There has been a lot of upheaval lately in social, political, and religious circles on the topic of refugees. Should we, or should we not allow them to enter the United States?
That’s a heavy question. I find myself wrestling with both sides of the equation. Prudence perpetuates one answer, while compassion for humanity perpetuates another. But this morning, in the shadow of another Christmas season, I want to approach the situation from a different perspective.
For both sides of the refugee aisle and for the refugees themselves, there is a story surrounding the Christmas narrative that we often overlook. Soon after that first Christmas in Bethlehem, Jesus, the central figure of the Christian faith, would become a refugee.
Jesus the Refugee
When we speak of Jesus’s birth, we tend to focus on Jesus’s divinity. His name, Immanuel, means “God with us.” We sing our favorite carols of that silent, holy night when a boy child was born in a manger bringing joy to the world. And all of that is true. But the Gospel of Matthew gives us an account of Jesus’s early life that is often skipped over for the more traditional, feel-good version.
Jesus was born into a world at war and almost immediately, his life was in jeopardy. Even though Jesus was born to a poor, young, outcast family, his birth created quite an uproar.
Jerusalem was under Roman rule and those in power didn’t want a religious uprising to strip them of their authority. So when shepherds came from the surrounding fields claiming that an angel had spoken to them that this child, Jesus, was in fact the promised Messiah, it created a stir.
When he was only eight days old, Joseph brought Jesus to the temple to be circumcised. Many of the devout believers grabbed the young baby and praised God in front of the crowds, proclaiming that He was their salvation. After that, Magi came from the far east speaking of a bright star that led them to the “King of the Jews.” As word spread, it reached the ears of Herod, the Judean king.
Fearing loss of power, his greed caused him to issue a decree to kill all of the Jewish boys under the age of two. Being warned of King Herod’s evil plan in a dream, Joseph gathered his wife, Mary, and their infant son, Jesus, and they escaped to Egypt. There in Egypt, they found refuge. (Matthew 2)
The God of Refugees
Picture this young, teenage couple, fleeing nearly two hundred miles to escape a tyrant with their newborn son in tow. Now consider that infant child was in fact God Himself. The God of all creation, the one who formed the earth by speaking it into existence became an outcast.
Why would God allow such a thing?
At Christmas, God is saying, “I know what it’s like.” God knows what it’s like to be an outcast. He knows what it’s like to be pursued. In this depiction of Christmas, God is saying, “I am the God of refugees because I have been one myself.”
It is in His own vulnerability and weakness where God comes to us and says, “I am with you.”
This Christmas, maybe you’re not running from a tyrant, but maybe you’re seeking shelter for your own reasons:
Maybe you’re watching a loved one battle a relentless illness.
Maybe you’re drowning in debt.
Maybe you’re fighting to save a dying marriage.
Maybe you’re in a season of waiting.
Maybe you’re fearful of the direction of our country.
Wherever you are, I pray you will experience the hope that God is with you. He is the One place where you can seek and find shelter. And the story of Christmas is proof. In Jesus, God’s word made flesh, we have a refugee—and that gives Him the authority to become our refuge.
An Upside-Down Kingdom
The Kingdom of God is upside-down. It is a kingdom where the last are first and the humble are exalted. But because we live in a world that believes otherwise—we remain buried in fear. You see, we still live in a world under “Roman” rule, but as Christians, we are members of a Heavenly Kingdom. And as members of that kingdom, we must seek refuge in our King.
This Christmas, I invite you to join me in prayer for all of the refugees. But not just those running from a dictator or seeking shelter from a war-torn country. Pray for all of those who are seeking refuge from their various trials and ask that God would meet them in their despair.
Christmas is about God coming to be with us, to be our place of refuge in the midst of a world at war.
And He whispers, “I know what it’s like. You’re not alone.”