When six-months-pregnant Elizabeth (future mother of John the Baptist), blessed her cousin Mary, Mary burst out in praise (Luke 1:46-55):

“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
And his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.

He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”

Especially notice that underlined part in bold. I imagine Mary thought that the coming of the Messiah would mean the very soon fulfillment of these wonderful prophecies based on the words of the prophets of old. The setting right of all that was wrong about the world.

However . . .

About a year or so later, Mary and Joseph were running for their lives from a king so vile that he felt no trouble of conscience killing dozens of innocent little babies in his desire to hold on to power as if he were immortal. He thought he could thwart what the prophets had said.

Can you imagine how Joseph’s heart must have leaped into his throat when the angel shook him awake? “Hurry, Joseph! The psychopathic megalomaniac wants to find baby Jesus and kill Him! Get to Egypt now!”

Can you imagine how confused and frightened and trembling the two of them must have been as they hastily packed the donkey in the middle of the night?

Maybe you sort of can, because maybe you’ve been in a similar situation. I know many who have.

Mary’s Magnificat wasn’t true! Or it seemed like it wasn’t, at least.

He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
he has brought down the mighty from their thrones.

He hadn’t scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He hadn’t brought down the mighty from their thrones. Why wasn’t He showing strength with His arm? Couldn’t He have stopped this!

How many times I have lamented in this way.

And yet . . .

Even down into hiding in Egypt, the two young parents carried with them the true memory of the shepherds who had come to worship the newborn Great Shepherd because they had been notified by a host of angels.

They carried with them the memory of wise men who had come to worship the newborn King because they had seen His sign in the East and had traveled far.

They carried with them the memory that two aged servants of the Most High God, Simeon and Anna, had recognized the Ultimate Servant of God and prayed and prophesied over Him.

They carried the memory that an angel had come to each of them separately to let them know that this baby would be born and would save His people from their sins. That prophecy needed to be fulfilled.

They carried with them the memory that even though the psychopathic megalomaniac was running amok with slaughter and bloodshed (with equally psychopathic soldiers willing to carry out his work), they had been divinely warned and were kept safe because Baby Jesus needed to grow up. He spent His earliest years in a foreign land, but He was safe.

How would they know when to go back? Should they ever go back? Surely they should! I can picture them having these discussions together, wondering when in the world it would be safe, or if it ever would.

But God has His divine communication that will never allow the evil psychopathic plans to thwart His purposes. An angel told Joseph when Herod “the Great” had died and it was safe to go back to Israel.

Why did Joseph consider returning to Judea, when he and Mary had their roots in Galilee? People didn’t move from one state to another in those days like they do now. Was it because the prophecy told that Jesus would come from Judea and he felt an obligation to settle there for that purpose? Maybe so they could make more regular visits to the temple in Jerusalem? We don’t know, but we do know that he thought about moving back to Judea, because Matthew 2:22 tells us he was afraid to go there when he found out that Herod “the Great” had a son who was reigning there now.

Judea, where Bethlehem was, was very much under the watchful eye of the rulers, because Israel’s capital, Jerusalem, was there too. Nazareth of Galilee, where Joseph and Mary had come from—and where they decided to return to, after again being warned by an angel—was a dot on the map. By going back to their roots, they were basically going into hiding.

This didn’t seem like the way to raise the Son of God, did it?

But even with all their unanswered questions, even though they didn’t see evil completely obliterated in their lifetime—even though they (or at least Mary) saw the greatest evil ever executed in the history of humankind when Jesus was killed on the cross—still they lived faithfully, walking in the ways of the Lord and trusting Him to fulfill His promises at the right time.

They had no idea that what seemed like the greatest thwarting of good in this world—in the death of the Sinless One—was actually the greatest thwarting of evil.

God is like that. Taking what the enemy means for evil and turning it for good. It might take a really long time, far longer than we would want, and there may be much bloodshed by psychopathic megalomaniacs in the meantime. It might be very confusing and very frightening.

But we will keep looking to Him and expecting to receive our guidance from Him. Because He is where all our Hope lies, He is good, and ultimately none of His good plans can be thwarted.

Merry Christmas.

***

Thanks to my husband Tim for the thoughts that led to this post.

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