Incarnation and immigration
By Ross Reitz
Christmas is the time of year when we reflect on how generous God has been to us, and this reflection of our Father’s generosity causes us to be generous to others. Ultimately, we come to the end of our reflection at the utter, incomprehensible amazement that God’s generosity even extends to giving us His Son.
The fact that God would even allow, let alone plan, for His Son to be wrapped up in human flesh and enter our world as a baby is amazing in itself. But how can we ever grasp that God did this because we, His creation, had so walked away from Him, that He sent His Son to be one of us, to walk in the midst of us, to experience the same pain and brokenness that we feel, and ultimately to die for us?
Yet, as the gospel writer Matthew tells the story of Christ’s birth, he invites us to go past the beauty of the story and to make a decision. The decision of Christmas is the same decision of Easter: will you accept God’s gift of His Son?
Matthew’s story of the Nativity relates the wider political context of Jesus’ birth. Herod, the political king over Israel, is told that a new king has been born in Bethlehem. In his desire to keep political power, he orders the murder of every Jewish boy under 2 years old. To protect His Son, God sends an angel to warn Jesus’ earthly parents of Herod’s plot. Mary and Joseph flee to Egypt and stay there with Jesus until Herod dies.
This may be the part of the Christmas story that is most important for us this Christmas. Not only did Jesus, the Creator of the Universe, face the humility of becoming a helpless baby, he had to face the disgrace of becoming a refugee. His parents had to flee with only what they could carry and had to start a new life in a country where they did not know the language.
As people who say we follow Jesus, what would we do if we met Mary, Joseph and Jesus at the border? Would we deny them entry because they came from a Middle Eastern country known for violence and uprisings? Would we allow them to enter, but separate Jesus from Mary so that we could discourage other Jewish women from coming to our country when their children were being killed? Would we pass laws that made it illegal to allow Jesus into our country, and that we had to follow the law as part of our worship of God?
If we truly serve Jesus, we will desire to follow His actual teaching and not just use Him as a Get Out of Hell Free card. Jesus’ teaching is very clear. In Matthew 25, he says to his followers, “I was a stranger and you invited me in.” But when he looks at those who never accepted him as Lord, he tells them specifically, “I was a stranger and you did not invite me in.” When the disobedient ask Him when they had failed to invite Him in, Jesus says, “Whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.”
As Christians, we serve a God who is always sharing, even to the point of death. Years ago, many people walked around with buttons that said “Keep Christ in Christmas.” But how do you do that? Simply by saying “Merry Christmas” instead of “Happy Holidays?”
If you want to keep Christ in Christmas, you first need to have Christ in your heart. And it’s difficult to defend that you have let Christ in your heart if you won’t first even let Him in your country.
Ross Reitz has been a Suffolk resident since 2009. Prior to that, he taught the Bible in Africa for two years and spent six years as a teacher at a Christian school in Philadelphia, Pa.