“…Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word…” Matthew 2:13
Some of my most fond childhood memories involve the retelling of what we call “The Christmas Story.” I loved the various cantatas, plays, musicals, parades, and recitals that would, in some way, tell the story of the birth of Jesus. From as early as I remember, I have shut down normal life from the end of October until December 25, where I kept my parents busy with rehearsals and reservations for a front-row seat. I knew the story: the angel visiting the couple, the immaculate conception, the inn, the three wise men, the star, the drummer boy (that wasn’t in scripture, but he made everyone smile), the Savior. I now can almost quote it line for line. But this year, a significantly different story had moved me to tears, and I’d like to share that with you now.
Right after giving birth to Jesus, all was “calm and bright” for the young family for a matter of time. Then, one night while sleeping, Joseph was warned by God in a dream not to return to the land ruled by Herod. The warning was so sobering that Joseph left that very night and went to Egypt with his family. He did not know exactly why; he did not know exactly how long; he only knew that he had to run for his life and for the lives in his care and those that would be affected for generations after his. His only instruction was to wait for a word. Yikes!
The year 2020 has been anything but easy for most. I have not lived in a year that has been so polarizing, emotionally draining, and unsure. Yet, I have learned so many things about my ear. I have learned that my survival is contingent upon my ability to fine-tune my ear to the Voice of God. Joseph did not live in a social media or cellular age, where he could gather information at the speed of light. Most news came via courier, per the decree of a king. That courier had to memorize the words of the king and then recite the exact same thing over and over again as he went about through each town. Depending on where you lived, you didn’t get news until weeks or months after it’s first issue. Imagine, then, the urgency of a dream that specifically tells you to leave. Imagine the hypothetical and literal fate of the world resting on your ability to follow the instructions of God sent through a dream. What Joseph did not know was that King Herod had a hit out on the young boy, and anyone or anything standing in his way was to be eradicated. He did not know that before the sun was up, there would be special agents on the case to capture Christ! He had no other option. It was clear as the Earth beneath him! Run, Joseph, RUN!
This holds so much more understanding of urgency when we remember the blockbuster movie “Forrest Gump,” starring Tom Hanks. The young Forrest had no other options but to listen to Jenny, remember what was beneath him and behind him, and adhere to those famous words screamed from his childhood sweetheart! “Run, Forrest, RUN!” He had no other choice. It was life or death. It was now or never.
Many of us have felt like either of these men. We have felt the loneliness of having nothing but a word over our heads. We have felt crippled with fear. We have wondered how more times than we could count. But the gift of this season is not found under the tree—the gift this season is found in your ability to hear and respond. Many of us have grown weary from a tumultuous year, and yet, the call is clear. It is time to run! Immediately! Run for your future! Run for your LIFE! Run for the lives connected to you! Run for those who no longer are able! The greatest launching pad to any miracle Jesus performed was Joseph’s commitment to hear and obey the voice of God. You may be the first in your family. You may be the only in your family. You may feel silly and unqualified. You may wonder if what you heard was really God. This year, this moment proves that it was. Listen and obey. Your future is waiting on you. Run, Joseph, RUN!