The songs play it. The movies portray it. Even our church services have their part to play. “It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” Yeah, well what if it isn’t? For many people, holidays bring up painful memories.
Sore spots from childhood or the loss of loved ones hit hard during this sentimental season. While many people celebrate the joys of Christmastime, others suffer lonely holidays.
During one of the most desperate times of King David’s life, the anointed future king of Israel found himself running from two separate enemies—hardly a time to celebrate. With the Philistines to the west and King Saul to the east, a distressed David sought refuge in the cave of Adullam (1 Samuel 22:1–2).
David felt very alone.
His situation offers encouragement to us during lonely holidays.
Almost 2,000 years ago Joseph and Mary journeyed to Bethlehem. But approximately 2,040 years before they did, Jacob and Rachel, another expectant couple, traveled south along the same road.
Rachel gave birth to Benjamin, but died soon after delivery, and Jacob buried her near Bethlehem (Gen. 35:19).
(Photo: Anton Raphael Mengs. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)
Rachel’s death foreshadowed the devastation that the territory of Benjamin would suffer in Jeremiah’s time:
Rachel is weeping for her children . . . Because they are no more. —Jeremiah 31:15
Yet the prophecy found its final fulfillment in Jesus’ day, when Herod the Great slaughtered all baby boys in Bethlehem (Matt. 2:17-18). So, at God’s direction, Joseph fled to Egypt with Mary and Jesus to live until Herod’s death.
Each movement of Jesus’ family finds its cause in God’s revelation to Joseph:
Fleeing Bethlehem to Egypt
Returning from Egypt to Israel
Avoiding Judea to settle in Galilee
God’s purposes for these moves lay first in the protection of His Son, but Matthew notes that each directive also fulfilled Scripture. I doubt anyone but God saw beforehand the murky prophecies fulfilled by these geographic moves. But in hindsight, they become clear.
God’s Odd Leading
God’s leading and timing in our lives often don’t make sense either. At least at first.