This morning I read an article by Benjamin Perry from Sojourners magazine. He connected two texts from Matthew’s Gospel in a way that is compelling in light of recent actions toward asylum seekers at our southern border and the coming of Christmas. I highly recommend the article.
I also read Leonard Pitts’ article from the Miami Herald (via the News and Observer), “What part of ‘love thy neighbor’ do we still not get?“, and I also recommend that one.
In the second chapter of Matthew we hear of Mary and Joseph’s flight with the baby Jesus to Egypt. They were fleeing violence, Matthew tells us, much as thousands from Honduras and Guatemala find themselves doing now.
Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” 14 Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt (Matthew 2:13-14)
Later in that same Gospel, Matthew relates a message Jesus delivered while teaching about the nature of the Kingdom of Heaven. He speaks of a time when “the Son of Man” will “come in his glory and all the angels with him.” “He will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats,” Matthew tells us.
34 Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38 And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39 And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ 40 And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ 41 Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; 42 for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matthew 25:34-46)
Just this past week, our government fired tear gas at asylum seekers on our southern border.
If we take Jesus words seriously, then we have tear-gassed Jesus, Perry argues.
As we celebrate Christmas this year, let us remember that Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus are presented as migrants fleeing violence in Matthew’s Gospel. The one who taught, “Love your neighbor” as well as “Love your enemies”, is the one we celebrate every year at this season. This year in particular we have a lot to contemplate.