On this third day of Christmas, we remember …

But God became a refugee

Matthew 2:13-15 After the wise men were gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up! Flee to Egypt with the child and his mother,” the angel said. “Stay there until I tell you to return, because Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” That night Joseph left for Egypt with the child and Mary, his mother, and they stayed there until Herod’s death.

Hebrews 11:13-16 All these people died still believing what God had promised them. They did not receive what was promised but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed it. They agreed that they were foreigners and nomads here on earth. … They were looking for a better place, a heavenly homeland. That is why God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.

The UNHCR estimates the number of people forcibly displaced as 84 million, with 48 million internally displaced and over 26.6 million refugees. At least six million of those are Venezuelan, making Colombia the second-largest receiver of refugees (Turkey is first). Those numbers don’t fit in my head. A current Venezuelan refugee article describes some of the hardships.

But God is at work, even in the terrible conditions playing out around the world. Over the last months since the forced exodus of so many from Afghanistan, our friends Ted and Claudia Limpic have been telling us one amazing story, not of exploitation but of extraordinary care.

Brazilian missionaries Samuel and Julia (not their real names) lived in Afghanistan for ten years, learning the language and loving the people. When many of their Afghan friends were able to flee to a nearby country at the end of August, Samuel and Julia joined them, and helped in every way they could. They had positive conversations with people at the Brazilian embassy there about granting humanitarian visas to the refugees. The process included translating for two family interviews per day (nine per week) and arranging travel to Brazil—amid opposition from the local authorities in their departure town.

Samuel and Julia (left) with Afghan refugees in their transition country

Meanwhile, an organization in Brazil worked hard to prepare a place for a growing number of Afghan refugees, building chalets for them. On Thanksgiving Day, the first group arrived in Brazil, and by Christmas Eve the remaining refugees of a total group of seventy arrived to start their new lives. Samuel and Julia are now getting a well-deserved rest in their hometown in Brazil. As Ted said, “Only God’s strong hand could have opened so many closed doors!”

On this third day of Christmas, when we remember and grieve the Holy Innocents, the children who died as Herod sought to eliminate the baby whom he viewed as a threat to his throne, I take comfort from Jesus himself becoming a refugee. Though he was a baby, his Father experienced through him the displacement, the grief, the many, many challenges.

Since the Son himself has gone through suffering and testing, he is able to help us when we are being tested. … So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most (Hebrews 2:18, 4:16).

And as we receive mercy and grace, God can show us how to pass it on—perhaps even to refugees, as did Samuel and Julia.

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