“13 Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.’ 14Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, 15and remained there until the death of Herod.” -Matthew 2:13-15a
In the Gospel of Matthew we learn about current affairs around the time of Jesus’ birth. Or at least we learn about them from the Gospel writer’s point of view. The evangelist portrayed a picture of the early life of Jesus as a life on the run from an evil tyrant who would stop at nothing to keep his power.
Jesus’ own family, just as any family fleeing their country because of a brutal dictator, was longing for safety and security. They left hoping to find a place where they could live without the constant fear of being killed. They left looking for food and shelter. In other words, Jesus, Mary and Joseph, were like any other immigrant family who leaves the home they love in search of a better life.
In the wake of the latest murders by ISIS in Paris, fear, anger and frustration have once again emerged controlling the actions and rhetoric of many people in our country and the world. No doubt there are credible threats to our security out there. No doubt there are certain broken souls who believe that they are following God’s will by killing innocent people through random acts of terror, but our response, as followers of the Prince of Peace, cannot be to demonize any group of people or any followers of a particular religion.
The Syrian refugees are fleeing countries torn to shreds by terrorism and those of us who follow Christ must strive to resist the urge to exclude refugees by showing them gracious hospitality. We do not keep ourselves safe by closing our borders to people who are themselves fleeing terrorism, we do not keep ourselves safe by demonizing another religion. We keep ourselves safe by living into the dream of the Kingdom of God characterized by a radical ethic of love.
As we approach the first Sunday of Advent, let’s put “Christ back into Christmas” by putting into practice this way of Love embodied by our Savior. Instead of worrying about the color of Starbuck’s coffee cup, how about we demonstrate our loyalty to Jesus by re-committing ourselves way of Jesus, a way of self-less, sacrificial love.
If we really want to put Christ back in Christmas this year, a good place to start is to let go of the fear, anger and inhospitality aimed at innocent refugees facing violent acts of murder. Then there would be space in our hearts for courage, love hospitality and mercy.
Jesus’ birth, according to Matthew, if nothing else, shows us that Herod’s way to deal with fear was to kill innocent children, Jesus’ way was to overcome fear not with violence but with love.
Angela Maddalone is the Pastor at Palisades Presbyterian Church in Palisades, NY. Photo at top of a Syrian refugee family walking along the Serbia/Hungary border by Laura Reinhardt/World Vision.