Advent Day 19: Jesus Was A Refugee …

An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt …
— Matthew 2:13-14

Jesus Is a Refugee

If we read 2:13-14 in the context of Matthew’s Gospel, we realize that even in his childhood the Son of Man already lacked a place to lay his head (Matthew 8:20). Disciples would face the same kind of test (Matthew 10:23; Matthew 24:16).

Jesus’ miraculous escape here should not lead us to overlook the nature of his deliverance (compare, for example, 1 Kings 17:2-6). Jesus and his family survived, but they survived as refugees, abandoning any livelihood Joseph may have developed in Bethlehem and undoubtedly traveling lightly. Although travel within Egypt was easy for visitors with means (Casson 1974:257), many Judeans had traditionally regarded refuge in Egypt as a last resort (2 Macc 5:8-9; compare 1 Kings 11:17, 40; Jer 26:21).
— Grant R. Osborne (ed.) from IVP New Testament Commentaries

The Least of These

Jesus and his parents were Middle Eastern refugees. The nativity scene, after all, depicts a Middle Eastern family who were looking for a place to stay, only to be told there was no room for them. Then, Matthew tells us that after his birth, Mary and Joseph fled with the baby Jesus to Egypt… as refugees fleeing from violence. The irony of Christians rejecting refugees right before we put up the Christmas decorations is hard to miss, even for those who often do miss the irony of their faith and political positions …

Jesus offers a sobering description of the Last Judgment in Matthew 25 that directly speaks to the issue of welcoming the refugee. In Matthew 25:40, Jesus declares, “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”

In His depiction of the Last Judgment, Jesus, as the King, clearly states that how we treat who He calls “the least of these brothers and sisters of mine” is how we treat Him. Who are “the least of these?” While one could argue over the definition of “brothers and sisters,” Jesus is known for having universalized the love of neighbor.

In verse [Matthew] 28, we learn that one category of “the least of these” is the “stranger.” Matthew was originally written in Greek, and the Greek word that we translate as stranger is xenos, which can be translated into English as “foreigner, immigrant or stranger.” In other words, when we don’t welcome the foreigner, Jesus takes it personally …
— Excerpted from Jesus Was a Refugee by Ryan Gear (Huffington Post)

Transformed People, Transform People

An account of the genealogy of Jesus” includes Tamar, Rahab, Ruth and “Uriah’s wife” because they cannot bear to mention her name, Bathsheba.
— Matthew 1:3,5,6,7

This artificially created family tree for Jesus is a brilliant theological statement much more than anything even remotely historically accurate. But the amazing thing is the deliberate inclusion of foreign, non-Jewish women, of whom at least three were of easy virtue, or even public “sinners”.  Why would the Gospel risk saying that there were “horse thieves,” as it were, amount his ancestors?  It clearly wanted to say that he came from the ordinary, the human, the broken, the sinful, suffering world, as all of us do.  His birth accepted the full human condition, which becomes his first step towards the cross. It is that full and transformed humanity that gave Jesus authority in his actual lifetime.  Remember, no one knew he was the Son of God; they trusted him for other reasons.

What gives any of us the practical authority to teach and preach and change lives?  Is it ordination? Is it office? Is it family and ancestry? Is it vestment and title? Jesus did not have authority in his lifetime of any external validation. He had it because of the authenticity of his message and because of the transformative power of his journey through death to resurrection. He had it because he was a genuine man of the Spirit. That is the basis of spiritual authority even today …

Spiritually speaking, authority comes from passing through trial and darkness and coming out the other side even more free, happy, alive and contagious! Transformed people transform people. This is still true in our day. That is why Jesus came to preach the gospel “to the poor” because they are in a unique position to receive it in depth. For the suffering ones, salvation is not an abstract spiritual theory but a survival strategy.
— Richard Rohr from Preparing for Christmas

A Prayer For Refugees

Compassionate God, make your loving presence felt to refugees, torn from home, family and everything familiar. Warm, especially, the hearts of the young, the old, and the most vulnerable among them. Help them know that you accompany them as you accompanied Jesus, Mary, and Joseph in their exile to Egypt. Lead refugees to a new home and a new hope, as you led the Holy Family to their new home in Nazareth. Open our hearts to receive them as our sisters and brothers in whose face we see your son, Jesus. Amen.
St Ignatius Parish, ARRUPE Group 

Prayer For The Homeless

Lord, no one is a stranger to you
and no one is ever far from you loving care.
In your kindness watch over refugees and exiles,
those separated from their loved ones,
young people who are lost,
and those who have left or run away from home.
Bring them back safely to the place where they long to be
and help us always to show your kindness
to strangers and those in need.
— Francis Evans from The New St. Joseph People’s Prayer Book

See Also:

Homeless Jesus on bench

(photo credit)