As soon as the wise men leave the manger, Mary, Joseph, and Jesus depart to Egypt. They flee to Egypt in part to follow the words of the angels, and in part to stay alive and avoid the wrath of King Herod.
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 fulfil 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 he 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. —Matthew 2:13-16
The end of Christmas crashes the promised healing of the manger scene into the wounded world and the terror cultivated by those who fear the loss of power. Christ is already active in the world, but everything is not yet well.
As we move from the season of Christmas into the season of Epiphany, I feel we too are in this moment of fleeing into Egypt. After witnessing all that has gone on in Washington DC in the past couple of days, I imagine many of us are shaken. This week doesn’t feel like one of celebrating the revelation of God, so much as it feels like listening for the words of God in Egypt — in a wounded world, surrounded by the terror of those who fear the loss of power.
Whether we are fleeing or staying put, we know that God is at work revealing Godself to us. As a response to to this revelation, here is how my household is responding.
As always, prayer in thought, word, and deed is our first reply. If you can’t find the words to pray, I commend to you these prayers our Presiding Bishop Michael Curry offered on Wednesday afternoon. Bishop Curry began with the reminder that “even as our nation’s capital is being endangered and assaulted, we pray that the Lord Jesus Christ, we pray that God, in his Way of Love, might prevail in all of our hearts.”
Second, take time to focus on your own health — all aspects of your health — emotional, spiritual, physical, and mental. Address your own anxieties, anger, disappointments, and fears. After you’ve prayed with Bishop Curry or on your own as mentioned above, you may still feel anxious. This has been another unprecedented week in our country after all. I invite you to join me in bundling up in warm clothes and taking a walk around the block or put on some comfortable clothes for a living room yoga session. You might ask your children to join you in sitting outside or in a quiet space in your house, resting their hands palm open on their knees and take slow, deep breaths, over and over.
I’m always surprised how much better I feel after deep breathing. A friend recently shared @BlackLituries with me on Instagram and now I commend it to you. The final slide of each post includes breathing prayers such as this powerful one from Wednesday afternoon.
God, my soul trembles.
Steady us in your arms.
Third, gather together while apart. Now is the time to join your faith community online. Log on to Zoom coffee hour or Instagram Live formation classes or Sunday worship on YouTube. Ground yourself in the loving fellowship of your church to help remind you that you’re not alone.
And finally, ask your children if they want to talk. We always strive to be honest, transparent, and age appropriate when talking about difficult subjects and describing an attempted coup to a 7 and 5 year old will certainly be a first for us. So, we’ll turn everything off and be present with them, closing in prayer once the conversation nears its end.
How are you caring for yourself today?
How are the children in your life?
[Image Credit: Public Domain via Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library.]