Human rights: Mary, Joseph and Jesus: A refugee story

A Scripture study from Caring, part four of four.

Part 4: Mary, Joseph and Jesus: A Refugee Story

Read part three here.

Behind the scenes:

Read what Scripture says in Matthew 1. 

Beyond the surface:

Any parent who has just experienced the birth of their first newborn can attest to the overpowering emotions of awe and elation at the surreal miracle they have just witnessed. No doubt, Joseph and Mary felt the same way. They had just finished a long journey to Bethlehem, their search for a place to stay resulted in a corner of a stable, they witnessed God’s miraculous fulfillment of the birth of Jesus, as foretold, and shepherds and wise men visited to honor and celebrate their son’s birth. 

As the wise men departed though, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and warned him to immediately flee to Egypt with Mary and their son, Jesus.  Imagine Joseph’s fear when he learned that the King was searching for Jesus in order to kill him.

Joseph, Mary and Jesus left immediately for Egypt and did not return until the Lord sent an angel to Joseph in a dream to say it was finally safe to go back to Israel.  King Herod had passed away. When returning to Israel, though, they feared the district where King Herod’s son was in power, so Joseph chose to settle in a little town called Nazareth in the region of Galilee.

This little family fled their own country, escaping danger and persecution.  After the death of the key player in their persecution, they returned to their home country, and chose to settle in a region they deemed safe. 

Between the lines:

These days, one cannot listen to the news without hearing stories of the refugee crisis around the world. Escalating violence in Burkina Faso results in hundreds of thousands fleeing, recent Turkish offensives forces tens of thousands to flee their homes in Syria, and the ongoing violence, kidnapping and murder in South America causes a steady stream, numbering hundreds of thousands, many of them children and women, to pour into the Mexico-U.S. borders.

In our own bubble of busyness and comfort at home, many times it is not easy to take compassion nor action while 65 million individuals are forcibly displaced around the world because of violation of human rights. 

There are many reasons for inaction:  One is fear of how an influx of refugees will affect our lives, and frankly, the second reason is not wanting the inconvenience it may cause. 

The United Nations Declaration of Human Rights Article 13 states that everyone has the right to freedom of movement, both internally and externally of one’s country, and that everyone has the right to seek and enjoy asylum from persecution.

The story of Jesus, Joseph and Mary is a story of a refugee family.  Their early years living in Egypt was not one of choice, but an escape into the night from persecution and imminent murder. When the time seemed safe from danger, they chose to return to their country and were allowed to choose their ultimate home in Nazareth. Without these basic human rights of freedom of movement, both internally and externally from their country, there may not have been a Christmas Story as we know it.

Yet today, there are millions who do not enjoy the privilege of freedom of movement and residence within their own country, nor the right to leave and return, nor the right to seek and enjoy asylum, even from danger or persecution. 

This is the season of Christ’s birth, for remembering and celebrating the joy and life that Jesus’ birth gives us. In what ways can we share the freedom in Christ that we experience with those who are being denied basic human rights today?

 Some suggestions:

  1. Pray for wisdom and a heart of compassion for the refugee crisis situation around the world and for eyes to recognize the challenges and needs in your own neighborhood.
  1. Volunteer to share your skills and talents to help refugees in your area resettle into your communities.  There are multiple opportunities to help, ranging from helping refugees practice English to getting acquainted with American culture and community, from helping kids with their homework to hosting refugees, and much more.
  1. Donate food or toiletries—or organize a drive to collect even more. Imagine escaping to another country with virtually nothing except the clothes on your back.  There are basic necessities that a family needs from toiletries to bedding, from school supplies to furniture. 

 Somewhere in your daily life, you cross paths regularly with an immigrant and/or refugee who may not have made a choice to leave their country. But because of escape from poverty, violence or persecution, they are now seeking to make a better life for their family in a new country.  In addition to your regular gift list, choose to do something for this family, extending the hand of God’s love, peace and goodwill to all mankind in this season of Jesus Christ’s birth.


Do Good: 

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