12 Weeks of Christmas Finale
by Leslie Crouse
Mount Durunkah, Egypt. Six Months After the Birth of Christ.
Through all the dangers, toils and snares God’s provision never ceased. The Magi’s gifts equipped and provided for their escape to Egypt. Egypt, being outside of Herod’s authority and a close neighbor of Judea, had become the much-needed refuge. With ease they had crossed the Nile Delta resting in Wadi Natruh. When God had provided a boat, they traveled up the Nile to Mount Durunkah. There, Joseph found a large cave and for the first time since the Magi’s visit, felt safe enough to rest his family for a time.
He remembered the words of Hosea, “Out of Egypt I called my son.” Hundreds of years ago his people had fled Egypt. Now, they fled to it. As if Jehovah had always intended to bring the story full circle. Would he redeem Egypt as well?
It had been nearly a year since the news of a census had upended their world. A year propelled by crises, each one more harrowing than the next. Joseph had moved through each situation with total objectivity. He had to. Emotions were a luxury he could not afford.
While Jesus thrived and was at peace wherever they were, it was difficult in Egypt. Mary cried all the time, though she tried to hide it. Is it normal? He wondered. She has been through so much. He wanted to help. Wanted to comfort her but did not know how. Feelings of inadequacy arose again.
Having fled Bethlehem in the cover of darkness, neither of them had found closure. The past year seemed a blur. Neither spoke about it. Mary silently stored up the details in her heart and pondered them privately. Nothing had gone according to his plan. Though he asked for news at every Judean outpost, he had learned nothing that indicated they could return. How long would they wander?
Their family believed them dead. Given he and Mary had never come home after the slaughter of Bethlehem, there was little else to conclude. The deceit weighed heavy upon Joseph’s heart. Round and round his mind went, but it always landed on the same conclusion. Any word will compromise the safety of everyone involved. As long as the world believes us dead, Jesus will be safe. Still, both he and Mary ached for home.
Joseph, did his best to integrate them into the Jewish community of Egypt. Yet, still they waited, suspended in time, until word of Herod’s death. How long must we wait, LORD? For the first time in his life, Joseph prayed for the death of a man.
Mary tried to adjust to motherhood, but nothing was like she thought it would be. As a girl, she used to dream her mother would be beside her as she learned how to nurse. She had assumed the midwife would deliver her son. Envisioned friends and family surrounding them to celebrate the joyous occasion. She used to dream of seeing the far away places her ancestors had walked and lived in.
Technically, many of those dreams had come true. She had a godly, loving husband. A beautiful baby boy. And their journey had taken her to places far beyond Nazareth’s safe borders. But nothing felt like she had expected. For six months they had been on the run. Hiding in caves and traveling at night. Joseph did most of the purchases at markets so as to not draw suspicion. She had expected to feel unspeakable joy. Instead, she felt suffocated by exhaustion, loneliness, sadness and guilt.
She was the blessed mother of the Messiah! Highly favored by God! How could she be so weak? She dare not speak of her struggle. No one would understand. I must pack. I must leave. A more worthy woman would take my place. She shifted, uncomfortable with the thoughts of betrayal that circled her mind like carrion.
Missing her warmth, Jesus made a soft sound. Careful not to wake Joseph, she shifted and gently picked Jesus up and holding him close one last time. Oh, how she loved this sweet, baby boy. He was so joyful. So full of life. Tears of grief ran trails down her cheeks.
Nuzzling her face into the soft skin of his neck Mary wept. Realizing she could not hold back her despair any longer, there in the darkness of the cave she sobbed pouring out her heart’s every fear, weakness and doubt to the true Father of Jesus. When her tears were spent, she looked up into the perceiving eyes of God’s only Son and saw such love in his eyes. Jesus raised a pudgy hand to her face, never breaking eye contact and burbled, “Ma-ma.” Holy fire spread through her chest. Peace like she had never experienced flooded her body as heavenly light blasted through the dark recesses of her heart erasing every doubt and sadness. For the first time in six months, the burden lifted and a rusty laugh escaped her lips.
Suddenly, Joseph shot up from his pallet with a strange light in his eye. Searching the cave for her, his perceptive eyes landing on her half-packed bag, he put an arm around her shoulder and a hand upon Jesus’ head and said, “It is over. Let’s go home, love.”
I hope you have enjoyed my Christmas Mini-Series and that it has awakened your heart to the truth of the danger and grit of Mary and Joseph and all they endured. Next time you see a nativity, remember that things were not so simple nor so peaceful and safe. Heaven had indeed declared war on Darkness. And soon, Jesus would carry the keys to death and Hades and purchased the freedom of Darkness’s captives with his own blood.