The boy sank to his hands and knees one more time. This time, his young Egyptian mother did not drag him back to his feet; her last ounce of strength consumed by the merciless desert sun. She turned away as the life of her firstborn slipped from her grasp. The boy’s father was a wealthy Bedouin called Abraham. Her name was Hagar, the slave of Abraham’s wife. It was a long story, but she was no longer welcome in her masters’s household; forced to become a fugitive, by a man chosen by God.
Fast forward a couple thousand years. Under the cover of darkness, a young woman wraps her baby boy in a shawl, and with her husband, flees from her village. Leaving her people and her homeland she travels, by foot, to a land of foreign faces, of a tongue she has never learned. This small family make their way through unfamiliar sounds and smells, navigate a new culture, to find a place to bring up their son in safety.
A short time before, visitors from distant lands had come to visit her and her baby boy. They had told, their eager eyes glistening, of the destiny of this child. They had spoken of things which had filled her heart with joy and excitement, but a dark misgiving also. Then news had come of the king’s edict to kill every baby boy in the land. Mary and Joseph had no choice, but to leave all that they knew and hide in Egypt. The land they fled to for refuge was the land of Egypt, part of the territory of the descendants of Ishmael, the son of Hagar.
Ironic, that the Christian Messiah would be hidden among the descendants of Ishmael; the son rejected by Sarah, the wife of Abraham. All of God’s wonderful promises to Abraham were to be fulfilled in this baby boy, Jesus, yet he had to become dependant on Ishmael for his very survival. He became a refugee, uprooted from his people, in order to become the Saviour of the world.
Another 2000 years, and it’s now 2015. An unprecedented tide of humanity is washing up on the shores of Europe. Our continent, shaped by 1700 years of the influence of Jesus, is now the hope of millions whose homelands have become virtually uninhabitable. From the thousands camped at the Jungle in Calais, and those arriving daily in rubber boats on the Greek island of Lesbos, to the doggedly persistent, crossing the border from Russia to Norway by children’s bicycle; this is now a global humanitarian crisis.
Winter is approaching fast. Many are dying in the mud and squalor on Lesbos: ill-equipped volunteers are pouring their lives into helping the ones and twos, but this is bad. A volunteer on the island wrote:
“We, the volunteers in Moria, are completely desperate. I am completely desperate. The situation is inhuman, it is not possible that this is happening to people in Europe. Yet it is happening, my god it's happening and people are dying out there, people are collapsing in my arms and dozens of babies will die of hypothermia over the next few days.”
The Independent quotes Yvette Cooper:
“These life vests are for kids in swimming pools,” she said, obviously disturbed by the vast scale of human tragedy unfolding on this small island of just 80,000 people. “It’s not designed for crossing the Mediterranean in October. It just makes me feel angry that we can’t do better than this. Europe has so much ability to do so much, but we are failing these people.”
Jamie Merril, Tuesday 27 October 2015
Shivering on a beach
This is our time. This is our opportunity. The same Jesus who we love to worship is arriving day after day, in a rubber boat, on a bicycle, camping in a tent, lying shivering on a beach…
“‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’”
Matthew 25: 37-40 ESV