Who is the most famous refugee there has ever been (This would be a great category on Pointless, if you’re reading this Alexander and Richard)? Whose story starts with ‘they ran for their lives’ and ends with their name in lights?
All year, we’ve watched, listened and read about hundreds of thousands of people dropping everything to run for their lives from Syria, Iraq and parts of Sub-Saharan Africa. Waves and waves of refugees, migrating so fast that the powers that be, understandably, don’t know what to do with these people.
But that’s just it. They are people. Not just numbers or influences on the economics and demographics of nations. They are people with lives, loves, stories, tears and tragedies. Almost none of them are famous enough for you to remember them when you shut your newspaper, close your tablet or turn off your TV. But you can’t write off every refugee. Because sometimes, refugees change the world.
The King James version of the Bible sounds pretty old fashioned. It was, after all, translated hundreds of years ago. These days, both in my home and at our church, we use a modern translation of the Bible. But something stayed with me this year when somebody read this verse from that old book:
‘A Syrian ready to perish was my father, and he went down into Egypt, and sojourned there with a few, and became there a nation, great, mighty and populous.’ (Deuteronomy 26:5)
If we’re honest, this is what a lot of people worry about in the chats down the pub and in the coffee shop. ‘There’s too many of them, they’ll become too ‘populous’. What if they come over here and change everything?’ Well, what if ‘they’ do? Might the change that refugees bring about not be a good thing? An awesome, life changing thing?
The verse was talking about Abraham, who started life in one place, and migrated to another. He was on the verge of perishing, but ended up changing the world. The three big religions who believe in one God – Christianity, Islam and Judaism – trace their roots back to this guy. But no – he’s not the most famous refugee there has ever been.
Hands down, it’s got to be Jesus Christ. We usually leave the Christmas story when the wise men get to the baby, and depart the scene all cosy and cooing. But the Bible doesn’t.
Matthew 2:13-18 tells us how the two year old Jesus and His family have to flee their nation to escape a power that will kill them if they stay. It just sounds a bit too familiar this year, doesn’t it?
But this refugee found safety in a new country. And He grew up. And He changed the world like nobody before or after Him. He’s changed my life more than any other person. He’s caused the people in our church to worship Him and put their whole lives and identities in Him. So this Christmas, I leave you with two questions:
What great transformations might happen if we open our hearts and communities to refugees? And what great transformation might happen if you open your heart and community to the most famous refugee that there has ever been?
The above article is an extract from the Inverness St. Columba Community Newsletter Winter 2015