There is so much going on today. We could flit about the scriptures like honey bees in a field of flowers. We could be here for hours and not have touched on everything. So I am going to try to not do that.
In a bit of weird lectionary choice we have the aftermath of the visitation of the Wisemen before the actual visitation of the wisemen (which will happen tomorrow night). Despite its odd placement this little short bit of Matthew has huge weight.
Matthew flings our little family from their home in Bethlehem, where the Wisemen found them, across the Sinai peninsula to Egypt, where Jewish identity was formed. It is a sort of reverse Exodus, or a mirror of Joseph’s family’s flight from famine to the safety and bounty of Egypt that started the whole drama.
When Herod (Jesus’ Pharaoh figure) dies back they come to the promised land, Jesus retracing Moses’ steps across the desert.
And then, to Galilee so that everything lines up just right.
Matthew has lots of reasons for including this story. For Matthew this side trip is essential, because Jesus is the new Moses. He too was threatened with death by an unjust frightened despotic ruler as a baby. He too was a stranger and a foreigner protected by God. He too crossed the desert to freedom and safety (twice)!
The dots line up, the scripture nods in agreement. This is how Matthew shows us who Jesus is, why Jesus matters. But there is more to our story today, more to our lessons. From Jeremiah’s promises of gathering and return, to my favorite psalm (84) the lessons this week speak quietly into a very human place in our hearts: a place that yearns to belong, to feel at home.
Especially as Christmas winds down (this is the last day after all) we might be left feeling homesick for a home we vaguely remember, for a time that was more comfortable, or for people who are long gone.
As Jesus and Mary and Joseph flee into Egypt, and then are uprooted again Psalm 84 reminds us that our ultimate home is in God, not wherever we find ourselves at the moment. Our sacred stories remind us that the one thing which will never change in our lives is that we are home with God.
Whether we live surrounded by family, or on the same ground we have lived our whole lives, or if we are thousands of miles away from our childhoods, far from relatives: home exists in the heart of God.
The sparrow has found her a house
and the swallow a nest where she may lay her young;
by the side of your altars, O Lord of hosts,
my King and my God.
This is what so much of Jewish sacred story seeks to remind us of. Wherever God’s chosen people have been, however far they seemed to be from “home,” God remained with them. Moses, Daniel, Rachel, Deborah, Ruth, Mary, Joseph: their journeys often took them far, far away from what was known and safe and comfortable.
God remains with our little family as they flee danger, as they live as refugees in a place their ancestors were slaves, as they return home to a land that must have seemed strangely foreign.
And Jesus, as he grows will be like that sparrow. Home in God, nestled against an altar Rome could not destroy.
We too are invited to make our homes with God, to be rooted in a family and a home that cannot be destroyed or taken from us. As we put away the tinsel and take down the sparkling lights and embark on the long grey winter of ordinary time and then Lent remember Joseph, and Mary, and Jesus. Remember the sparrow the most ordinary of birds; and make your home with her and all of God’s children.