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Faith Comment published in the Petersfield Post

30 December 2015: Judith Bee, St Mary, Buriton

Forced to flee…

The turkey’s finished, the carol books have been packed away, the decorations are looking a bit jaded; back to normal life after what I hope was for you an enjoyable Christmas celebration!

Back to normal life. I wonder if that’s what Mary and Joseph were hoping for after the panic of finding somewhere to give birth, visits from shepherds and Magi, stories of angel hosts. “Once we get back home …!” There was no chance of that however. St Matthew relates in his gospel (Matthew 2:13-15) that, following a warning in a dream, the holy family fled from the threat of genocide by the tyrant Herod. They ended up as asylum seekers in Egypt. I wonder what sort of welcome they received there, whether they were taken in and helped or shunned and treated shamefully.

The pictures in the last few months of terrified refugees fleeing for their lives and washed up on European beaches have touched us all. Locally there have been several initiatives to help them, both in the short term through providing tents, blankets and clothing where they are needed, and in the longer term, with the possibility of providing accommodation. In some of our cities, where the concentration of refugees and asylum seekers is high, many people are opening their homes and their hearts to provide welcome, support and love.

Joseph, Mary and Jesus knew the harsh realities of seeking asylum, of trying to exist in a foreign land, culture and faith, separated from family and friends, destitute, and with no means of knowing when, or even if, it would be safe to return home. Yet Jesus was and is Lord of all. He promises to bring us out from darkness into light. He is Emmanuel which means God is with us. All of us, always.

See photographs of Christmas Messy Church, the PACT Carol Service in The Square and Christmas Day Lunch at the Methodist Church

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