According to UNICEF, the Syrian conflict has forced 5.5 million children to become refugees; that’s roughly the population of Scotland or Denmark. The numbers are difficult to comprehend as anything other than statistics. The sheer human cost of this is overwhelming, safer processed through reports and spreadsheets than faces or tears. We get compassion fatigue, the headlines fade from the news, we stop talking about one crisis and move on to the next.
Isn’t that always the case? We hear the numbers and forget the names, names of the countless millions throughout history forced to leave everything they knew in order to save their lives and the lives of their families.
Names like Marlene Dietrich. Albert Einstein. Freddie Mercury.
Even that may be doing the displaced a disservice, remembering only the famous. There is more to the idea of Jesus the Refugee than simple biography.
There is a solidarity between Jesus and those who run, and making Jesus too ‘establishment’ risks eroding that solidarity. I don’t care how great your worship band is, how many books your pastor has sold, I suspect that Jesus, were he here in the flesh, would be heading for a Syrian refugee camp way before any of our churches.
Maybe that’s the power of Incarnation; not just that God became human, but that he became a refugee, an outcast, someone with scars on his hands, someone whose parents never forgot the night they had to run a hundred miles towards the safety of another land. An incarnate God of love will always be found among the poor, the weak and the suffering, rather than in ivory towers and gleaming palaces and religious arrogance. It was those things he fled and fought and ultimately they nailed him to a cross.
There are moments and spaces in which healing can begin, when children stop drawing bombs and start drawing butterflies. And these spaces can exist in the chaos and confusion and heartbreak of refugee camps, or soup kitchens, or shelters, or… A form of resurrection can be found in the worst of places, and as followers of an incarnate, refugee saviour, it’s our job to help create and maintain and defend those spaces.
That’s a challenge.
It’s outside our comfort zone.
I guess incarnation always is.