Advent II – Second Sunday of Advent
Most of us are familiar with this portion of the Christmas story;
“In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.
So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them” Luke 2:1-7).
In our world many people are exercised, and rightly so, about the plight of those fleeing the terrors of conflict in Syria. It should be noted that besides the approximately 4.2 million refugees created by the events in Syria, today there are over 60 million refugees worldwide. In the year 2014, the refugee population grew by almost 8 million. How will the growing refugee crisis be addressed?
Joseph and his betrothed, Mary, were not refugees when they came to Nazareth. They were simply travelers fulfilling an occupying government’s order to show up to their ancestral birthplace for a census.
Arriving at Bethlehem, Joseph’s family’s birthplace, they found all the boarding establishment’s full. Weary from a journey of at least seven days from Nazareth over treacherous terrain, they sought a place to rest. As it turned out, Mary began to feel the pain of childbirth. Unable to find any accommodations in the usual hostels, they were referred to a cave where the cattle were kept for the night.
Working with refugees for the past 18 years, I have heard many stories of how they slept under trees, tarps, make-shift lean-tos and the open sky. My grandparents fled the Ukraine in the 1920s on wagons covered with hay. I am sure they can identify with identify with Mary and Joseph’s plight.
(Later in the Biblical account of Jesus’ early years, Joseph and Mary did become refugees to Egypt seeking asylum from the reign of terror of King Herod. I will address this in Advent IV.)
Many refugees have told me stories of giving birth in very difficult circumstances. Yet, they knew, what Mary knew: the gift of life born to them was a light in the darkness of their sad situation. Every newborn is a proclamation of light in face of darkness!
In the sadness of your life, come to the manger, peer in and find the light born in the darkness.
Ronald Friesen © 2015