Homily: January 3, 2016
January 3, 2016, YEAR C; Rev. Phil Boelter, Vicar On this second Sunday of Christmas,
we hear a story about a serious warning of coming peril
and a dangerous journey.
The holy family is told,
by an Angel’s visit to Joseph in the dream,
“clear out of Bethlehem, get away as fast as you can!”
They are warned of the nature of the impending danger-
Herod is about to search for and try to kill Jesus-
And they are directed where to flee.
Later we read that Joseph is visited in a dream once again,
to tell him to return to Israel.
but he is warned to go to Nazareth to avoid Herod’s son.
The trip itself must have been fraught with fear and danger
as they looked over their shoulder virtually every step of the way.
Escaping to Egypt did not stop the executions back at home
as Herod tried to find and kill the holy child.
The story of the flight from Egypt AND the killing of innocent boys
under the age of two in Bethlehem and the surrounding area
are often called “fulfillment” texts,
in that they supposedly fulfill Hebrew Bible texts and prophecy.
But it’s also clear from the text
that this event was not ordained by God –
it was ordered by Herod.
These acts are not "fulfillment" of God’s desires;
these are examples of human fear, power seeking, anger, and evil.
"Where was God in all that?" we might ask.
"Why did God allow such evil then and since?"
Where is God in the midst of our problems?
In our decision making about how to respond,
How does God guide us along the way?
I have never had a dream that told me to flee
in the middle of the night to save my family.
But as I look back on my life
there were a few times when I could’ve used
just a wee bit of guidance to keep me from going off the rails.
My decision to enter and then leave seminary right after college.
My first marriage.
My decision not to finish my doctorate.
Most of us can think of a time or times
when a warning of some sort might have been very helpful.
…..Just some inkling of what is about to happen
that might cause us to pause and reconsider ….
a still, small voice clearly guiding in one direction over another would be helpful.
How does God call us out and lead us?
If we are quiet and listen for that voice.
just as Jesus’ father Joseph did,
we will hear what we need to hear.
We never hear a word from Joseph in all of scripture.
He never says anything.
Not a word, anywhere in the Bible.
But Joseph was thoughtful,
Quiet, a good listener…
As most of you know by now,
These are skills I rarely exercise.
I’m much more about making the plan,
getting the job done,
verbally expressing myself
and going from point A to point B.
Many of us,
typically live instead by our faith,
our choices, and our instincts.
The decisions we make,
while often guided by a deep sense of God’s guidance,
are still very much our own.
The story of the flight into Egypt,
Coming as it does at the dawn of a new year,
asks us to pause for a moment and enter into our own journeys.
we can lay ourselves down in the midst of turmoil and change
and we can dream God’s dream
no matter what is going on around us.
The very mess in which we find ourselves
May be the place in which God calls us to journey.
We can take our own flight into Egypt-
without ever leaving our homes
by facing what we are going through,
taking the time we need
we can become the persons God created us to be
and wants us to be.
Mitch Albom wrote about this type of experience in the book Tuesdays with Morrie:
The major conflict in "Tuesdays with Morrie"
is Morrie versus ALS, also known as Lou Gehrigs disease.
Morrie must accept his illness
and the fact that he is going to die from ALS.
In the meantime, Mitch, his former college student,
visits him every Tuesday.
Here is Morries advice for Mitch’s journey and ours:
“Take any emotion—
love for a woman,
or grief for a loved one,
or what I’m going through,
fear and pain from a deadly illness.
If you hold back on the emotions—
if you don’t allow yourself to go all the way through them—
you can never get to being detached,
you’re too busy being afraid.
You’re afraid of the pain,
you’re afraid of the grief.
You’re afraid of the vulnerability that loving entails.
“But by throwing yourself into these emotions,
by allowing yourself to dive in,
all the way,
over your head even,
you experience them fully and completely.
You know what pain is.
You know what love is.
You know what grief is.
And only then can you say,
‘All right. I have experienced that emotion.
I recognize that emotion.
Now I need to detach from that emotion for a moment’.”
That is the journey Joseph made with Jesus and Mary…
Not just from Israel to Egypt to Nazareth
But from safety to challenge,
Through fear to guidance to trust..
That is the journey which called Morrie and Mitch with him
To experiences they had never even dreamt of
That is the jouney to which God calls us all today
during this Christmas season
and in this new year.