When my mom was nine months pregnant with me, she and my dad had to flee their country suddenly. A war had broken out and the fighting was spilling out into the streets of the capital where they lived. Because of my dad’s line of work, he was targeted by the guerrilla fighters. Our family wasn’t safe.
I can picture my mom all those years ago, belly round with innocent life, and I wonder how she felt. I imagine she was fearful, unsure of how the situation would resolve; I imagine my parents feeling lost in the chaos, confused by the way their plans for starting a family had been upended. No one wants to become a refugee at nine months pregnant.
The story contained in Matthew 2:13–23 has become more and more vivid to me over the years as I’ve come to see its similarities to the story that my family lived through. I can picture Mary, arms wrapped around her baby. I imagine the fear, confusion, and desperation as they wonder about the implications of saying yes to what God had called them to. No one wants to become a refugee with an infant. Matthew reminds us of Hosea 11:1 in the midst of this story, full of profound prophecy: “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.” Despite the dark and desperate circumstances, God had a perfect plan and a purpose that would not be thwarted. Although fleeing to escape from a murderous dictator may not seem like God’s love in action, we see the bigger, foundational plans as they are fulfilled. The experience of Jesus’ family fleeing to and then emerging from the land of Egypt is the fulfillment of Israel’s same experience in Exodus. Words that once described the experience of God’s corporate people now speak of the Messiah, the Son of God.
As I consider the plight of Mary and Joseph, and even my own mom and dad, I’m reminded of the proverb’s wisdom: “a person’s heart plans his way, but the Lord determines his steps” (Prov. 16:9, CSB). We make plans, we think we know how God will move, but only he truly knows the steps we will take. Sometimes those steps take us to a place that is comforting and familiar, and sometimes those steps take us away from the only home we know into a new land where we will come to know God as our true and only comfort. My parents were able to settle into a new home in a foreign land. They were able to raise their daughters to know and love Jesus. Mary and Joseph were able to raise Jesus himself and join God’s story of rescuing his people, fulfilling a long-awaited prophecy and emerging from that faraway land to establish a new, eternal kingdom. During this season, I am once again amazed at the way God has woven the threads of his unfolding plan, generation to generation.
Kristel Acevedo is an author, Bible teacher, and the Spiritual Formation Director at Transformation Church just outside of Charlotte, NC.
This article is part of The Eternal King Arrives, a 4-week devotional to help individuals, small groups, and families journey through the 2023 Advent season . Learn more about this special issue that can be used Advent, or any time of year at http://orderct.com/advent.
Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.