Unsettling Advent 2023, Day 17 - Word&Way

Unsettling Advent 2023, Day 17

“When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. ‘Get up,’ he said, ‘take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.’ So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘Out of Egypt I called my son.’” (Matthew 2:13-15)

The account above tells us of baby Jesus, Mary, and Joseph fleeing to Egypt to escape the threat of King Herod. This narrative, while ancient, resonates deeply with the struggles faced by many people today in war-torn Gaza.

In Gaza, people are being told to flee to safety, but tragically, they have nowhere to escape to. This is a harsh reality that parallels the desperation faced by Mary and Joseph. They had a destination, Egypt, where they could find refuge, but the people in Gaza today have no such sanctuary within their besieged land.

As Christians, we find solace in knowing that, like Mary and Joseph, we have a place of refuge — the “ark of the cross.” This concept is akin to Noah’s ark, where he found safety amidst chaos and danger. Our safety comes through what Jesus did for us on the cross. Just as Noah felt secure within the ark, we, too, find protection under the power of Christ’s sacrifice.

Matthew reminds us of the dilemma faced by those who have nowhere to go when danger threatens. In celebrating the birth of Jesus, we are celebrating the goodness of God, who entered human history through the incarnation. Jesus came to bring God to the people and people to God, offering hope and salvation.

In the time of Jesus’s birth, the circumstances were challenging, with King Herod and Roman occupation looming over the land. There are parallels in present-day Palestine under Israeli occupation. Mary and Joseph’s swift escape to Egypt after the visitation of the magi demonstrates the immediacy of their need for refuge.

Palestinians flee Gaza City to the southern part of the Gaza Strip on Nov. 7, 2023. (Mohammed Dahman/Associated Press)

For some of us who have experienced persecution, there might have been moments when God blessed our ministries and we felt encouraged. However, when danger arose, we, like Mary and Joseph, had to flee to safety. Our personal experiences can help us empathize with the people of Gaza who lack a safe haven today.

As we meditate on the Advent season and the birth of Jesus, let us remember those who, like the Holy Family, have no place to escape. Even churches, once seen as sanctuaries, are not immune to the violence. We must pray for peace and for the safety of all people, especially those in conflict zones like Gaza.

In the midst of turmoil, we can echo the sentiment of a leader from Gaza Baptist Church: “In the midst of war, we feel we are Noah’s ark because of Jesus.” The hope of the cross, the resurrection, and the protection found in Christ’s sacrifice can be our refuge, even when the world seems chaotic and dangerous. May we extend that hope and refuge to those in need, just as Mary and Joseph found refuge in Egypt, and just as we have found it in the ark of the cross.

Rev. Hanna Massad grew up in Gaza and is a former pastor of Gaza Baptist Church. He’s the author of Pastor from Gaza and leads Christian Mission to Gaza.


NOTE: This is part of our Unsettling Advent devotionals running Dec. 3-Dec. 24. You can subscribe for free to receive them each morning in your inbox.