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Will Be Back With Christmas

Matthew 2:13-23

The Rev. Jon Roberts

3 January


Good Shepherd Episcopal Church

Venice, FL

13 Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there till I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” 14 And he rose and took the child and his mother by night, and departed to Egypt, 15 and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfil what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt have I called my son.” 16 Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, was in a furious rage, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time which he had ascertained from the wise men. 17 Then was fulfilled what was spoken by 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 were no more.” 19 But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, 20 “Rise, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.” 21 And he rose and took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archela′us reigned over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there, and being warned in a dream he withdrew to the district of Galilee. 23 And he went and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled, “He shall be called a Nazarene.”

Will Be Back With Christmas

The Flight into Egypt, Giotto di Bondone, 1304-06
Scrovegni Chapel, Padua

Love came down at Christmas,
Love all lovely,
Love divine;
Love was born at Christmas:
star and angels gave the sign. [1]

You were summoned on Christmas Eve to let the light of Christ shine brightly wherever you go. Has the star and the angels been with you during this time? Has love come down upon you? Sometimes we don't look up until we've exhausted ourselves by looking down. It was like that for Charlie and his best friend Richard. Both group up together and led very active lives. They were both hard workers, opening a small business together. Charlie was the conservative one. Richard was more liberal. Most of the time, they worked through holidays and rarely took sick days. They were known to work through vacations too. They simply had to keep working. They lived in dream homes, built on the land left behind by their fathers. Richard lived across the road from his best friend Charlie. When they weren't at their business they worked on their land. Charlie and his wife never had children of their own. Richard and his wife had two: Robert and Joseph.

As you can imagine Charlie often called upon Robert and Joseph to mow his yard in the summers and feed the animals. He treated them as if they were his own children, and he took great pride to try and instill his own sense of hard work values in them. Robert adhered to them. He went to college. He married shortly afterwards and began his own business in town, right next to his father's business and prospered. Joseph, on the other hand, went the other way. He felt life was too short to be tied down in a small town. He needed to live; to get out and to get away. Charlie and Joseph's father discussed this often with one another. They shared different advice for how young Joseph should live. Richard felt Joseph needed some time to work things out. But Charlie pressed Joseph to buckle down, invest, and made it work.

On a cold day, on the last day of March, without any explanation, Joseph left a note for his parents that said, "Will be back with Christmas. Love, your son, Joseph." He ran away. Charlie couldn't understand why the boy did it. He admonished Richard and a dispute followed. It was a terrible thing that happened between them. Whenever they caught a glimpse of each other, they looked away or looked down. Over time, it was exhausting work. They would see each other at the mailbox and look away. They would see each other on main street and look down. They saw each other in the Post Office and the grocery store. But they worked at going their opposite ways. They became more and more depressed. The blame they initially put on each other, for Joseph's running away, now shifted. They started to self-pity and loathe their own lives. Their wives even intervened but still nothing could seem to bring them together again.
The year is nearly over, and Christmas arrives. They hoped for a star to appear. They hoped for an angel to announce. But on that eve there was no Joseph at their doors. Sitting by the fire, Charlie felt no warmth, and then the phone rang. It was his friend across the street. With a pleasant and hopeful sound, he said, "Charlie, turn on the news and tell me what you see." At precisely the stroke of twelve, the newscaster reported a young woman gave birth to a little girl in the local hospital and she named her "Mary." But what was most remarkable, what took this news to the national level, was the young woman's maiden name. It was "Christmas."

With a deep satisfaction and reverent pause, they heard the reporter say, at twelve, "Mary Christmas was born today." The note, the one that Joseph left behind said, "I'll be back with Christmas." "With"? For nine months they had wondered why Joseph chose that word. Written in haste they only assumed. With great expectancy, they drove to the hospital together, forgetting their past troubles, to meet the mother and newborn babe. When they arrived at the scene, there was mother, baby, and yes, the father. With tears in his eyes, Joseph ran up and embraced them both. Joseph had come home with Christmas. The two men now understood his exodus. All of them would now share a new journey together. Their hearts became set on the pilgrim's way (Ps 84:4) and sometimes it takes a Joseph, a Mary or a baby to remind us that Christmas is what brings us together once more. [2]

Today, in our readings, we discover the core value that rests, not in a hard work mentality, but rather in a relational one. It points to the reality that there are no perfect families, only perfect love between its members. The core value of the nuclear family is based on love for one another. Its members will be called to leave things like pride and self-conceit; things like anger and self-pity. Always on the move, the soul is. Always, it is God that gathers us together, if only we trust in Him. Letting go and looking up, we too will behold the star once more. Our relationships will prosper again, when we meet at the manger. If we look down let it be upon the God made man, born as a baby into this world we live. Today, we are being summoned to embrace him.

Love came down at Christmas,
Love all lovely,
Love divine;
Love was born at Christmas:
Star and angels gave the sign.

[1] Christina Rossetti, "Love Came Down at Christmas", 1980 Hymnal #84.
[2] Matthew 2:13-23

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