Just in Time — A Christmas Story

Holy Sepulcher 020
Lamps from the Church of the Holy Sepulcher

Nearly two years had passed since Joseph and Mary came to Bethlehem. Jesus was born in a manager and was adored by shepherds, but time had passed and things had settled down to a kind of normalcy. The young couple got to know each other as husband and wife. The baby wrapped in swaddling clothes was now a toddler playing at the feet of his momma while Joseph was growing his carpentry business.

Bethlehem is only about eight miles outside of Jerusalem, but it must have seemed a world apart. It was mostly a pastoral village with the rich heritage of being the “City of David,” the most famous king of Israel. Joseph and Mary were related to the former king, but so were a lot of people. Still, they knew a secret. That little toddler was destined to follow in David’s footsteps!

His parents must have followed the rumors about “King” Herod. The old despot was nearly 70, but in addition to the marvelous architectural wonders he was responsible for like the remodeled temple in Jerusalem and the fine port town of Caesarea on the coast, he had also left a wide swath of blood behind him. King Herod had killed his wife, his mother and three of his sons. In Greek the Emperor Augustus punned, “It’s better to be Herod’s pig (hys) than Herod’s son (hyios).”

Herod did not hesitate to butcher anyone who threatened his throne so when some “Magi” (astrologer/priests) arrived in Jerusalem asking about the newborn king, the old despot slyly encouraged them to find the child so he too “might worship him.”

Can you imagine the stir their arrival in the little village of Bethlehem must have caused? Can you imagine the surprise Mary must have felt when they stopped at her house with gifts for the boy? Gold, incense and myrrh – gifts for a king delivered to the home of a humble carpenter.

Now comes the point of our story. In the night the Magi are warned Herod intends to kill the child. In the night Joseph is told to get up and flee in the dark with the baby and his mother. There was no time to sell their possessions. There was no time to properly pack for the move, but God provides! The gifts of the Magi – the gold, incense and myrrh – provided the means for their escape. Joseph was able to flee before dawn with his family before the evil king could destroy the child and that is how God rescues us: just in time.

“Just in time” is the way of faith. God provided a ram to replace Isaac “just in time.” God protected Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego from the fiery furnace “just in time” and God will save us “just in time.” It’s the way of faith.

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