In the church, we make much of the journey to Bethlehem. The tale is framed by the simple phrasing of verse 4 in Luke’s second chapter: “Since Joseph belonged to David’s house and family line, he went up from the city of Nazareth in Galilee to David’s city, called Bethlehem, in Judea.” (Luke 2:4) What is often forgotten is the bookend of this epic journey found in Matthew 2: “When the magi had departed, an angel from the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Get up. Take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod will soon search for the child in order to kill him.’ Joseph got up and, during the night, took the child and his mother to Egypt.” (Matthew 2:13-14)
The story closes with a paragraph rarely preached from our pulpits.
After King Herod died, an angel from the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt. 20
“Get up,” the angel said, “and take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel. Those who were trying to kill the child are dead.” 21
Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. 22
But when he heard that Archelaus ruled over Judea in place of his father Herod, Joseph was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he went to the area of Galilee. 23
He settled in a city called Nazareth so that what was spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled: He will be called a Nazarene. (Matthew 2:19-23)
Approaching the joy Advent (the coming of the Christ-child) and the festive time of our Christmas celebrations, it is hard, if not painful, to remember that the holy child starts his life as a Christmas refugee, as migrant living in strange lands.
The Council of Bishops (COB) of the United Methodist Church has called on UMCs to observe Global Migration Sunday on Dec. 3
, though churches may choose to observe it on another Sunday if they prefer. I join with my fellow bishops in asking the churches of the Central Texas Conference to pause to recall the tragedy of global migration in our time.
I am also quite conscious that many churches already have extensive Advent plans set in motion. As such, if you wish, it would be appropriate for a congregation to remember Global Migration at some other time. Such a time of remembrance, prayer, learning and commitment should not be lost in the hectic pace of other activities. I specifically request that every church in the Central Texas Conference make time to observe Global Migration Sunday
between now and the end of May 2018.
Bishop Bruce Ough, President of the Council of Bishops, wrote a letter to the United Methodist Church as a whole (one we shared in a banner headline on the CTC website on October 18th
) in which he reminded us that…
“From Asia and Europe to Africa and the Americas, the plight of more than 65 million men, women and children forced to leave their homes and migrate to places unknown calls all Christians to remember what God requires of us.
Wars, natural disasters, persecution, economic hardships and growing violence around the world are the major root causes of the unprecedented global migration we witness with grave concern today. As if these deadly forces were not enough, migrants also face myriad problems including hazardous travel, cultural barriers and the physical and emotional costs of arriving in strange lands where they are not always welcome and they often face persecution.
For most of these migrants, the decision to flee their homeland comes as a last resort effort to live. We are reminded of Joseph and Mary as they sought to save their lives and especially the life of the Christ child as they fled to Africa to escape the wrath of King Herod, who (threatened by the birth of Jesus) ordered the massacre of children (Matthew 2:13-14).”
We who journey to a Bethlehem stable are called to go with baby Jesus all the way. We too are called to join the Savior in the journey of migration. For most of us, following the Christ does not mean leaving home, let alone flee persecution. For this blessing, we should appropriately thank God. We are fortunate and blessed to live in a freedom! With this blessing, we should appropriately join the Lord in serving the refugee. Remember what the adult Jesus, who himself had been a refugee, said, “When you welcome the sojourner, you welcome me.” (Matthew 25:35)
Whenever you choose to observe Global Migration Sunday, I recommend that you visit umcmigration.org/resources and review the wide array of video, multi-media, presentation, digital and worship resources in several different languages.
The Migrant (from UMCMigration.org) from Central Texas Conference UMC on Vimeo.