I came across this image last week and if I am honest it has not left me since. Jesus and his parents were refugees. If they had to escape today then this is how it could have ended up for them on arriving in the USA instead of Egypt. Now, putting aside the terrible way that we often treat refugees, as if at times their lives are not worth as much as ours, it got me thinking about the birth of Jesus.
The problem with the Nativity Story is that we have became too familiar with it. It has been so caught up in all the tinsel and lights. Add into that, all the children who play the parts each year with such cute, smiley faces, as they try to remember the all important lines. We have cleaned up the birth of Jesus and we forget that it is a miracle that Jesus was born let alone made it to his first birthday.
The reality of the story is full of death, danger and narrow escapes.
- Firstly, consider that most teenager pregnant, unmarried mothers, would have been stoned in those days. Mary and her unborn baby lives could have been over even before the story had really began before. More on that this Sunday at our Carols by Candlelight when we will be consider that, ‘There Is Something About Mary’
- Then there is the journey to Bethlehem. 90 miles over very hilly ground all done near the due date. 30 degrees in the day and heavy rains at night. Throw in the danger of bears, lions and bandits. How did they even make it to Bethlehem?
- Then there is the giving birth in a cave where the animals were housed. Dirty and smelly – forget the picture of camels, chickens, pheasants and peacocks looking on. This would have been attached to the Inn where the donkeys were kept. Not the best place to give birth.
- Mary and baby Jesus survive childbirth and after a few visitors have to escape to Egypt because King Herod has engaged in a Massacre of the Innocent. All male babies under two years must be killed.
So, Jesus and his parents become refugees. Which is in keeping with the whole story of danger and death.
It is amazing to think that this was how the Son of God was to enter into humanity – Emmanuel – God with us. I am not sure it is the way I would have down it. But we know that God’s ways are to always our ways.
The Jesus birth story is one of human terror and divine mercy, of human abuse and divine love. It is a story that claims God became human in the form of one who is vulnerable, poor and displaced in order to unveil the injustice of tyrannical power.
So don’t just whitewash the nativity scene because you might miss the radical message of the Christmas story and the risk God was willing to take to rescue each one of us. Celebrate that this Christmas rather than getting caught up in all the trimming around it.