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Sunday Message Supplement for 29 December 2019: “Refugee Family”

Christmas is over and with that you’re faced with the promise and possibility of the New Year. Rather than hiding in the afterglow of holiday cheer you are invited to move forward. After all, the baby Jesus didn’t stay long in that manger.

Did you know that Jesus was a refugee when he was young and arguably at his most vulnerable point? Today’s lectionary message in Matthew 2:13-23 reveals that the holy family of Mary, Joseph and Jesus were for a time refugees fleeing government persecution. This sounds familiar in light of today’s immigration crisis as parents and children escape bad situations in their own countries.

An angel warned Mary and Joseph to flee from Judea to the neighboring land of Egypt because Herod, the evil king of Israel, plotted Jesus’ destruction. Herod’s paranoia got the best of him as he ordered the children around Bethlehem murdered in his attempt to eradicate Jesus, whom he perceived as a threat. Such vile brutality against children and other helpless persons is unsurprising. Rulers past and present often grasp power at any cost, and innocent people die in a despot’s maniacal preservation of rule and riches.

The despicable Herod eventually died, and the angel of the Lord told Joseph to bring his family out of Egypt where they had been hiding. Another tyrannical ruler after Herod, Archelaus, remained a threat and this motivated Joseph to settle in Nazareth of Galilee rather than returning to Judea. What does the odyssey of Jesus’ escaping and returning mean for you? There is a lesson here about the direction of your spiritual journey. Sometimes you may feel like a refugee fleeing life’s ever-present threats. Stay confident that God’s guidance can transcend geography as you seek refuge in God’s care.

Have you ever felt buffeted by life’s threats? Like Joseph fleeing with his family to Egypt, you may be forced to retreat temporarily and lay low amid a swirl of dangers. The world can prevail upon you in almost every way, intruding into the deep recesses of your soul. Yet, despite the perils, you generate hope as you follow God’s leading.

There have always been refugees and God cares about the plight of those who flee persecution. Many immigrants escape life-and-death situations only to be met with hostility at the border where they seek refuge. It is vital that we who reside in the land of the free establish a safe haven for the most vulnerable persons, including children. Remember the baby Jesus!  God blesses protectors of the innocent such as the littlest refugees while divine wrath will strike those who threaten or harm children.

Even after returning to his ancestral country, Joseph ended up settling in an area different from the one he left. This can also happen to you if you’ve fled something and were not able to return to the same place in which you started. Ending up in a new place can be a good thing as fresh opportunities may arise and you can learn from not only where you’ve been, but also from where you are in the here-and-now.

Where do you find yourself at this stage of your life? Do you feel forced from one situation and thrust into another? Whatever powers may be at work, God can provide a new home, a place of vital spiritual life as he did for Joseph, Mary and Jesus. The place you return to, even if it’s not where you originally wanted to go, can be a blessing for reasons not immediately obvious. To fulfill God’s plan for your life you may need to leave something familiar before you awaken to the better future God provides.

As you look toward the New Year, ask God to use your experiences in 2019 as a step forward into 2020. You may have had your share of challenges and crises during your life odyssey. Perhaps you’ve endured a health problem that set you back or you may face challenges from family, friends or your work. There’s no shortage of things that can make you feel like a spiritual refugee, escaping harsh conditions as you stay on the run.

Gain comfort knowing that neither disappointments nor disasters will be the final word. Rather than feel like you are a perpetual refugee you can partner with God to banish all fear and angst. Strive for light and life and emerge stronger despite dire circumstances in unfamiliar lands.

No matter what’s facing you from the past, present, or future, God can lead you to a place of new vistas and opportunities. Pray therefore that 2020 will be a time for you to settle and thrive in the promised land of God’s love and truth.

–Reverend Larry Hoxey

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