Written by Cody Kimmel.
Listen to his sermon on Jesus the Refugee here.
“We have to go!”
“What?” Mary asked wiping the sleep from her eyes, not sure if she had heard her husband correctly.
“We have to go. I’ll explain later. Pack only what we need and only what we can carry,” Joseph said.
He knew what he was asking and he feared this day would someday come. His son was promised to be a king, the king, the one all of the ancient books talked about. But he never knew it would look like this.
“Mary, we can’t bring those. Pack only what we need and only what we can carry.”
“But those men just gave these to us. It’s more valuable than anything else we have.”
“We can’t eat gold and we will have no time for spices and fragrances. I’m sorry, but pack only what we need and only what we can carry.”
Joseph could tell Mary was upset and confused. They had finally gotten into a rhythm. Their son was walking and beginning to talk now. And Joseph knew how much the visit from those foreigners meant to her, how validating it was. Everyone thought they were crazy, and for a little bit they began to believe it. But the men traveled all the way around the world because of the promise. Surely that meant something.
Mary stopped packing and stared at Joseph. “Joe, I need to know what we’re doing and why.”
“He’s going to kill him!”
“Who’s going to kill who?”
“Herod! He’s going to kill our . . . our son.” Joseph could barely make out the last word as the reality of the fear fully materialized.
“Right now?! Oh God! How did you find out?”
“A dream.” Joseph said, slightly uncertain how it would be received.
Mary stopped. Joseph stopped as well. He tried to read her reaction. He knew it seemed crazy, but this wasn’t his first dream that came true. Mary knew this, too. After the brief pause, Mary finished packing the essentials, Joseph prepared the donkey, and finally, they woke their sleeping son.
“I know it’s not possible,” Mary said with the kind of disruptive joy that only comes when looking at a sleeping child, “but I still think he kind of looks like you.”
It was their last peaceful moment for months. Really, for years. The road was hard and dangerous, and traveling with a two year old has never been easy. But finally they made it to Egypt. They had only what they needed and only what they could carry, and there, they waited and survived.
Their friends and family weren’t so fortunate. Days later, tragedy came in its worst form: the insecurity of a tyrant taking out his fear on children. All of Jesus’ playmates, cousins, and friends—the children he would grow up to learn with and explore with, all of them, dead or forever scarred. There was no comfort in Bethlehem and there never would be.
In returning, Mary and Joseph packed only what they needed and only what they could carry and fled north to some place even more inconsequential than Bethlehem. Maybe there they could be safe from the tyranny of kings and oppression of governments.
Maybe there they could keep their son safe, the gift of heaven hidden in peasant’s clothing.