Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Refugee Jesus, A Christmas Story

An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt… for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” Matthew 2:13

Mary and Joseph fled nearly certain death in Bethlehem for the insecurity of Egypt and a chance to live. How long did young Jesus and his refugee parents live in Africa? Tatian puts a seven year span on the event, Baronius says eight, Athanasius thought four and Josephus believed it to be one year. There are plenty of ancient, apocryphal tales of young Jesus in Egypt, celebrated yet today by the Egyptian Coptic believers.

No one knows how long Jesus was a refugee before being gathered by Joseph, daring to return to obscure Nazareth. No one really knows what Christ’s earthly parents or even young Jesus himself did while separated from family, friends, occupation and home. We simply know that core to the Christmas story is the bleak and bloody tale of terror, shed blood, and fleeing with the hope of life and little but the promise of God.

Was Joseph hungry and harassed? Mary afraid? Did her baby cry? Most refugees are hungry, afraid, harassed and weep over deep losses.  

From the depths of this agonizing portion of the Christmas tale emerges a carpenter’s son whose entire life and legacy can be summarized by the action verb -- LOVE. Pressed by terror the diamond of hope emerged. Surrounded by death, the Prince of Peace smashed the mortal coil and prepared the path toward eternal life. The tragedy ends well. But the story continues to be written anew today.

I imagine Christ, at the side of His Father in heaven, is heartbroken over the weeping, harassed, hungry streams of refugees that flee from today’s Herods and seek some help from today’s wise men and hope for some place to lay their heads in today’s Egypts. What a wonderful Christmas gift it would be if Christ’s people, children of the Refugee King, might supply the warmth of prayers, assistance of financial support, and not without applying the wisdom of security, nonetheless offer a place for the least of these to lay their weary heads.

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