You who dwell in the garden with friends in attendance,let me hear your voice.
Song of Songs 8:13
13 When they [the Magi] had gone, 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.’
14 So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, 15 where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘Out of Egypt I called my son.’[c] Matthew 2:13-15 (NIV)
On 28 December we remembered the day that Jesus and His family became refugees, fleeing their home land for the relative safety of Egypt. We do not know what conditions the Holy Family had to endure on their journey or whilst living there but many years earlier the Israelites had been slaves in Egypt – not a comforting thought! Anyway, they were strangers in a foreign land, a different culture; a fate suffered by millions to this day. Since that time many people have had to seek shelter, a new life in a country other than their own. Our Jewish brethren have been constantly harried from pillar to post, for example. And, how many ordinary folk emigrated from Europe to escape religious persecution, seeking a better life in the New World, settling in Australia, New Zealand, Canada or America? Indeed, the inscription on the Statue of Liberty welcomes immigrants with the words: "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!" Truly a noble sentiment.
Yet still as a result of war and religious discrimination millions live in camps many miles from their homeland with little prospects for the future. According to ITV News, there are many Christians among almost three million Syrian refugees in Turkey so that not all refugees are Muslim; there must be some of other religions or none at all. Again not every refugee who wishes to enter our country does so intending to kill us. Each refugee is a person, a member of a family with the same hopes and desires that you or I have. Every day our TV screens show harrowing pictures of refugees living in squalid conditions. Next time you see one do not turn the TV off – it’s not just another appeal for money. Look at the face of the child crying for food, for shelter, for his family, for compassion and remember you are looking into the face of your Lord.
Each and every day let our faith in Jesus give us the hope and love to turn to those outside – those who through no fault of their own are refugees - and to make a home for them in our lives since by doing so we welcome Emmanuel God with us.
Peter is a father and a grandfather who has been retired from full time employment for a number of years