Mary, heavily pregnant, and her husband Joseph, had to travel the long and dangerous road to from Nazareth to Bethlehem to be registered. They were victims of the unfeeling bureaucracy of an oppressive power that occupied their land.
The only shelter they could find was hovel set aside for the animals of one of Bethlehem’s inns. They were migrants without a welcome. In the early months of the new born baby’s life they were forced to flee their land to escape the violence of the local ruler. For the sake of their child’s safety, they became refugees. Perhaps the extraordinary gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh they had been given by strangers from a far off place had to be handed over to people smugglers in exchange for their new life in another country.
Jesus had a tough start to life. He’s no stranger to the suffering of millions of migrants and refugees in our own times. In fact, he travelled even further. He took the journey from heaven to earth to come into the worst conditions of human life and prove to us the love of God. Jesus’s coming is the merciful movement of God’s immigration, offering human life the chance of integration into the divine purposes of peace, safety and freedom. As God’s arms open wide to welcome us into his life of love this Christmas, may the doors of our hearts be open to welcome those coming to us for refuge.
The Rt Revd Dr Christopher Cocksworth
Bishop of Coventry