First we learn that Jesus was the baby of a young couple who were in the midst of travelling and the conditions he was born into were less than desirable for a birth or a baby. Then we hear that because of a threat to his life, his parents had to take him as a young infant to Egypt, so that he would not be killed as their first born son. Jesus was a refugee. Did he have to be quiet as a refugee child? Was he traumatized?
My mother and her two sisters were all born during the second world war. My grandfather was a German soldier fighting in the war, and my grandmother was left alone with those three infants who were born during difficult times very close to each other. She then had to take her three small daughters and flee from the Russian soldiers. They found refuge at a farm in the country side. The place was so filled with refugees that my mother and her sisters had to sit under the table as toddlers. My grandmother had to make sure the toddlers were quiet, so that the farmer’s family would not throw them out.
I remember when I was two or three, my parents rented an upper floor in the house of an elderly couple. Everyday after lunch the couple would take an afternoon nap, and my older brother and I had to be quiet above their heads. I remember my mother’s urging that “I had to sleep and be quiet”. It felt like a “life and death” urgency. Somehow I got the message that we could be thrown out if we were not quiet.
I remember when my daughters were three years old and would not want to be quiet and take a nap, I felt this deep “life and death” urgency about them having to be quiet and sleep. I think I scared them in my attempt to “make them sleep”. I felt deeply fearful, even though there was nobody anymore who could have threatened and thrown us out. Refugee trauma spans through generations.
When we church people sing “sleep in heavenly peace” during Christmas, we easily forget that Jesus was a refugee. We forget that Christmas involves trauma. Trauma that is unconsciously passed down for generations. God enters traumatic places. God identifies with refugees. God becomes a refugee. Our current world story has become a large refugee movement. And those who are not refugees need those who are on the move “to be quiet”.
Let us not “be quiet”. Let the church become a voice for refugees. Let us “God people” speak up for those hidden under tables. Let us be the voice for the refugee children who are still separated from their parents. For those whose very existence is being “hushed”, until we hear that yet another refugee child has died from lack of care.