Protection in Uncertain Times
Updated: Jan 5
The Rev. Laurel Hart, Deacon
Scripture: Matthew 2:13-15,19-23
Welcome to day #2 of the New Year. Don’t know why but I’m partial to even numbers, so 2022 is a number which I rather like. Just a suggestion though– it might be a good idea to take it kind of slow at this new beginning. Let’s not label this year – just let it unfold slowly being open as events unfold and changes come our way. Maybe we can agree that nobody claim 2022 as “their year”. Let’s pledge to walk in real slow. Be good. Be quiet. Be cautious and respectful. And please, please don’t touch anything. OK??
Actually this New Year doesn’t feel like any other New Year of my adult life. I usually start the year with some ideas of how I hope the year will unfold. I might have some projects in mind or maybe I have begun to make plans for some outdoor adventures or some travel to destination near or far. I‘ve never formed the habit of writing a list of New Year’s resolutions have you? Making those lists about getting physically fit or losing weight or finally reading some dull and boring classical literature just doesn’t ever seem to work out for me. But we’ve just been thru the most unbelievable period of time and I’m feeling a little reticent about making any plans for projects or travel. Quite frankly I’m hesitant to plan for just about anything with the possible exception of what will come out of our kitchen at dinner time tonight. I’m sure Jim and Riley will be glad to hear that statement.
The past 21 months truly are the definition of uncertain times – we’ve all endured losses – of loved ones either by death or physical distance due to necessary quarantining – of hopes and dreams for the future – and a very big loss is the forfeiture of the comforting routines of our daily lives pre-Covid. We’ve all lived through months of a global pandemic, racial inequality, civil unrest, financial insecurity, food scarcity, and unforeseen death and sickness and this time was not for the faint of heart. It was a hard season for many of us; and none were left untouched. Even now we can’t leave our safe space and go where we want, when we want - without a mask. Aren’t these similar to some of the losses which the Holy Family experienced when they had to pull up stakes and hightail it to Egypt?
We could draw some parallels between Joseph’s vision of the life and land to which they were fleeing and what the New Year might hold for all of us. For the foreseeable future we need to be mindful of where we go and those with whom we interact - to protect the health and safety of each one of us. Joseph had to find a safe place to protect the newborn Jesus from the wrath of Herod who feared the prophecy of a new king. He had to find a home for his new family, and some means of livelihood to keep a roof over their head and food in their bellies. Together they had to rebuild community and make a new life in a foreign land. This text from Matthew suggests that God provides protection in uncertain times and we need to remember and embrace this teaching. In fleeing, Jesus is protected by God from death itself. Our Redeemer, the Messiah is born into a time and place which is riddled with violence and the action and consequences of sin. The world he was born into was troubled just as our world today is full of strife and hardship. With the passage of time Herod dies and the family makes plans to return to their previous life. However, they were unable to go back to their original home because of the fear of the new ruler and so they were forced to settle in Nazareth. This chosen location seems to be a good decision for a few years because it afforded Jesus a relatively safe local to mature into his adulthood. Again the text alludes to God’s protective care and power in uncertain times. Just as God demonstrates his love and grace by protecting the Messiah from the threat of death, so will God provide protection in our time of pandemic chaos and uncertainty.
But if pressing forward, day in and day out, through a year which I wish would never have happened has taught me anything, it is this: ours is sometimes a contradictory, upside-down kind of world. I’d like to share a quote from John of Patmos who writes” just as we (believe we) are rich, have prospered, and need nothing, we find that we are actually wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.” Ours can be an either / or existence, a time of flipping the coin from heads to tails and realizing that both can be true. Just when we think our well is dry we look down and see our reflection in the water. Praise God! We can fill our cup and drink to satisfy our thirst and then turn to share this abundance with others as this is the right and loving thing to do – what Jesus taught us to do. I genuinely believe this time will eventually wind down. I’ve read and listen to the public health experts who say that Covid may never completely disappear, but it will lessen in danger and in time we will all rebuild our daily routines into new ways of being and living. It’s true some things we like will never return but others will come into being to replace them. This is also the real joy of Christmas this year: nothing can defeat God’s promise of a Savior, Immanuel, God with us. Not even Covid. During an unimaginable time when people are feeling uncertain about the future we can remember the birth of this babe and the promise of a new life and renewed life.
May it be so - as we move forward in darkness trusting in our God who loves us. Amen.