By Angelique Walker-Smith
“So he [Joseph] got up, took the child and his mother during the night, and left for Egypt, 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.” —Matthew 2:14-15 and Hosea 11:1
As the seasons of Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany unfold, we are reminded of the joy surrounding the birth of baby Jesus. But the birth was also a time when the Holy Family could not find room in the inn and became migrants, blessed to find asylum in Egypt.
They were subject to policies that were cruel and unwelcoming. Better known in Christian history as the Flight into Egypt, Matthew 2:13-23 and the New Testament apocrypha tell us about the visit by the Magi to the Holy Family, followed by an angel who appeared to Joseph in a dream—telling him to flee to Egypt with Mary and the infant Jesus since King Herod would seek the child to kill him.
The Pan-African Devotional this month addresses this timely biblical narrative of joy, hope, and struggle.
Evram Dawd from the Coptic Orthodox Church (Egyptian) reflects on this in his devotional about the slaughter of the innocents. But he also points out that the birth is a source of encouragement for all, including those who are affected by hunger and poverty.
Minister Hazel Cherry invites us to see Christ in every child. She states the following: “We must work for a world with no hunger and poverty and where justice for children is a top priority.” Evangelist Michael Howard invites us to celebrate the gifts of God’s renewal, restoration, and rejoicing Spirit because of the birth of Jesus.
Dr. Ekue relates the Flight to Egypt to the “millions of people who have to flee their homelands to new destinations today. Entire families escape with the hope that that their children will be able to fulfill their dreams in a more secure [place].” Their stories remind us that Jesus began his earthly life as a migrant.
The UNHCR reports there are 68.5 million people around the world have been forced from home. There are also an estimated 10 million stateless people who have been denied a nationality. One individual is forcibly displaced every two seconds because of conflict or persecution.
In the United States, the Trump administration is responding to this humanitarian crisis at our southern border by separating and incarcerating families, detaining and prosecuting parents, turning away asylum seekers, and deploying the military. The administration’s announcement to deny asylum to migrants seeking protection, is not only cruel and impractical—but also the antithesis of the welcoming gospel of Jesus Christ.
Respecting the right to seek safety without fearing punishment must be protected in federal policy. Instead of continuing unnecessary and immoral detention, deportation, and dangerous border policies, our country must follow the historical lineage of hospitability and moral leadership experienced by the Holy Family.
Angelique Walker-Smith is senior associate for Pan-African and Orthodox Church engagement at Bread for the World.