Breaking Family Tradition - The Migrant Story Continues

Third Sunday in Advent

Breaking Family Tradition - The Migrant Story Continues

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” -Psalm 19:1

This third week of Advent focuses on hope. In studying the Bible I realize it speaks of humanity, all of its flaws and how we have a God who so loves us and wants to show us the way. I can almost hear our Creator saying, “Gee, they just aren't getting this. I'm going to have to go down there,” and then he joins us in the form of baby Jesus.

But our faith story begins long before that moment when God created the world and we got ourselves kicked out of the Garden of Eden, and we start the family tradition of ignoring what God wants of us, making our lives all the harder. Mother Mary did not turn from God, and she became pregnant with baby Jesus. Joseph didn’t turn away either, and everything turned out all right… at least for us.

Let's not gloss over what the cost was for Mary and Joseph. The moment the baby was born, the family was forced to migrate for political reasons. The king thought baby Jesus was a threat and wanted the child killed.

Can you imagine Mary’s fear when she is told to leave for Egypt because King Herod is trying to find and kill the baby whom he sees as his rival? Did Joseph wonder what he had gotten himself into? Would they survive the trip? Would he be able to earn a living? Did he doubt Mary's vision at any time? Egypt is a place where Jews are not welcomed. In the Exodus story, Egyptians were sent ten plagues and the Pharaoh's son died. Would the Jews in Egypt accept Mary and Joseph if King Herod was after them?

Mary, how hard was it to leave your cousin Elizabeth and your nephew, who would become John the Baptist? You two were so close, that Elizabeth knew when you were pregnant. The first two steps of your journey must have been the hardest, your heart crying out to stay with your loved ones and have the support of the women in your family as a new mother. Did you look back? Were you racked with tears of homesickness? Surely you had fears. Is this the right thing to do? What if the baby gets sick? What if Joseph is hurt along the way? What if we aren't accepted when we get there? The biggest question of all is not really a question: With your child's life at stake, do you really have any other choice? Hope lay in the long, dangerous, exhausting journey to a land of unknowns, with maybe the chance to return one day to loved ones. As a family they made the hard decision to leave loved ones and migrate into the unknown, because the unknown was safer.

As a deaconess in Southern Arizona working on immigration issues, I hear this story repeated often. The names are now Maria and José, but nothing else changes. Think of the child or children you love. Has not God granted us the privilege to love so deeply that we would sacrifice our lives for the sake of our babies? Looking into the eyes of a newborn we see hope and are compelled to protect.

So the big questions this advent season for those of us who struggle with the issues of migration and immigration are: Does this story change for you simply because the names are Hispanic? Why? Why is Jesus’ migrant story acceptable, but not the story of a child in danger today who seeks safety in another land? Why is their story so offensive that we want to turn them away?

In my work, I see the false “god of rationalization” telling us things like: “they take our jobs,” “they are smuggling drugs,” “they cost us money,” “they don't belong in 'our' country.” For some, it is the same false god who allows us to attend church on Sundays to chant that all things belong to God, that we are all made in the likeness of God, that “...thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven....” For those less schooled, their question then is, “If what is in heaven resembles what we do here on earth, why would I want a relationship with such a shallow God?” But God is not the god of rationalization.

In this season, as we gather together to celebrate the birth of a child who is the symbol of hope, let us acknowledge that He is among and in each and every one of us and act accordingly. The birth of Jesus is still a symbol of hope, in being able to leave behind our old lives and enter into the new life where we can live to our full potential by leaving behind our fears, our sins, our old ways. Let us leave behind that old family tradition of ignoring what God asks of us. It is called repenting. Perhaps today’s families are migrating because they are responding to the will of God, just like Mary and Joseph did.

Marjie Hrabe is a deaconess in Arizona.

Posted or updated: 12/11/2015 11:00:00 PM