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"Jesus, a Refugee Savior" Christmas Devotional

One of our best-loved Christmas carols is "Away in a Manger." It's a seasonal favorite, especially among little kiddos and their parents.

I came across a new Christmas song this year, and it's a riff on "Away in a Manger." It was written in 2016 and is entitled "Away and in Danger." It's a legit song and is self-styled as the "Carol of the Refugee Children." It's a sad song, with lyrics following the meter and tune of "Away in a Manger." "Away and in danger, no hope of a bed. The refugee children no tears left to shed." The song continues, "The babies are crying; their hunger awakes." Again, this is poignant stuff. The third verse gets a little better and is an appeal from the singers: "Come close, little children, we hold out our hand, in rescue and welcome to shores of our land." The song's big deficit, in my opinion, is that it never mentions God — anything about God's love for those precious refugee children or Christian charity and care.

Jesus, a Refugee

But a good thing about "Away and in Danger" is that it reminds us of a Christmas-based fact that we often overlook. Here it is: The baby Jesus was a refugee! In Matthew chapter two, telling of the birth story of Jesus, the story takes a turn right after the wise men depart from Bethlehem and reveals that Joseph had a dream. And in that dream, he was warned to take his little family and flee to Egypt. "Leave Bethlehem quickly!" the angel warned Joseph. Because King Herod was coming after Jesus, and he did so by killing a bunch of little boys. You know the terrible, heart-wrenching story of "Herod's Massacre."

We often overlook this episode of the Christmas story, maybe because it's hard to relocate Jesus from our nativity scenes to a sandbox or desert scene — from Bethlehem to the Pyramids. Or a related reason could be our unwillingness to figuratively move Jesus out of the manger to a place of danger. Two thousand years worth of tradition have rendered the manger and stable into a kind of cozy place, with Baby Jesus surrounded by comfy swaddling blankets, smiling sheep, and soft straw. Why take Him out of that coziness and make Him a refugee — on the run, with minimal protection from the weather, the desert, and a wicked king? That makes us uncomfortable at Christmas.

Jesus Came to Earth to Suffer

This points to an even stronger idea: Jesus Christ — the Prince of Peace — came to earth not to be cozy, even as an infant but certainly not as a fully grown man. Jesus Christ came to earth to suffer, live on the run, barely scratch out human existence, and eventually die for all of us. The life of Jesus — from the very beginning — was never cozy and comfortable.

So, this refugee episode of the Baby Jesus, as Alicia Akins wrote in an advent devotional, "challenges the tranquil and idyllic images of peace we may conjure up in our minds. Our peace...cost Jesus a lifetime punctuated by sorrow, misunderstanding, and rejection. This suffering is what awaited the peace-bringing baby of our carols" (Akins, A., 2022).1 And Baby Jesus didn't have to wait too long for that kind of life, as His parents frantically packed Him up and fled to a refugee existence.

May this episode of the Christmas story provide us with a fresh and new reason to thank the Lord Jesus during this season.

Written by Dr. Earl Waggoner, dean and professor of Biblical and Theological Studies for the College of Adult and Graduate Studies at Colorado Christian University.

1 Alicia Akins, "Born to Be Bruised" in The Promised One: Advent Readings from Christianity Today, 2022

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