An angel appears to Joseph in a dream and tells him to take his family to Egypt. Then, when Joseph wakes up, he gathers his family and obeys the command. Just like that. No questions or protests. How does a man find that sort of courage?
Dreams can be very convincing, particularly when they involve loved ones. If I had a dream about my family being murdered if we stayed in town, I would probably consider an unscheduled family trip. What’s there to lose aside from vacation time, hotel costs, and frequent angry looks from my wife? Still, I would pause long enough to question myself. And even if I went ahead and obeyed the dream, I would curse both myself and God pretty frequently throughout the trip. That’s what doubters do.
The nativity story describes time and time again a level of faith that few people possess. Mary is visited by an angel and she obeys. Mary tells Joseph that she is bearing God’s child, and he believes her. The wise men study the stars, discern a message, and they travel to Bethlehem. Now, Joseph has a dream and obeys. Imagine all of the daring risks people would take if they possessed that level of faith. The truth is I pause and question myself whenever I have to choose which shirt to wear in the morning.
Doubt is a symptom of fear. We can reflect on the many logical reasons for Joseph to doubt his dream–(reason number one: a long journey to Egypt could threaten his infant son’s health)–but the difference between Joseph and most other people is rooted in how he addresses his fears.
Of course such a journey can be dangerous. In fact, there isn’t even a guarantee that Herod’s troops won’t catch up with the family before they make it to Egypt. Despite the many dangers, Joseph and his family find the courage to make the journey anyway. They have courage because of their belief that God will not abandon them.
For most of the world, we are approaching the beginning of a new year. Hopefully it will be an enjoyable one, but there will certainly be challenges because every year comes with challenges. I pray that we all can establish a closer relationship with our creator so that we gain the kind of faith that Joseph has in today’s passage. God is always with us: this fact does not magically wipe away all stress and pain, but believing it can give us the courage to face the challenges ahead.
13 Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.’ 14Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, 15and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfil what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, ‘Out of Egypt I have called my son.’
16 When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. 17Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah:
18 ‘A voice was heard in Ramah,
wailing and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.’