“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.’ Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, ‘Out of Egypt I have called my son.’” (Matthew 2:13-15)
Flee. Escape. φεύγω. I cannot imagine the fear that Mary and Joseph had as they fled to Egypt trying to protect their young son. The unsettling nature of fleeing or trying to escape a country or place seems foreign to a second-generationer like myself. It is leaving your life, family, friends, and abandoning all that you have hoping for something more.
That fear must not have left them when they arrived in Egypt as they heard whispers of what Herod went on to do. A community, different than the one they had longed to become a family in, did not ease the “what-ifs” and fearful worries that could plague any family. A fear that propelled them to heed the warning of violence.
While many wait at the borders of this country, they have experienced such pain, fear, death, and longing. People displaced by militaristic strong-arms or natural disasters sleep on concrete. Invaded by fear, they wait. Stuck, they hope for asylum. What consolation it must be to know that Christ is not ignorant to the pain of fleeing political insurgents, suffering, and death of the innocent.
This is not the only fear that lurks in our lands.
All the while, there exists fear of a different flavor. The fear of the loss of power and privilege that seemingly prevailed by way of insurrection, systemic injustice, and abuse of power. Fear that seeks to protect the empire and White Nationalism. Fear that if children learn of the unequal past then trajectories would be changed. This fear asks us to choose it over compassion. It is the kind that infects and twists us into people that embrace privilege, status, and resentment.
Yet, there is still hope. Hope that God was able to call God’s son out of Egypt. Hope that there is still room here. Hope that there is a place for the sojourner. Hope that we can be more than agents of the state but people that love like Christ. Hope that despite all this raging there can be a community that sees each other as co-laborers and not competitors.
This Advent, may we be like those in Egypt that welcomed the young family that fled. May we be people who choose hope and not upheaval. May we rest in the hope that there is space (yes, even for us), not just borders to be maintained.
Joy Martinez-Marshall is pastor of First Baptist Church in Lincoln, Nebraska.