“ Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. ” – Matthew 2:13-15
The Christmas story tell us that Jesus was born displaced as a result of a mandated registry or census. Soon afterwards he and his parents were then forced to flee their homeland to avoid imminent danger. The Gospel accounts describe that Egypt was the location of their refuge, which carries a certain amount of historical irony for a Jewish family and speaks to the urgency of their situation- that their best option was to flee to the place where their ancestors were once slaves.
Precisely how long their reverse exodus in Egypt lasted is a little bit of a mystery. Some think that Jesus and his parents were in Egypt for a few months, and some argue that it may have been upwards of seven years. Either way it’s a peculiar and unique experience that God was incarnated into refugee status.
Being a refugee is something that most of us will not have to experience in depth, but far too many in our world will. As 2016 comes to a close, our world will be home to somewhere between 65-70 million refugees, more than any other point in history- even the years surrounding WWII.
Where is God in the midst of this?
What is God doing?
In my short years engaging in faith work I’ve found myself with those in difficult to comprehend poverty, hanging out in homeless camps under freeways, at leprosy hospitals in the jungles, alongside women recently rescued from a life of being trafficked and raped, weeping with distraught parents who’ve lost a child, across the table from friends going through divorce, marching alongside protestors decrying injustice, at the bedside of the ill and depressed, holding conversations with terminally hooked addicts, worshiping with people who’s faith is illegal, at the graveside with grieving families, and in the tents/huts/makeshift shelters of numerous refugees.
I don’t share any of that to brag. In fact, in most of those contexts I’ve felt out place and totally unequipped to offer anything helpful.
The reason I share it all, is because in so many of those moments, somehow and somewhere I’ve also sensed the still small Love that anguishes alongside us and is big enough to hold all of our pain, anger, and loss.
Part of the insanity of the Christmas story is that God became a refugee. God is somehow right there, right now with those 65 million human beings who are fleeing to their own Egypts. And it’s only because of this narrative that I’ve found myself in those difficult spaces in our world- because I’ve been trying to follow, imperfectly in many ways, Christ.
Because of all of this, I can think of no better way to celebrate the birth of Christ than by giving his fellow refugees some support. Jesus said in Matthew 25 that whatever we do for “the least of these” we do for him. So according to God incarnate, if we choose to gift our time, talent, or treasure to people like those in our world have fled their homeland to just to survive, we’re in a very real sense giving to Jesus.
So this Christmas, please consider donating to Partners Relief and Development. They’re one of a few organizations working in Syria, with refugees from Aleppo, and also with refugee’s from Myanmar. They’re friends of ours and I can’t speak highly enough about their efforts.
I know this might sound trite- but maybe think of donating to them like you’re giving Jesus, the refugee God, a birthday gift. Again, that’s actually how he said it works.