Advent 5

MATTHEW 2:13-23

After the scholars were gone, God’s angel showed up again in Joseph’s dream and commanded, “Get up. Take the child and his mother and flee to Egypt. Stay until further notice. Herod is on the hunt for this child, and wants to kill him.”

Joseph obeyed. He got up, took the child and his mother under cover of darkness. They were out of town and well on their way by daylight. They lived in Egypt until Herod’s death. This Egyptian exile fulfilled what Hosea had preached: “I called my son out of Egypt.”

Herod, when he realized that the scholars had tricked him, flew into a rage. He commanded the murder of every little boy two years old and under who lived in Bethlehem and its surrounding hills. (He determined that age from information he’d gotten from the scholars.) That’s when Jeremiah’s sermon was fulfilled:

A sound was heard in Ramah,
    weeping and much lament.
Rachel weeping for her children,
    Rachel refusing all solace,
Her children gone,
    dead and buried.

Later, when Herod died, God’s angel appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt: “Up, take the child and his mother and return to Israel. All those out to murder the child are dead.”

Joseph obeyed. He got up, took the child and his mother, and reentered Israel. When he heard, though, that Archelaus had succeeded his father, Herod, as king in Judea, he was afraid to go there. But then Joseph was directed in a dream to go to the hills of Galilee. On arrival, he settled in the village of Nazareth. This move was a fulfillment of the prophetic words, “He shall be called a Nazarene.”

 

It’s all here! Angels, dreams, a wild crazy ruler, infanticide, weeping, journeys.  In this passage we read of Jesus who is hunted. Jesus who flees from one nation to another. Fleeing for safety.  I think Jesus can associate with refugees because he has been there. In June of this year a UN report stated that 65.3 million people have been forced out of their homes. 21.3 million refugees are under 18. According to the UN it’s the highest level ever.

Is our mental image of baby Jesus accurate? I think Jesus can relate to in a baby crossing the Med. in a flimsy inflatable raft because he fled too.

Friends of mine have related how they have been mistreated by border guards, been turned away when asking for help, cried out to God when their over-crowded raft started sinking, survived crossing the Sahara without food and water, waited in dark and scary forests, clung on to undersides of lorries when others have fallen off.  Many do not say anything and I do not ask.

In November the media reported that a man who was living in the Jungle camp in Calais had attempted to canoe across the channel in an inflatable canoe. Such an attempt demonstrated planning, determination, mental strength, and a massive sense of determination.  When I mentioned the article to a friend, he suggested that the canoeing asylum seeker should be asked to join the Olympic canoe team. I loved that! My friend had recognised positive qualities that were demonstrated by the asylum seeker/Olympic hopeful, rather than presuming he was risking his life to cross one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes for a life of ease living off benefits.

No questions today, most certainly no solutions.  This Christmas why don’t you buy yourself a really good present. Buy a book to help you understand what is happening so you can be part of the solution. Here are a few good books. Be informed, be challenged, be a friend.

Have you enjoyed our Advent devotion? Look out in January for more information on 'This is our story: Lent 2017'.

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The Lightless Sky: My Journey to Safety as a Child Refugee. Gulwali Passarlay and Nadene Ghouri

The New Odyssey: The Story of Europe’s Refugee Crisis. Patrick Kingsley

Refugee Stories: Seven personal journeys behind the headlines. Dave Smith

Serving God in a Migrant Crisis: Ministry to People on the Move. Patrick Johnstone and Dean Merrill

The Morning They Came for Us: Dispatches from Syria. Janine di Giovanni