With Christmas just past, I’ve been thinking about that family a lot.
THAT family…you know the ones. The impoverished teenage mom, her much-older husband, and the child (definitely not his) they covenanted to raise together. They were scraping by in their home country, just barely, when the news came.
It wasn’t glad tidings of great joy this time. It was shocking, horrific, the kind that makes you wake up the next morning with sweat glazing your brow despite the arid Middle Eastern climate.
Except there was no next morning. The news arrived wrapped in darkness, whispered into the ears of a working-class man. There was no mistaking the message.
Get up. Take the child. Get out. Go. NOW.
To stay would mean certain death – if not for the parents, then certainly for the child.
So they took what little they could carry, maybe a bit of gold to finance the journey and spices for sacrifice. They crossed the border, their status assured not by the local authorities but by the One who sent them. A family under orders.
Who would be willing to help them on the other side? Their story was sketchy at best and paranoid at worst. (The king reportedly wanted to murder their son. Seriously?) They could not speak the local language. Who would hire a Judean carpenter to work in their homes or his young wife to watch their children?
The Bible is silent on that part of their story.
But ours are still being written.
On December 25, guests who would otherwise be alone that day joined us for Christmas dinner. Several were graduate students who were unable to return home to their native country during the semester break. Chicken curry and Naan bread replaced our traditional spiral ham and dinner rolls this year.
Thirty years ago it was another holiday meal, other international guests. We were living in Hudson, New Hampshire, and two students from the small aeronautical college where I taught communications came to dinner. Abbas and his friend Muhammed were not returning home to their native Iran over the break. They had come to the United States to learn to fly American planes.
And you are ahead of my story now.
Yes, hearts drumming, we scanned the Boston papers that awful week in September 2001, searching the terrorists’ photos for the friendly young men who had put their feet under our table. We did not find them.
But we never know for sure what is in another’s heart, do we?
A recent article in Christianity Today tells us that the global refugee emergency is a humanitarian crisis of unprecedented size, impacting nearly 60 million people. “Never have so many people been recorded as being displaced, put in danger, and sent on the move. In Syria alone, more than 13 million children and their parents need humanitarian aid. Nearly 4.4 million have been forced to flee to neighboring countries for safety.”
Mike and I reside in a community where a large Christian population dwells side-by-side with a groundswell of political refugees arriving daily. Their children play on the front lawn of our church and attend our preschool. The parents grow vegetables in a corner of our parking lot. We cannot ignore them. They are already here.
What if someone has slipped across the border because they do not want our help, but our lives? What if they accept our hospitality but intend to repay it with harm?
We share those fears. We wrestle with them, too.
But what of the others, the ones with the children going to our school and playing on our lawn, the girls and boys who just might change the world one day?
I sometimes wonder if the Holy Family ever regretted returning to Nazareth. They went home because it was part of a larger plan Jehovah had for their lives. For their child’s life.
And ours? As Mike and I say goodbye to our daughter’s family tomorrow, we are deeply thankful that our family could gather in safety this past week. With beds for all, food on the table, and enough clothing to cover a village, we are more fortunate than most of the world.
To whom much is given…
“For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” – Isaiah 9:6
A son will be given to our family this year as well. Libby is eagerly awaiting the arrival of a brother in mid-June. And then? Amber, Ben, and their children will begin a journey of their own across the sea for a time. They are not refugees, but they are under orders.
We pray that the townspeople of Pàpa, Hungary, will welcome our children into their midst. That they will know that these precious ones of ours have families who love them, who miss them, who pray daily for their safety.
And here on this side? Perhaps we can be part of the answer to another parent’s prayer.
We, too, are under orders.
“He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners”… Deuteronomy 10:18-19 (NIV)