Separation anxiety…… Probably every kid who ever lived has had it at some point or another. Our kids did, especially their first year of elementary school. I well remember my wife walking them to their classrooms to help get them settled.
In recent weeks, I’ve had several conversations with friends who live in areas where they are separated from the people they love. Some of them are living in foreign countries; others are confined by jobs or school and simply don’t have any free time to spend with family for the holidays.
The Bible doesn’t give us much information, but Mary and Joseph went through a time of separation from their family and friends. It was during the years they lived in Egypt. Do you remember? God told Joseph in a dream to take Mary and Jesus and go to Egypt because King Herod wanted to kill the child. This was after the wise men had fooled Herod and left town by another route. Herod was furious…..
13 When they (the wise men) had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”
14 So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, 15 where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”
The first word in the last sentence of verse 13, interpreted stay in the NIV translation and remain in the NASB translation is the Greek word eimí which means “to exist.” It is the same word that Jesus used in John 8:58 to describe himself saying, “Before Abraham was, I am.” To say, “I am,” is to say that I exist, I live and nothing can take that from me.
The parents of Jesus were instructed to stay, to remain, to exist, to live in a place they did not know nor want to be. They had no network of friends or family so they were forced to depend heavily on each other. It would have been difficult to get established in a foreign land, yet the command was to settle, to live among the citizens of Egypt. It’s entirely possible that they used the gifts from the wise men to supplement their finances.
To exist is so much more than simply surviving. It is embracing life and everything it brings with it, knowing that something good will come from the effort.
The sorrow of separation can be endured if there is hope for a return. Mary and Joseph eventually came home ……. sort of. When they came back to Israel, they still had to hide out in a remote area of the country to avoid persecution. But at least they were back on familiar ground, in a country that spoke the same language and shared the same beliefs and traditions.
19 After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt 20 and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.”
Being together with family and friends is at the center of the Christmas celebration. When you lift your mug today, give thanks to God for the people you love. Even if you are separated by miles, your spirits can still be together and share the beauty of the moment.