Readings: Isaiah 63:7-9; Psalm 148; Hebrews 2:10-18; Matthew 2:13-23

This year, Christmas 1 falls on January 1, so it may be worth exploring the resources for New Years Day as well.

Mike Frost reflection on the Flight to Egypt

Orazio Gentileschi, Orazio; The Rest on the Flight into Egypt; Birmingham Museums Trust;

This isn’t a very well known Christmas painting, but I really like it.
During their escape from the murderous King Herod, the holy family rests in what looks like a derelict building. Their donkey waits on the other side of a broken wall as Joseph takes a nap and Mary feeds her child. There are dark, foreboding clouds on the horizon.
The setting reinforces the appalling situation they find themselves in. Destitute, alone, and taking brief shelter in a ruin.
Orazio Gentileschi’s picture is a strange composition. But it beautifully portrays the utter exhaustion of the holy family’s hurried escape from Bethlehem. They look like a modern day refugee family fleeing Aleppo.
Joseph has collapsed in sheer exhaustion.
Mary’s feet are dirty and she appears too tired to even cradle her hungry child, who looks furtively in our direction.
Gentileschi obviously related to the refugee status of the holy family. He painted five versions of this picture. As a young painter he had become caught up in the licentious and violent world of fellow painter Caravaggio, who not only influenced his work, but led him into scandal. Gentileschi was sued, imprisoned, and disgraced. But the last straw was when one of Caravaggio’s circle of painter friends raped Gentileschi’s daughter, Artemisia.
Gentileschi fled to England where he relaunched his career, including painting this picture.
I can’t help but see his own world-weariness depicted in it.
It reminds us that Jesus was indeed a refugee, an important truth when we consider that we are living in a time with the highest levels of human displacement on record.
An unprecedented 65.3 million people around the world have been forced from their homeland. Among them are nearly 21.3 million refugees, over half of whom are under the age of 18.
There are also 10 million stateless people who have been denied a nationality and access to basic rights such as education, healthcare, employment and freedom of movement.
Jesus’ own displacement results in the fulfillment of prophecy, whereby the Messiah would be born in David’s city but also come out of Egypt.
But it also reminds us the church must be on the side of the poor, because God himself had chosen to side with the poor and defenseless. Indeed God became one of them! Since it is clear that God had always favored the poor, it should also be clear that commitment to their relief and welfare should be our priority as well.
Our Father in heaven,
Reveal who you are.
Set the world right;
Do what’s best— as above, so below.
Keep us alive with three square meals.
Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others.
Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil.
You’re in charge!
You can do anything you want!
You’re ablaze in beauty!
Yes. Yes. Yes.

A New Father, Awe-Struck
Tune: MUELLER (“Away in a Manger”)

A new father, awe-struck; a mother so mild;
A stable; a manger; a dear, newborn child—
God, as we imagine that family so blessed,
We sometimes forget they were poor and oppressed.

A woman—considered to have no real worth—
Said, yes! She would bear your own Son here on earth.
We hear her bold singing! Her faithful words soar:
“God humbles the rich and God lifts up the poor.”

As Joseph and Mary began a new home,
They suffered oppression from rulers in Rome.
Then, fleeing from Herod to save their son’s life,
They looked for a land free from violence and strife.

We hear in our own day the cries of the poor;
We see in Aleppo the terror of war.
In women and children and men who must flee,
We glimpse, Lord, your life as a young refugee.

When some say that only the wealthy have worth,
O God, we recall where you lived here on earth.
May we in your church serve the poor and distressed;
For, working for justice, we give you our best.

Biblical references: Luke 2:1-20; 22-24; Leviticus 12:6; Matthew 2:13-18; Luke 1:46-55; Matthew 25:31-46 and Micah 6:8.
Tune: James Ramsey Murray, 1887.
Text: Copyright © 2016 by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette. All rights reserved.
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About admin

Rev Sandy Boyce is a Uniting Church in Australia Minister (Deacon) in placement at Pilgrim Uniting Church, in Adelaide CBD (12 Flinders St). This blog is mainly to resource worship planners for our services, but of course may be useful for others. We have some great writers of music, words for hymns and liturgy at Pilgrim, so this blog also includes their words.
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