Tiny and Helpless
Matthew 2 reminds me that the beatific Christmas story did not stay that way. It erupted quickly into a murder plot. King Herod hoped to use the worshipful wise men to kill the baby Jesus, so He could never grow up to replace Herod.
Jesus was called Immanuel, God with us. Yet having God-with-us meant fear and worry for Mary and Joseph as they rushed away to Egypt with a tiny baby.
Egypt? It was like a horrible do-over. When would they be able to leave Egypt, the place of slavery for their ancestors? Who would be their Moses?
I wonder if they asked themselves, Did God come down and leave His power behind? I’m sure they felt as tiny and helpless as the baby Jesus Himself.
Herod’s fearful immoral grasping is what I sometimes think of as power, too. It’s what my 11-year-old son sees as power, two years after a bully took apart his childhood, word by word, image by image.
It is likely how Trump sees it, and perhaps how the warring factions and the struggling refugees in Syria think of it, too.
It may be how those who cannot think of God as Mother view power. Could Mother God ever be the Almighty Mother? For many, God must ultimately be Someone who destroys His enemies.
Goodness Saves Jesus
Maybe Mary had questions like I do, when she sequestered herself with Joseph in Egypt with a beloved baby to protect from the malicious King Herod. Alone. No family, no friends. Maybe she wondered, Just who is the most powerful here–God who could create a quiet divine conception, or a King who could uproot a family and destroy a growing child?
And I have asked, who has the most power, a cruel special education teacher and disturbed student, or a mother and father working and waiting for their child’s healing? Probably the hardest part of parenting or mothering is a feeling of powerlessness in the face of our children’s pain or danger. Goodness never seems enough. And, yet it is.
The goodness of El Shaddai is enough.
And the goodness of the wise men was enough, who had trained themselves to listen to their own dreams. And Joseph’s goodness was enough, to respond to the angel’s message once again, when he may have had his doubts about listening the first time.
The story gets worse, but for now, goodness saves Jesus.
The Good People Disobey
The Swallow’s Nest reading for today parallels the story about the wise men foiling King Herod’s murder plot. The men simply don’t go back to Herod. They don’t obey.
And in Exodus 1:13-23, Pharoah tells the midwives to kill all the Hebrew baby boys born in their care. They refuse. And when confronted, they lie, saying the Hebrew women give birth too quickly to discreetly kill the infants.
The strength of the midwives is in their moral refusal to listen to authority, even at the risk of their own lives. The Scripture names these blessed women: Shiprah, and Puah, and says God gave them families due to their powerful acts of goodness.
Sometimes I still think goodness pales in the face of evil. But when goodness chooses to stay good, no matter who is telling it to bow, and no matter the personal cost, Jesus wins.
“God is a stronghold for the oppressed, their protection in troubled times. All those who know Her goodness trust in Her, for She has never forsaken anyone who put confidence in Her.” Ps. 116, p. 6, Swallow’s Nest
Part 2 next week. Jesus and other babies being saved by good people is not the end of the story.