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There has been a lot of upheaval lately in social, political, and religious circles on the topic of refugees. Should we, or should we not allow them to enter the United States?
That’s a heavy question. I find myself wrestling with both sides of the equation. Prudence perpetuates one answer, while compassion for humanity perpetuates another.
But this morning, in the wake of another Christmas season, I’m going to pause for a moment and approach the situation from a different perspective.
For both sides of the refugee aisle, and for the refugees themselves, here is a story surrounding the Christmas narrative, and Christianity, that we often overlook.
Soon after that first Christmas in Bethlehem, Jesus, the central figure of the Christian faith, along with his earthly parents, Joseph and Mary, would become refugees.
Jesus the Refugee
In American Christianity, when we speak of Jesus’s birth, we focus on the scriptures that reference Jesus’s divinity. His name, Immanuel, means “God with us.” We sing our favorite carols of that silent, holy night when a boy child was born in a manger bringing joy to the world.
And all of that is true.
But the Gospel of Matthew gives us an account of Jesus’s early life that is often skipped over for the more traditional, feel-good version.
Jesus was born into a world at war and almost immediately, his life was in jeopardy.
Despite the fact that Jesus was born to a poor, young, outcast family, his birth created quite an uproar.
Jerusalem, and the Jews that lived there, were under Roman rule and those in power didn’t want a religious uprising to strip them of said power.
However, at the birth of this baby boy, shepherds came from the surrounding fields and claimed that an angel had revealed that this child, Jesus, was in fact the promised Messiah the Jews were awaiting.
At only eight days old, when Joseph brought Jesus to the temple to be circumcised, many of the devout believers grabbed the young baby and praised God in front of the crowds, confirming that He was their salvation.
Then, Magi came from the far east speaking of a bright star that was to lead them to the “King of the Jews.”
As word spread, it created a stirring that made its way to Herod, the Judean king.
Fearing that his power would be threatened, his greed for dominance caused him to issue a decree to kill all of the Jewish boys under the age of two.
Not unlike the ruling powers today, the desire for power often leads to bloodshed. Even the blood of innocent, infant children.
Being warned of King Herod’s evil plan in a dream, Joseph gathered his wife, Mary, and their infant son, Jesus, and they escaped to Egypt.
There in Egypt, they found refuge. (Matthew 2)
So, when you think of the first Christmas this year, think of a young, teenage couple, fleeing nearly two hundred miles trying to escape a tyrant with their newborn infant son in tow.
The God of Refugees
So why am I telling you this story?
Because this Christmas, I want you to know that God knows what it’s like to be an outcast. He knows what it’s like to be pursued. He knows what it’s like to have compassion for humanity. Yet, He knows what it’s like to be afraid.
Regardless of where you stand on the issue, I ask you to consider what it must feel like to be a refugee.
Maybe you aren’t running from a tyrant this Christmas, but maybe you need shelter for your own reasons:
Maybe you’re watching a loved one battle a relentless illness.
Maybe you’re drowning in debt.
Maybe you’re fighting to save a dying marriage.
Maybe you’re in mourning.
Maybe you’re tired of waiting for an answer.
Maybe you’re fearful of the direction of our country.
Whatever the reason, this story gives me hope that there is one place where you and I can seek and find shelter this Christmas. In Jesus, we have someone who knows what it’s like to be a refugee—and curiously, that is what gives Him the authority to become our refuge.
We still live in a world under “Roman” rule, but as Christians, we are members of a Heavenly Kingdom. And it is in that kingdom where we must find rest.
I would invite you to join me in prayer for all of the refugees. Not just those from Syria, but those who, like you, are reading this and seeking refuge of their own. Ask that God would meet them in their despair and that He would deliver them.
Although this may be a different version of the Christmas Story, I still think it carries the same meaning.
Christmas is about God coming to be with us, to be our place of refuge in the midst of a world at war.
Over the next few weeks, I am going to be writing on different perspectives of the Christmas Story and ways that we can enrich the Christmas season this year. Feel free to share your thoughts on social media as we journey together. As always, you can comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org