Joseph took his family and crossed the border into Egypt, and became refugees in a foreign land. What was the reason for their departure? Was it necessary for them to flee to Egypt and live the life of an unwanted immigrant? The angel could have said: “Do not leave for God will command His angels concerning you, to guard you.” Or, he could have said: “Stay and God will fight for you.” No. Instead, our lectionary reading states that 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.”
Our Gospel Reading for this week, the first week of January 2023, is in Matthew 2:13-23. In this lectionary reading we find the answer to our search for a reason for Joseph’s family fleeing their homeland. Verse 15 presents to us the reason—This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.” This verse quotes Hosea 11:1 and relates the life of a sojourner and a refugee in a foreign land.
More particularly, I think the reason was didactic in nature, aimed at teaching Joseph a valuable lesson as the father of the Son of Man. The flight to Egypt gave Joseph a perspective on the life of a refugee. It gave Joseph a better understanding of the kind of life his son Jesus is going to take here in earth. Joseph’s life as a refugee in Egypt made him a better father to Jesus.
So, Matthew 2:13 states that the angel said to Joseph: “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you.” And if I maybe allowed to say, the angel probably continued saying: “Live in Egypt as a sojourner and a refugee of the land. Live among the poor so that you will learn how your Son will bring the kingdom of God among them. Mourn with them so that you will partake of your son’s ministry of comfort. Be humble as a stranger of the land because this is what your son Jesus will be doing in his life as an adult. He will take the form of a servant and will not count equality with God a thing to be grasped. Be merciful and seek peace in the land, and you will be called Joseph the father of the Son of Man." (Compare, Matthew 5:2-12 and Philippians 2:5-11).