• St. Matthew's Evanston

The Faith of Joseph, Immigrant Father

A sermon delivered on the Second Sunday after Christmas

January 5, 2020

Text: Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23

St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, Evanston, IL

The Rev. Charles A. de Kay, Rector

Joseph, you were no longer a young man, were you?

And, just when you thought things were settling down

To a new normal,

The mysterious child born,

The interrupted nights of curious visitors:

Rude shepherds bearing fearsome tales and

Eastern astronomers bearing even stranger gifts

Seemed over and done with:

There came THAT terrifying visage,

There came THAT voice again,

Did you wonder: Would nights always be like this?

Would sleep always hold such terrors, such holy purpose?

You were no longer a young man, were you?

And, so tired, your nights never restful,

No, filled with terrible purpose.

But you’d said yes before, and now

There was no turning back.

Tonight’s message, as shattering as the last:

The baby is in danger. Your beloved is in danger. You are in danger.

Pick up the baby, awaken the betrothed, get up and go to a land I will show to you.

In the muddle and fog of the sleep deprived,

Did you remember Abraham, the father, another host to angels,

Did you remember the baby Moses, sent down the river, to escape another fear-filled tyrant?

You were no longer a young man, were you?

Yet with creaking joints from sleeping on the rocky, earthen stable floor,

You arose, picked yourself up,

Awoke your beloved lady love,

Gathered together your carpentry tools and belongings,

Picked up the child

And hastened faithfully into the night.

Out, away, fleeing from all that’s familiar:

Your people, your culture, your faith, your language, your identity,

Out, away from the promised land of milk and honey,

Out, away toward the land of short memories where they enslaved your ancestors

And toward the people who failed to provide promised aid when the barbarians attacked,

Leaving your ancestors to be slaughtered, chained, enslaved again in exile.

On the road, the treacherous road, again.

Nothing is certain, once again.

Such courage it takes! Such faith! Such hope!

Did you ever wonder if you were up to the task?

Did you ever fear being an insufficient provider - the fundamental needs –

The lowest rungs on Maslow’s hierarchy – food, clothing, shelter seem beyond you?

Sleep already appears to have been in short supply.

O, your travails suggest such primitive hardships,

It’s enough to make us ask: are migrants and refugees true heroes?

And why does history teach our children awe for Mayflower Pilgrims and rugged Homesteaders,

While their counterparts of today are maligned as criminals, drug-dealers, rapists?

How can it be that the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave has separated child from parent

And treated the children like top secret livestock? How can it be?

You were no longer a young man, were you?

Did your years give you wisdom and insight,

Did you know, could you know, could you truly fathom

The majesty and magnificent power of love so tiny, so preciously swaddled in bands of cloth

That you picked up and carried into the night in the crook of your arm?

Or did you simply love the child you’d been entrusted with,

Trust the angelic dream vision,

And know in your bones that choosing to accept the will of God was best?

Did you know that you would become a global icon for fathers and mothers

Fleeing persecution and violence, devastating poverty, and hopeless conditions

With their children on perilous journeys with the one consuming hope

Of a chance of a better life, or perhaps just the hope of a life – any life at all?

You were no longer a young man, were you?

Yet the holy record shows no signs of hesitation, no clarifying questions asked,

simply faithful obedience to the call to carry love safely onward.

No, the sacred text says only, upon hearing the Word,

You got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt.

Today, we gather here in the name of the blessed St. Matthew,

The one who for millennia is called by an angelic voice to tell your story,

We, too, listen restlessly with rapt attention for God’s call.

St. Matthew’s Partnership Team with St. Andrew’s Pentecost

Has heard a call to respond to the needs of our brothers and sisters

Immigrants and refugees – Joseph, Mary, and Jesus – in our midst.

They remind us with their vision that God calls all the faithful to

“Remember to welcome strangers in your homes.

For thereby some have entertained angels unaware.”[1]

May we find comfort and inspiration in your most unexpected story.

May history find us – young and old alike – faithful, too, in our own time

To the Mysterious, Life-Giving Call of Love.


[1] Hebrews 13:2

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