Our Anchor of Hope

December 8, 2022

Matthew 2:23b NIV

...and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets, that he would be called a Nazarene.

Today's Reading: Matthew 2:19-23

Devo Author: Mark Schatzman

Date: December 8, 2022

I’m still a fan of the late Rich Mullins’ music. In fact, I’m writing this on the 25th anniversary of his death. I know, his music is considered old school by most today. But he could weave profound lyrics into inspiring melodies. Mullins penned a song about an obscure Advent story just before he died in a car accident. The song’s opening line is:

"Joseph took his wife and her child and they went to Africa,
To escape the rage of a deadly king."
(My Deliverer is Coming, Rich Mullins)

This is not how we expect a Christmas song to open, but it's exactly how the Advent story of Jesus unfolds in Matthew 2:19-23! Our beloved Nativity includes the tragic episode of a refugee family fleeing for their lives to another country. And Joseph, Jesus’ earthly dad, is at the center of the story.

The "cliffs notes" version of the last half of Matthew 2 is that the vile King Herod is on a rampage to murder the Christ-child. In a dream, Joseph is warned by an angel to flee with Mary and Jesus to Egypt; later in another dream, Joseph is told to return to Israel because Herod is dead. When his family arrives in Judea, Joseph is told in yet another dream that his son is not safe in his home region and to relocate to Nazareth.

I cannot fathom the fear, anxiety, and stress of these early years in Joseph’s family! I’ve known pain and tragedy in my parenting, but I’ve never experienced what this young father lived through. So my question is simply, "Why?" The obvious answer in Matthew 2 is because of the evil forces at play in Israel’s politics. But the closing line of Matthew 2 gives the larger, unseen answer as well:
"So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets: 'He will be called a Nazarene.'"
Matthew 2:23b NIV

Two rays of hope shine in this dark Advent story. Two strong anchor points hold us in our tragic episodes. The first anchor point is that God is working His larger, redemptive story in the midst of dark episodes of life. What Herod and the politics of Israel meant for destruction of the Christ-child, God used to fulfill His age-old prophecies of the Christ. Joseph’s tragedy was merely one line of the greater song, "My Deliverer is Coming!" This episode was not the whole story. And our episodes of pain and tragedy are not the whole story either!

The second anchor point is that while Joseph was leading his family, he was being led. In Matthew 2, Joseph is not the only main character. Three times, he is joined by God’s messenger to guide and comfort him. Yes, Joseph feels the weight of leading his family through dark episodes. But he does not lead alone. Joseph is led while he leads. And so are you and I.

What a bright anchor of hope in the darkest of Advent stories! The Father leads us through every episode of life, dark and bright. And the Father uses every episode of our lives for His larger, redemptive purpose.