Jesus was a refugee too
In August of this year, I led a team from Gorey of 17-19 year olds connected with 'The Empire' group to Hungary, where they helped to lead a youth camp. We spent a couple of days before the camp seeing a few sights in Budapest, and stayed close to Keleti train station. Keleti became one of the main transit points this year for refugees from Syria and elsewhere seeking to get further in Europe.
Looking back, I wish that we had got to listen to some of the refugees and their stories. However, one day I offered a lady a bag of food as she sat on the ground outside the train station with some children. She expressed her thanks, but kept her head bowed. It was as if I could feel her saying to herself, 'How has life come to this for me?' A few years ago, that lady was probably enjoying a relatively peaceful existence with her family, neighbourhood, job and social life. However, the destruction of society by the conflict in her country changed all of that and she needed to flee with her family, against her own personal wishes.
In the first few years of Jesus' life on earth he was a Middle Eastern refugee! Matthew's gospel tells us how, under the threat of death, 'Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod.' The toddlers that I saw in a train station in Budapest could have been Jesus.
This is one of the gritty realities that lies behind the Christmas story. Admittedly, that's easy to forget when you turn up at the school Christmas play. Little Emily looks so angelic with tinsel in her hair and Jack looks so cute with a tea-towel on his, and gives everyone a laugh when he drops the toy lamb on the baby Jesus. But a straightforward read of the accounts of the events surrounding Jesus' birth, show us a story that identifies with a range of the most anguish-filled and heart-breaking human emotions.
I usually look forward to Christmas - many do - many don't. I like many of the celebrations associated with it. But if I only knew one thing, it would be this - to know the inner power and peace of Jesus Christ. It's the recognition that we're the mixed up ordinary people that Jesus identified with, that has shown me my personal need to trust a Saviour who by his difference and uniqueness can rescue me. Don't miss out on who he really is.
It is my prayer and passion, and that of the Methodist community, and the commitment of the outworking of our mission, that you would know that blessing, peace and joy of Jesus Christ during this Christmas season and into 2016 and beyond. Happy Christmas!
Rev Steven Foster
Gorey Methodist Church