremiah 31:7-14; Psalm 84; Ephesians 1:3-6, 15-19a; Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23 (or Matthew 2:1-12, or Luke 2:41-52)

Last week I reflected on how Christmas is shadowed by death and grief. The three kings come, and bring gifts, including the myrrh used to anoint the dead. In today’s gospel, Joseph is told in a dream to take the child and his mother and “flee to Egypt” because Herod wants to destroy the child. Matthew makes this journey seem straightforward: “Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and to to Egypt”. But the journey of the refugee fleeing danger is not, we know, so straightforward. Bethlehem is not right next to Egypt, so it’s not like Joseph, Mary and the baby could just take a stroll and get to a new country.

This is also a journey driven by fear. Herod wants to find the child “to destroy him”. In this 18th century Andean version of the flight into Egypt, you see Herod’s agents killing the children in the background. Over the past 20 years, we have seen many scenes of desperate refugees fleeing war and violence. They have not always received a warm welcome; many are victims of traffickers who take their money but don’t protect them. I wonder about Joseph heading to Egypt: does he encounter danger? Who helps them? Are Joseph and Mary welcomed in Egypt? Or do they face, like so many migrants today, hostility and mistrust?

Anonymous (Andean, 18th century) , The Flight into Egypt | Christie's

(Anonymous, Andean 18th C, “The Flight into Egypt“)

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