Mary, Joseph, Jesus, the donkey, refugees and asylum seekers

Writing in the New York Times, Ross Douthat discusses a range of perspectives on the biblical Nativity story, most of which seem naïvely wrong. However, he does make one useful point:

Then, finally, there’s the secular world picture, relatively rare among the general public but dominant within the intelligentsia. This worldview keeps the horizontal message of the Christmas story but eliminates the vertical entirely. The stars and angels disappear: There is no God, no miracles, no incarnation. But the egalitarian message – the common person as the centre of creation’s drama – remains intact, and with it the doctrines of liberty, fraternity and human rights.

Many people, myself included, do not subscribe to the theology of the New Testament that is found in the Gospels but will agree with what Douthat terms the “doctrines of liberty, fraternity and human rights”.

The Gospel according to St Matthew describes the Flight into Egypt where Mary, Joseph and Jesus fled the infanticide of King Herod (surely one of history’s really bad guys). The interesting thing about this description is that it is just that, a description. There is no sense of moral outrage in the narrative, certainly no solutions.

Joachim_Beuckelaer_-_The_Flight_into_Egypt_-_WGA02113Early refugees arrive by boat

The is one of the important elements of the narrative of the Gospels, they describe in a series of parables what happens to ordinary folk. In this particular story, it is about dreadful persecution of the common people by those in power.

Christmas is an opportunity for us to reflect on the stories such as these and to consider the plight of 5 million people displaced from Syria and the 30,000 people languishing in detention centres in Australia.

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