Journey of Sorrow and Hope

Read Matthew 2:13-23

Years ago, on a night in early December, my first husband died in a car accident. Shock and grief cast a shadow over Christmas. Among the many cards and letters I received, one made the unusual suggestion that I look closely at Christmas carols.

When I did, I saw the lyrics in a new light. Jesus came to a “weary world”2 where “sins and sorrows grow”3 and we are bent “beneath life’s crushing load.”4 He came “to save us all from Satan’s power when we were gone astray.”5 

Herod’s massacre of baby boys in Bethlehem had seemed jarring and out-of-place in the Christmas narrative to me. Now I saw that story differently as well. I was reminded that Jesus was not born into a perfect Christmas-card scene. He became incarnate because we are broken! He came to a selfish world, where a paranoid Herod also killed one of his wives, three of his sons, and many others. To an unjust world, where Roman soldiers followed his orders and families were powerless to resist. To a world filled with centuries of weeping, from Jacob’s wife Rachel dying in childbirth (Genesis 35:16-18) to her figurative mourning for God’s people in exile (Jeremiah 31:15) to the parents wailing in Bethlehem. 

In that dark winter I cherished 1 Corinthians 15:26: “The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” The carols concurred: Jesus understood grief, but was also “born that man no more may die.”6 He came to vanquish sin, “to make his blessings flow far as the curse is found.”7 In Matthew 2, the blessings flowed across borders. Why Egypt? Physically, little Jesus was safe there, and Egyptian Coptic Christians still celebrate his visit.

But for deeper significance, Matthew quoted Hosea 11: “Out of Egypt I called my son.” Hosea portrayed God’s tender love for Israel as a father’s for a small child. He rescued them from bondage in Egypt, yet they strayed into idolatry. In contrast, the little son Jesus would come out of Egypt in perfect obedience, carrying out his Father’s will for our salvation. During sorrow, these are “tidings of comfort and joy.”8

For Family Discussion: How would you feel to have to leave your school and friends to follow your parents to a new place?  What might you pray for, as you traveled? 

For Personal Reflection: What are some of the harsher aspects of the Christmas narrative? What do you they tell us about Christ?

by Susan Gilliland