Matthew recalls the harsh and violent reaction to the birth of Jesus. Herod plans to kill Him and all the baby boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under. The Magi had to return to their country via a detour to escape death and Joseph and his family fled to Egypt during the night. Even after the death of Herod the threat against Jesus did not subside and resulted in the move to Nazareth.
It seems that it has always been an unfriendly and dangerous world which received Jesus. When I read Mathew’s account of the story of Jesus, I become aware of his emphasis on the protection and provision of God in His life. He conveys to the readers of his gospel that the story of the salvation through Jesus is not only important in connection to His birth and death but also through His entire life. When we consider His whole life, we gather strength to face our own life with its challenges. Therefore it seems appropriate to consider the protection, care and provision in the life of Jesus after celebrating Christmas.
The gospel must serve its purpose and God will not allow anything or anybody to interfere in the fulfillment of his love to save the world. We gather strength when we read that Jesus survived a hostile world and when we are assured that God provides in difficult and threatening situations. God didn’t allow anything to derail His plan of salvation for the world.
We can appreciate the rich typology which is woven into this narrative with the story of Moses, especially for the Jews who can connect this story to their history. The similarities in the stories include a wicked king who decrees death, flight to escape the decrees, and the slaughter of innocent children. The stories also diverge from one another at several points, but Matthew draws our attention to the God of protection and provision when He calls people to fulfill their calling.
Being aware of the comprehensive and inclusive protection and provision of God, we can read the story again and then consider the secondary elements which we can relate to. Some of these themes are:
- The important role which dreams play in the life of believers to direct us.
- Support to political refugees.
- Rescue of children and vulnerable people.
- Protective role of fathers in families.
We realize that the Christmas story is a story relating to the real life we are living today. There are no easy explanations for why we experience pain and suffering, but we are being assured of God’s protection and guidance. The main focus is on the gospel of Good News to everybody and that nothing will divert God from His plan. We are being protected and cared for. When we believe this, we are included in His plan and then we become protectors and providers. Then we take upon us the responsibility to care for all vulnerable people in our societies because God cares and provides for us.
To think about:
When you read this passage, with which elements do you identify in your life today?
How can faith communities contribute to giving the Christmas story realistic applications of care and protection?
Written by: Rev. Hennie van Rooyen (Chairperson HIV/AIDS Commission Highveld Synod Dutch Reformed Church). Trained as a ‘Churches, Channel of Hope’ Facilitator