The birth of Jesus brought great joy to Mary and Joseph, but it also involved significant trauma. The news that Mary was pregnant seriously threatened her reputation for purity and integrity in her home village of Nazareth. The circumstances of the birth were extremely difficult as Mary gave birth to her first child in a stable, in a strange town, without the support of family and friends. Then, soon after the birth, Joseph had a dream in which an angel of the Lord told him, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” So they left Bethlehem at night and went to Egypt to live in exile while Herod sent soldiers to kill all boys in Bethlehem under the age of 2. It was several years before Mary and Joseph and Jesus returned to their home village of Nazareth.
In our world today there are many people who have left their home countries in fear of their lives. Some have been threatened by the political powers in their country, others fear religious persecution. They have experienced significant trauma in leaving their home country, family and friends and settling in a strange place.
The Bible teaches Jews and Christians to welcome strangers and to be kind to them. The reason we should do this is that the Jews experienced slavery in Egypt until the God brought them out into freedom. Many of the early Christians also experienced persecution and had to flee to places of safety. The kindness we show to people from other countries living amongst us is a response to the kindness we have experienced from God.
A few years ago a young couple from the Middle East arrived in Britain as refugees. They were facing persecution in their own country. When they arrived in Britain they were detained in separate holding centres. It was their first experience of Britain and they were afraid, especially as the wife was expecting her first child. In the centre she was given a Bible and read these words from Psalm 42, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” Through these words God spoke to her and gave her his peace.