Advent/Christmas 2009 Epiphany Sunday, January 3, 2010
Our Refugee God - Matthew 2:13-18
Begin with Hushidah’s story and Maria’s.
Hushidah Bagam is 20. For two years now, she has lived in a squalid bamboo and corrugated iron hut in a Bangladesh refugee camp. But what she left behind in neighbouring Myanmar (formerly called Burma) was worse.
“The soldiers came to our village In the middle of the night, firing their guns. The men started to run away. They were afraid of being conscripted for hard labour. This always happens when the soldiers come ‘Three soldiers barged Into our house. They ordered everyone out except me. And then they took turns with me. I do not know how long they stayed, because I fell unconscious after a while. They took with them all our possessions. My family decided to leave. My father was afraid my other sisters would also be raped. Three months earlier, they had killed my husband.”
Maria, a refugee from a different part of the world, was roughly the same age as Hushidah when she also had to flee a step ahead of soldiers.
“My husband woke me in the middle of the night. He told me we had to leave right away. He had a warning that soldiers were coming. We could take only what we could carry. I wrapped the baby to keep him warm. We walked for days. Later, we heard what the soldiers did: they killed all the boy babies in our village. Where we live now, the food and the language are strange. My baby is growing up without knowing his home country. Built isn’t safe to go back, not yet.”
Does Maria’s story sound familiar? It ought to. Read Matthew 2:13-18.
Source: Hushidah’s story is abridged from “Afraid to Go Home,’ Refugees. July 1992. Published by the Office of the UNHCR.
Epiphany – remember Jesus presentation at the Temple, His Baptism, or the coming of the Wisemen – “Three King’s Day” in D.R.
1 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, "Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him."
3 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 When he had called together all the people's chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. 5 "In Bethlehem in Judea," they replied, "for this is what the prophet has written:
6 " 'But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.' "
7 Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, "Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him."
9 After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.
The Escape to Egypt
13 When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. "Get up," he said, "take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him."
14 So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, 15 where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: "Out of Egypt I called my son."
16 When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. 17 Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled:
18 "A voice is heard in Ramah,
weeping and great mourning,
Rachel weeping for her children
and refusing to be comforted,
because they are no more."
Christian Solidarity with Refugees
Remember where you have come from – a common them in the Scriptures.
- Both our spiritual heritage, and our genealogy
Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called "uncircumcised" by those who call themselves "the circumcision" (which is done in the body by human hands)— remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
Our Savior was a refugee – when he says, Matthew 25:35-36 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”
It is not only a spiritual connect that Jesus has with the poor & the refugee, it is also Jesus experience!
Our forefathers in the faith were refugees and displaced people:
Deuteronomy 10 17-19
For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigners residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt.
When foreigners reside among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigners residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the LORD your God.
13 All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. 14 People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. 15 If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.
Many of us may have closer experience with refugees – my mother was a refugee as a child after the 2nd world war.
How many people have refugees in their family? How many are immigrants or children of immigrants?
Working with Haitian Refugees in the Dominican – some in Los Algodones are trafficked people – some are their children & grand children, some are political refugees – fleeing from violence, some are fleeing from starvation. All have the experience of most refugees – no documents, no rights in the country.
We are a refugee church
1 Peter 2:11-12 (New Living Translation)
11 Dear friends, I warn you as “temporary residents and foreigners” to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls. 12 Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world.
As Christians, our citizenship is in the Kingdom of Heaven, but we live as displaced people in Canada!
Refugees & Displaced peoples today
Refugee – leaves their home country
Internally Displaced People – stays in home country, but must leave home because of war or political oppression
UNHCR’s 2007 yearbook
“Despite efforts to find durable solutions, the number of refugees and IDPs under
UNHCR’s care rose by 2.5 million in the course of 2007, reaching an unprecedented 25.1 million by the end of the reporting period. The number of refugees under the Office’s responsibility rose from 9.9 to 11.4 million by the end of 2007. The global number of people affected by conflict induced internal displacement increased from 24.4 to 26 million with UNHCR providing protection or assistance either directly or indirectly to 13.7 million of them.”
“UNHCR Statistical Online Population Database, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Data extracted: 02/01/10
Walk through pie chart
The number of refugees and internally displaced people in the world today is roughly equal to the population of Canada
What do we do?
Love the refugee.
Many times we hear about people abusing the system in the media & we are tempted to write off the whole lot because they’re cheaters – do not let one anecdote stop you from obeying the commands of God.
We need to welcome the stranger, the alien, the refugee in the name of our refugee Lord.
Our refugee policies are often in flux, and they tend to get worse in difficult economic times – when the politicians come to your door, ask them what the Government is doing for refugees, and how they will do more if they are elected.
8 Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,
for the rights of all who are destitute.
9 Speak up and judge fairly;
defend the rights of the poor and needy.
You may find yourself able to help a refugee family negotiate the system.
Welcome the immigrants and refugees that you meet in your workplace. In greetings, in hospitality…
Volunteer at Matthew House:
Caroline talks about volunteering at Matthew house.