Scripture Reading – Matthew 1-2 NASB
The first two chapters of Matthew begin with the highlights of Jesus’ early life, laying out the significant, prophecy-fulfilling events that marked His birth and childhood. It’s also the story of a young mother called away by God to live in the desert, whose day-to-day life during those years of obedience was otherwise unnoteworthy in the course of history.
Guess which part of the story I relate to?
Given my current life stage – mother of young children, transplant, and even living in the “desert” – maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised that in my recent study of Matthew I kept being drawn back to thoughts of Mary’s life during those early “montage” years.
When I think of a montage, my mind immediately goes to every movie I saw in middle school. Giggling friends trying on crazy outfits in a dressing room. The uncoordinated protagonist training for the big fight/game/dance/battle under the guidance of a tough-love trainer. The superhero growing from origin story to caped crusader. All overlaid with a peppy song to sell the soundtrack.
I’ve been thinking about those scenes a lot recently. How can all that time and effort – sometimes years of growth, discipline and experience – be reduced to a few curated highlights? (This does not apply to the ridiculous dressing room montages, of course. I can only assume there is a contractual obligation for those in all romantic comedies).
Rationally, I get why. The writer has to focus on the major plot points of the story. But that doesn’t stop me from thinking about all that is being skipped over. It doesn’t stop me from feeling like, if my life was a story, most of the activities that I dedicate my time to every day would be skipped through.
It’s uncomfortable to feel like my day-to-day activities are insignificant. I want my time on earth to be well-spent. Which sometimes seems like it should include a lot more IMPORTANT KINGDOM WORK and a lot fewer grocery runs, miles jogged and diapers changed. Am I still abiding in the Lord’s will for my life when some days it can feel so … uneventful?
Matthew uses his first two chapters to begin setting up his case for who Jesus is. Major details – Jesus’ lineage, miraculous conception and birth, Magi bearing gifts, fleeing and returning because of a threatened and dangerous King – are recounted, with only silence about the years in between. We know that an angel of the Lord told Joseph to take his family to Egypt to save Jesus from Herod. And then Matthew 2:14-15 says “And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt and remained there until the death of Herod.” And that’s all we know about their time in Egypt.
Mary and Joseph, tasked with raising Jesus Christ in obedience to the Lord’s direct call, still had to live out their day-to-day existence in those years between major events. Presumably they found community in a new culture, provided food for their family, and maybe started a carpentry business. They navigated parenting choices and friendships and frustrations. Literally the same types of decisions my family is making today.
Did Mary ever lose sight of her greater purpose in the midst of creating a new life in Egypt? Or feel like all she did was take care of kids sometimes? And how could she possibly prepare her son adequately for his life of “saving people from their sins”?
They were chosen to do this extraordinary thing. And all I usually think about is the highlight reel of Mary and Joseph’s life. I easily forget that even in this greatest story ever told, there are years of real human life that never made it onto the page.
Matthew includes their flight to Egypt and back to Nazareth in his narrative BECAUSE their obedience in those choices resulted in fulfillment of prophecy. He didn’t need to include every detail of what they did there, because he focuses on the important part – the outcome. God used their faithfulness to save Jesus from Herod and ultimately alter the course of history. Every moment was not exciting. But their choice to be obedient still mattered.
From this new-to-me perspective on Matthew 1-2, God gave me unexpected peace. Affirmation to abide within the Lord’s calling when my day-to-day feels more like the montage years than the epic climax. This season of life is still a formative part of my story. And it’s part of yours, too.