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Sand Nativity, Jesolo, Italy - Flickr photo by Christopher_Brown

Mary, Joseph and Jesus were refugees

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By Tracy Springberry

Next month, Americans will celebrate the birth of an Middle Eastern baby, born to poor destitute parents who were on the road with only the possessions they could carry.

Many people were traveling at the time, filling inns and towns, so no one would welcome a pregnant woman and her husband.  So she gave birth in a barn and laid her baby to sleep in a manager.  Soon after the child’s birth the family was forced flee a violent king.  They became refugees in Egypt.

We do not know the details of their journey or their time in Egypt.  We do know they were not turned away at the border.  And we can guess that many welcomed them and offered help, because they survived to raise their son. That son would one day offer hope to billions of people.

Today, many Americans want to turn away Middle Eastern people as destitute and desperate as that young family.  They claim fear of what an unknown person might be hiding. Imagine if all the people that helped that ancient young family had only seen danger in their faces?

There would be no Christmas.

Instead of fearing the refugee, let us celebrate Christmas truly and open our hearts and our arms to the Syrian people who are so afraid that they must flee their homes.   Let us give them hope.  Let us give them the hope we celebrate each year at Christmas: that love and peace are possible.

About Tracy Springberry

Tracy Springberry is a Unitarian Universalist minister. She serves the North Idaho Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Coeur d’Alene.

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3 comments

  1. A deep dig into this Bible story reveals that most English translations of the Greek
    καταλυματι mistakenly give us “inn” rather than “guest room.” This has led countless Sunday School Christmas programs to leave most churched folk with the idea that Jesus was born in a barn or stable or cave – even though none of them are mentioned in the Biblical text. Joseph and Mary were not turned away from Joseph’s own family home in Bethlehem (even though older visiting family members had already filled up the “inn” (guest room.) No, Joseph and Mary had to be accommodated in the home’s lower level animal quarters, (complete with mangers,) but nonetheless still within the family home. To have done otherwise – especially with a baby about to be born – would have brought great shame on the family throughout the village. However, I do love the power of the analogy of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus fleeing to Egypt as refugees and its compelling relevance for Americans of faith receiving today’s refugees.

  2. But how could any of this have even happened? This can’t be a true story. Joseph forced to register in Bethlehem because he was from the line of David? 1000 year ago? We live in a modern society, and do any of us know who are ancestor is 1000 years earlier? And even if we did, why would Romans carry out a census in such a nonsensical manner? Can you imagine the upheaval, everybody going to the hometown of their supposed ancestor 1000 years earlier? Any not one single historian of that era mentions it?
    This sounds like more of a contrived account to get Jesus into Bethlehem in order to make Jesus fulfill a prophecy. The historical Jesus was probably born and raised in Nazareth, and he never left his hometown until he started his ministry.

  3. We know for sure it didn’t happen that way. There was never a census like that just for starters. That would have made the history and documents of the day and it didn’t. It doesn’t matter whether it happened that way. It is a meaningful, powerful story that resonates with many people’s spirits and souls: of being so down on your luck that you are born in a stable and must flee for your life while still nursing and then from that start becoming wise and loving and able to reach out heal the outcasts and poor. It is a spiritual story — but it makes it no less powerful as a commentary on the widespread response to denying refugees a safe place to live. The stories we tell over and over frame our understanding of the world we live in. They tell us what is good and and what is bad. Stories live because they speak Truth, whether they really happened or not. This story, as do many of the Gospel stories, tells us to be hospitable and welcoming to the least among us for their sake and for our own.

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