This is story of what happened after Jesus was born. Imagine Mary and Joseph as new parents—excited to see this new life grow up, wondering what he will become. Imagine them living their lives–struggling as peasants to make ends meet. Imagine them wondering where the next meal will come from. They will get by. Their people always have. Life might be precarious but it isn’t hopeless.
And then there are visitors that come seeking their child. These visitors recognize something Holy and special in the child but they have unintentionally alerted the king to a potential threat. They realize while they are with Mary and Joseph the danger that Jesus is in and so they leave quickly. Mary and Joseph and Jesus have to decide on a moment’s notice what to do next. They could stay where they are and ignore the warning of coming violence or they could pack up and leave. Leaving is the only way to save themselves and their child. Imagine their fear and uncertainty as they left the family and community they knew and headed into the unknown.
They set off on a journey through wilderness and desert probably walking for many weeks and finally arriving in Egypt. The Egyptian people could have chased them out or had them killed. But instead, tradition tells us that Jesus spent his childhood growing up in Egypt. These foreigners found a home. These foreigners maintained their identity and religion in Egypt. The story tells us that Jesus arrived safe and sound at adulthood and was able to return and offer ministry to his people in Israel.
There are other possible endings for this story:
- Mary and Joseph stay in Bethlehem and Jesus was killed.
- Mary and Joseph were unwelcome in Egypt and they continued wandering – perhaps dying of thirst in the desert.
In either of these scenarios Jesus would not have grown up and the world would be different because of his absence. This story has something to tell us about the current refugee crisis.
When we think about the refugee crisis around the world, it is easy for us to think politically, practically, financially. We might consider the humanitarian need, worry about our own safety and the identity of our own country. These are all lenses with which to view the crisis but as people of faith there is another lens that we need to keep in mind. How do we view this crisis through a theological lens? What does scripture tell us? What do our ancestors in faith tell us? Our scripture reminds us that Jesus and his family were refugees. Jesus reminds us to love God and to love our neighbours. Jesus reminds us to do to others as we would have done to ourselves. Jesus reminds us that when we care for the most vulnerable among us, we care for him.
What would you do if Jesus turned up here tomorrow as a refugee? Would you recognize him? Would you classify him as a terrorist or trouble maker? Would he make the cut to come to Canada? I suspect Jesus would have trouble getting into Canada as a refugee. His skin isn’t white. He isn’t Christian. He’s young. There’s no record of him being married and therefore no children so he’s not a family man. If Jesus can’t make it as a refugee who can?
As we enter the season of Advent preparing for Christ among us, may we be reminded of what it means to receive Christ in this place. May we be bearers of hope in a world filled with hopelessness and fear.