Not a vacation

Here's this week's Bible Study blog entry for i.ucc.

(Voice simulation of an overhead microphone)
. . . And in the unlikely event of a sudden loss of cabin pressure, an oxygen mask will drop down from the ceiling. Please secure your oxygen mask first and then help infants and children to put their mask on. Thank you. . . Good morning ladies and gentlemen. This is the captain speaking. We anticipate our arrival time to be as scheduled. When we reach altitude I'll turn off the fasten safety belts light and you'll be able to move about the cabin. But please remember that while in your seat to keep that safety belt fastened. We hope you enjoy your flight to Egypt. This is your captain -- flying with Pontius the Pilot.

We just had the celebration. Jesus is born! The angels announced it. The shepherds came and praised him. The savior is come into the world.

And now everything is different.

In this week's Bible reading from Matthew 2:13-23, Mary and Joseph and Jesus had to flee to Egypt or Jesus would be killed by the tricked, angered and "afraid for his title" Herod. The family fled. Herod killed all the children two years or younger in Bethlehem.

Do you know that often this Passage is broken into two when it's listed in church bulletins? It stops after verse 15 and then picks up again at verse 20. The part where Herod kills the children is gone.

Why take it out? Because it takes the joy out of the Christmas story. It's much easier to turn the flight to Egypt into a vacation for the future king.

And the flight to Egypt wasn't a vacation.

The "slaughter of the innocents" reminds us that Jesus didn't enter a world that welcomed him in any way. There is no sparkling tree or family gathering to sing carols. As a matter of fact, even before the flight to Egypt there is rejection. How about the birth of Jesus? It's easy to remember with joy the birth of Jesus in a stable, "because there was no room for them in the inn." But why was there no room. Wasn't this the census? Don't you think Joseph had some family -- everywhere -- in Bethlehem? But no one would take he and his pregnant fiancé in. I think Joseph's family had rejected him because of Mary being pregnant.

Jesus is the outcast. Jesus is the homeless. Jesus is the nobody everyone turns away from.
Jesus is the person voted "least likely to succeed".
Jesus is the annoying neighbor who plays their music too loud. Jesus is all those people who make your skin crawl.

Jesus is our savior. Not just the savior of the ones who dress right and who have everything they need. Not just for the ones who regularly attend church and Sunday school. Not just for the ones who keep their yards well-kept and their children's faces clean. Jesus came for everyone. Whenever Jesus seemed to be limiting the good news, it was at the expense of the ones who called themselves followers of God. Jesus reached out to the outcast, the homeless and the nobodies.

Any thoughts?

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