Sunday, December 20, 2015

In the Picture: The people of Egypt

The Rest on the Flight into Egypt
Nicolas Poussin 1594-1665 Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg

Read: Matthew 2.14-15, 19-23

Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfil what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, ‘Out of Egypt I have called my son.’

 When Herod died, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, ‘Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the child’s life are dead.’ Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And after being warned in a dream, he went away to the district of Galilee. There he made his home in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, ‘He will be called a Nazorean.’

Matthew tells us very little about the time Joseph, Mary and Jesus spent in Egypt, just that they went there and found protection from Herod. Matthew ties this in with words from the Old Testament prophet Hosea (11.1) “out of Egypt have I called my son.” Hosea was referring back to the story of the Exodus, but Matthew reframes his words to suggest that in Jesus there is a new Exodus, a new deliverance from slavery.

In this picture, by Poussin, like yesterday’s, we see the Holy Family welcomed by the Egyptians with food and drink. Even the donkey has found water and is eagerly drinking. There is a sense of relief. The family is safe, and all will be well, at least for a while.

  •     Imagine you are Mary or Joseph. What are you feeling as you reach out for the food and drink that is being offered?
  •     How do we welcome those who are refugees among us today? How can we provide safety and protection?
  •     Is there anything in the news today about refugees, or can you find out more about organisations working with them (UNHCRTorturecare, Kent Refugee Action Network or IRC (see the video below).

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