A Story of Immigrants

27 12 2010

BY DALE E. LUFFMAN,
Council of Twelve Apostles

Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. —Matthew 2:14, 15 NRSV

Traditional readings often overlook an important piece of the marginalized context of Jesus’ birth.

Jesus is birthed by an unmarried teen engaged to an older man. The birth took place in humble surroundings—amid farm animals bedded down for the night. The circumstances and environment marginalized Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus. But the family further was marginalized as one of many ordered to register with the government—as dictated by an imperialistic foreign power.

This, according to Matthew, was the reason for their trek to Bethlehem. People often forget Jesus was born into a poor, marginalized family in a country presided over by a ruthless client-king who executed the imperial domination and influence of Rome. But that context is important to understanding the good news of the gospel.

According to Matthew’s account, the scandalous birth also provoked Herod’s paranoia and fear. He worried his own children might be excluded from the throne because of the news the Magi brought to his court. After hearing the Magi’s inquiry, Herod further marginalized Jesus’ family members by forcing them to become political refugees.

Joseph had to take “the child and his mother by night” and leave for Egypt. Joseph fled to escape execution of the babe by Herod’s soldiers. The holy family became a family of refugees. In Egypt, they became immigrants—not by choice, but by circumstance, as are many immigrants.

Reading of the circumstances surrounding Jesus’ birth reminds me of the sacredness of all life to God. It reminds me God cares for the whole world and all inhabitants. It reminds me policies lacking respect for life and the dignity of all should be called to account.

It is not accidental the holy family also is an immigrant family, a family on the margins.

Reading the story of Jesus’ birth reminds me of my need to be sensitive to the unnecessary suffering of the world. It calls me to promote community in which all, especially the stranger, are welcome. It encourages me to promote immigration policies and procedures that are humane, fair, and based on the equal worth of people, regardless of their country of origin.

Public policy on immigration should show respect for the life and dignity of all persons. It should stand in solidarity with the marginalized and not with the Herods of this world. The story of Jesus’ birth calls me to missional witness!


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3 responses

28 12 2010
Marvin Kleinau

It would be hard to argue with Brother Luffman and specifically hard to disagree with his wish for humane treatment of immigrants. Never the less, it would seem that the author is mixing apples and oranges in the tone of the piece. Joseph fled with Jesus in order to avoid the death of Jesus, and came home as soon as it was safe. The general concern for government policy, which officially (thought not enforced) argues that immigrants ought not come into this country for economic reasons with every hope of staying, as thousands have. A better analogy might be those who were forced to flee their homes in the early days of WW II. As with Joseph, those refuges did not wish to leave their home, but they had to do so to avoid the Nazi bullets. As I see it, the policy currently on the books, even if enforced, would not mistreat the immigrants, but rather seek to give order to an important process. Egypt did not kick refuges out 2000 years ago and neither are we today.

27 12 2010
Bill Gunlock, Taipei Church

Brother Luffman’s commentary on the birth story touches my heart. Even if Bishop John Shelby Spong is right about saying that many Bible scholars believe that many of the Jesus birth stories really didn’t happen and were written late in the first century in the Matthew and Luke accounts to bring attention to the importance of Jesus, still they have much value, as Brother Luffman illustrates. I was an ESL instructor in the States for 43 years and had listened to the tales of grief and of hope and joy of economic and social opportunies for these immigrant lives, Stateside and for family in their home countries. I had also heard and read American public criticism of USA immigration policies but knowing also the huge contribution these immigrants, with and without papers, make to the USA economy. Whether Americans agree or disagree with the immigration issues, still the Christmas story of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus as immigrants should touch our hearts and prompt not only Americans but other world citizens to care for the welfare of the marginalized.

27 12 2010
William L. Raiser

Great message. Finally someone in Church leadership calling into question the immoral policies of the US and other governments.




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