December 01, 2014
There is a special story I know about a little boy. Just after he was born, the King of his county decided that people like him were a threat to his rule. In order to remain in political power, this king was willing to terrorize all of the people in a given region of the country and even engage in mass slaughter. So, late one night, this little boy's mother and father gathered him up, along with what few possessions they had, and began a long walk to a neighboring country. The journey was hard but they had no choice if they were to keep their little boy safe and have hope for the future. Because of the persecution of the government, they became refugees.
Those who are familiar with scripture and the Christmas story may be thinking I'm telling the story of the baby boy Jesus and how his parents, Mary and Joseph, took him to Egypt to escape the slaughter of baby boys by King Herod. But, I'm not. I'm talking about a man I know, a man I'll call “Asan." When Asan was a little boy, the King of his country decided that people of his ethnic group could no longer be citizens of the country. Without rights and protections, they were treated as outcasts, oppressed and terrorized, many were even killed. Wanting safety and a better life for Asan, his parents made a long difficult journey, often on foot, over mountains to safety—first in a neighboring country where they lived years in a camp as refugees and then, through the resettlement program, to the United States. Asan is but one of the nearly 600 refugees who found a permanent home in the Chicago suburbs through World Relief this year.
In this season of the year as many people think of the birth of our Savior, I often think of his time as a refugee in Egypt. I wonder if people there were welcoming to this young Jewish family. I wonder if anyone helped them find a place to live, get work, learn the language of Egypt, or adjust to a strange culture. How was Jesus the refugee treated? “I was hungry and you fed me, sick and you visited me, a stranger and you took me in…" I've wondered if when Jesus said these words he was remembering anything about his early childhood as a refugee in another country and wishing someone had done those things for him and for his family.
But Jesus is a refugee no longer. He is Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, and Prince of Peace. Yet I am convinced that he still remembers what it was like to take that long journey to safety, what it was like to be a stranger in need of a friend in a faraway place. And I believe that when he commands his followers to welcome the stranger and care for all those with whom we come in contact, he has a special place in his heart for those who are facing what refugees and immigrants face every day.
So, in this season of the year as we focus on the birth of Jesus, let us also remember the child refugee Jesus and have our eyes opened to see our immigrant neighbors and welcome them as we would want to welcome Him.
Find out how you can support refugees in our area: http://www.churchrez.org/events/good-neighbor-kit-collection