Dreams of Angels
The Nativity by Matthew – part 7
Angels in dreams have a big part to play in Matthew’s Nativity story. First to Joseph to tell him that Mary had conceived by God, then to the wise men to tell them not to return to Herod and now three more to Joseph the first to tell him to run away to Egypt and the second and third sometime later to return to a safe place.
Why did an angel of the Lord appear in a dream to Joseph when an angel had appeared to Mary and a choir of Angels had appeared to shepherds? I do not know. But my best guess is that like the genealogy in chapter one it is to link the New Covenant in Jesus Christ to the Old Covenant. In the book of Genesis there is another Joseph who saw and interpreted dreams, and like Joseph of old, who brought his family to safety in Egypt this new Joseph went down into Egypt to protect his family. The old Joseph died in Egypt, but the descendants of his extended family came out of Egypt via Sinai, where the covenant was given, back to the land promised to Joseph’s grandfather, Abraham. The escape and return of the later Joseph is a sign of a new covenant of God, not just for the Jews, but for all people. Time is no limit. All people includes you.
Jesus was taken into Egypt as a baby or young toddler under two years old. How long they lived as refugees is unknown, but we are told that Jesus was living in Nazareth and made a trip to Jerusalem at the age of 12, (Luke 2:21-40) so we can work out that when Herod died, dated by historians as 4BCE, that Jesus would have been ten or younger. Te time as a refugee could have been only a few months or years.
There hs always been a problem of refugees. Today in the 21st century CE there is still a problem. I am proud that the town where I live welcomes Refugees, something which can be seen by restaurants that open in the town centre, the latest of these being Syrian and Myanmar. There is still a problem with racism, however. As Christians, we can remember that Jesus was a refugee and work to welcome those who have had to flee from their countries.
For those who would like to read the story, here it is:
Now when [the wise men] had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfil what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”
But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, “Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.” And he rose and took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there, and being warned in a dream he withdrew to the district of Galilee. And he went and lived in a city called Nazareth, that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled: “He shall be called a Nazarene.”
Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23