Today – 2000 years after the birth of Jesus – Christmas celebrations are often extravagant events, full of food and drink, gifts and decorations, laughter and joy! As well they should be! It’s just as important, though, that we remember the context of Mary and Joseph’s story. Rather than traveling great distances to celebrate Jesus’ birth with loved ones, Jesus’ parents were forced to travel great distances to escape the tyranny of King Herod. Joseph and Mary traveled to Egypt with the infant Jesus as refugees, leaving behind the lives they knew in ancient Palestine (Mat. 2:13ff).
Jesus was a refugee. On the one hand, that’s so hard to imagine. The King of Kings was forced to flee and seek shelter in a neighboring country! On the other hand, this seems so consistent with Jesus’ identity and mission. Jesus can relate to us in our darkest nights. Jesus experienced suffering. He knew the lure of temptation. Jesus understood disappointment and loss. The hope of Christmas is just this: while we were still helpless, Jesus became like us (even in our most desperate places) that He might rescue us and make us His own.