“And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and remained there until the death of Herod” Matthew 2:14-15
The birth of Jesus was not widely celebrated on the first Christmas. King Herod in particular felt threatened when the wise men came looking for the newborn baby they said had been born to be king. So threatened that he issued a decree that all young males under the age of two in Bethlehem were to be killed in a bid to wipe out this threat to his throne. (For Herod did not realise that Jesus was come to be king not just of Judea but of the everlasting Kingdom, the kingdom of the righteous branch from the stump of Jesse.) Joseph received warning of this in a dream from an angel of the Lord and so he took Mary and Jesus and fled to Egypt before this massacre occurred. Jesus, the Saviour of the world spent the early years of his life as a refugee in a foreign land, fleeing from the town where He had been born due to the threat to His life. And before Mary of Joseph became refugees they had been migrants, having left their hometown of Nazareth to go to Bethlehem to register for the census that Caesar Augustus had issued.
One of the big stories on the news this year has been the refugee crisis as people flee from the bloodshed and threat in the middle east. Due to the rise of ISIS/Daesh and their tyrannical regime many have been faced with no choice to flee their homes, often giving over all their life savings to pay for risky boat trips to Europe. And no there are thousands of displaced people who have fled persecution and attack and have arrived in Europe. There has been much debate on what should be done. Some want the borders to be closed. Others think we should take in those who go through the proper channels for immigration. Politicians attempting to run for the American presidency advocate not letting any Muslims into America, only Christian refugees (a view that though widely mocked across the world actually does have some support in America…). And then there are those who see people in need and know we should do something. There are those who remember how Mary, Joseph and Jesus had to flee persecution and attack. They remember how they found themselves in a distant country where they did not speak the language or share the faith of the locals. They remember that we worship the God who came as a refugee to the world He created. They remember we worship the God who said “Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke; to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall be your rearguard.” Isaiah 58:6-8. They remember that James taught us that “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world” James 1:27.
We worship the God who cares for the oppressed. We worship the God who came to be with His people when we were still far off from Him. We were dead in our sin when He moved into our neighbourhood. he didn’t wait for us to turn to Him before He started caring for us and loving us. And He calls us to do the same. To care for all who are in need regardless of their faith or nationality. He calls us to share our bread with the hungry, to invite the homeless into our house, to clothe the naked, to visit and care for those who are afflicted. He calls us to follow the example of Jesus, the Saviour who was a refugee, and bot wait for people to come to God before we reach out to them and help them, but to love them with the love of Christ, letting our light break forth so that they can see the glory of the Lord working through us. The story of Christmas is of love reaching out to us in a manger, and the challenge of Christmas is for us to reach out in love to draw others in to the manger. Jesus told us to go to and make disciples of all the nations. Perhaps the current refugee crisis is God bringing the nations to us because we won’t go to them. Let us grasp this opportunity to show the love of Christ to refugees and point them to the God who came down to die for them. Rather than barring refugees from our countries let us seek opportunities to make disciples of them!