“…And a little child shall lead them” (Isaiah 11:6).
Many of us are youth workers for very specific reasons. One of those is that we could never cut it as children’s ministers. The snotty noses, the incessant whining, the unending need for snacks – and that’s just in youth ministry! But the Advent season is a time for us to take a closer look at the young people in our midst, especially our children.
Advent is about learning to welcome children, even when it’s uncomfortable to do so. In our culture, the Advent season is a wonderful time for children. The anticipation, the sugary snacks, the ubiquitous marketing; everything in our culture is crafted to ensure that children partake in as much shopping, sugar, and wonder as humanly possible. But this was not always the case. In fact, the first Christmas was downright terrifying for children.
Matthew’s gospel speaks of King Herod’s order to slaughter every infant male in his kingdom. Joseph is warned in a dream to flee with the Holy Family and so they leave quickly. This was no silent night; this was no warm and cuddly manger scene. This section of Matthew’s gospel reads like something out of a war movie (or perhaps more poignantly the current refugee crisis).
In the midst of this horrific scene, Matthew establishes Egypt as a place of safety. This is a strange move on the gospel writer’s part considering that Egypt is clearly the archetype for oppression and slavery throughout the entire Old Testament, and no doubt continued to be in the first-century Jewish imagination. Nevertheless, Egypt is given a second chance to care for the Jewish people in Matthew’s gospel. This time the Holy Family is welcomed by Egypt and their salvation from Herod’s tyranny is granted. In a strong twist of irony, Egypt becomes an example to us all of how to welcome children.
This is Egypt’s redemption. Indeed, it is a sign of the peace and restoration that comes with the Christ Child. The esteemed are made lowly, enemies are made friends, the lion will lie down with the lamb, and a little child shall lead them.
Praise the Father for the peace and redemption offered through his Son! We are no longer enemies of God!
How can you make peace with those people or things in your life you too often consider “enemies”?
How can you prepare to welcome the Christ Child this Advent season?