Often, we relegate the story of Christmas to a once-a-year event, missing out on the complexity of the circumstances surrounding the birth and childhood of Jesus. The second chapter of Matthew describes the anguish that Joseph and Mary went through trying to protect their little one from evil and danger. Scripture says that Herod secretly met with the Magi, asking them about the star that revealed the location of the child who was born to be the king of the Jews. The Magi were warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, and Joseph was told by an angel of the Lord to run away to Egypt as Herod was looking for the baby to kill him.
We all know what happened next. When Herod learned the Magi had outwitted him, he sent soldiers to kill all the boys in and around Bethlehem who were two years old and under. The pain of God’s people fulfilled an old prophecy: “A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more” (Matthew 2:18). Joseph and Mary’s struggles didn’t finish with Herod’s death. They were also afraid of his son, Archelaus, so they had to resettle in the district of Galilee—still not their homeland. Jesus and his family were wandering in foreign lands and looking for protection for decades.
Our Lord and Saviour was born a refugee. He grew up feeling unwelcomed and fearing for his life.
The COVID-19 pandemic has made us experience the uncertainty of not knowing what the future could bring us, wondering if our resources will be sufficient until everything is normalized, and how long we will need to remain hidden in our homes to protect ourselves from an invisible enemy. Forced to stay away from the ones we love and dreaming of the days when we are able to go freely around our neighbourhoods. This is just a glimpse of what Joseph and Mary experienced and all refugees around the world face daily. This humbling experience has made us live, in a small way, the struggles of millions around the world.
As a child, I grew up listening to the story of Jesus and how his own didn’t receive him. I used to think that if I was born at that time, I would have recognized him and done everything in my power to support him and be with him. Now, as an adult and a Christian, I reflect on his words and understand my role in all this. “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40).
We cannot read the Bible and remain the same, we preach. This is a clear call to action and prayer. Indifference is not a choice for us, his followers, the ones who have claimed Jesus as our Saviour. Micah 6:8 says, “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” This command requires action and includes everybody, even the ones that don’t look, speak or worship like us.
Today is World Refugee Day and we want to join, with our brothers and sisters from around the world, in their plea for peace, justice and solidarity, asking God to make us instruments in his hands to respond with compassion and generosity. As we read in the Christmas story, our Saviour lived their experiences and walked their struggles. He is asking us, today, to do for our brothers and sisters as we would do for him; to pray for them as if they were our own children looking for protection and to welcome them as he has taught us in his Word.
Join us in prayer as we celebrate this day around the world as one big family.
Captain Angelica Hernandez is the immigrant and refugee services resource officer at Harbour Light Ministries in Toronto.
Illustrations: Tatiana_Stulbo/iStock via Getty Images Plus