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." When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and 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. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through prophet Jeremiah: "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." When Herod died, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, "Get up, take the child and hismother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the child's life are dead." Then Joseph got up, took the child to his mother, and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And after being warned in a dream, he went away to the district of Galilee. There he made his home in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, "He will be called a Nazorean."
I like to think that I don't have very many pet peeves as a minister, but one that I do have is this - people who think Christmas is over when the clock strikes midnight on December 25th. In truth, December 25th is just the beginning of the Christmas season. You know those 12 days of Christmas made so famous by that (rather annoying) song? Those start on December 25th! This year I saw more people than ever taking down their Christmas decorations on the 26th or even on the evening of the 25th declaring "Christmas is over! Time to move on!" I found myself getting irrationally angry at these posts and having to move on to something else myself so I wouldn't go on a weird tirade on social media.
Christmas is still going on. Of course, even if you still have your lights on and your tree up and you go to church this week, it might be hard to keep feeling that Christmas spirit. Our scripture reading this week certainly jars us right back into the cold, harsh, dark realities of our world. Instead of Mary and Joseph snuggling their baby boy, basking in the glow of becoming a newly expanded family, we see them fleeing for their lives in terror of King Herod. Instead of nesting in a comfortable home and connecting with other new families around them, we see them escape to a foreign country, while those they leave behind find their children slaughtered by the outrage of a jealous king. Not very Christmas-y.
And yet, there is hope to be found even in this darkest of stories. The story of Christmas is the story of Emmanuel - God with us. This story that follows is a story of God with us even in the most frightening of human experiences. Jesus knows what it is like to flee violence, to live as a stranger in a strange land, to never quite be welcome anywhere. He knows intimately the pain of this kind of life. Those of us who have been privileged enough to never experience these things need to remember our savior who did. We need to remember that in the eyes of every foreigner in our midst, every stranger in our land, every refugee seeking safety we should see the eyes of Christ looking back at us. And we should respond accordingly.
Oh God of refugees, strangers, and immigrants, help us to recognize when someone comes to us seeking safety and shelter. Help us to respond with open arms, extending our table and sharing what we have, rather than building walls and hoarding for ourselves. May the true spirit of Christmas lead us to welcome those in need in a new way. Amen.