Of the 68.5 million refugees in the world 52% (25.4 million)* are under the age of 18. Displaced from home and country, on the run for their lives, many completely on their own; they are in urgent need of protection and provision. How does Christmas intersect with refugee children?
Matthew’s Gospel has a refugee story in Chapter 2. Having arrived in Jerusalem after a lengthy trek, Magi from the east were inquiring about the birth of a new Jewish King. They told of observing a celestial sign and undertaking the search for a child to be worshiped. Jewish priests and scholars identified Bethlehem as the prophesied birthplace of the future messianic king. The paranoid, maniacal Herod ruling Judea at that time was disturbed by this news and solicited the Magi’s help in locating such a child. His pretense was to participate in such worship and he wanted the child’s address.
Upon arriving in Bethlehem and finding the child with his mother Mary “in a house” the entourage from the east bowed down and worshipped him and presented valuable gifts. Then, warned in a dream not to report this location, they detoured Herod and departed toward their home country.
Realizing he’d been duped, homicidal Herod ordered the execution of all the male children in the vicinity of Bethlehem who were two years old and under according to the time the Magi had reported seeing the celestial sign.
An angel appeared to Mary’s husband, Joseph, in a dream. The angel instructed Joseph to take both mother and child and escape into Egypt because death squads had been dispatched by Herod. Joseph immediately obeyed and consequently, Jesus and his parents became refugees.
*Statistics from UNHCR