Christ as Refugee

I hope you've had a blessed start to the Advent season.

Given my post yesterday about philoxenia, the biblical word for hospitality meaning the "love of strangers," and the current debates in America about extending hospitality to refugees, I thought I'd repost some reflections about one of my favorite Advent/Christmas paintings, Luc Olivier Merson's Rest on the Flight into Egypt (1879).

I think this is a prophetic piece of artwork given the current political climate in America.

I love Rest on the Flight into Egypt for a couple of reasons. First, the scene is haunting and full of fatigue. The holy family is displaced, they are refugees fleeing violence, like so many in the world today.

Joseph is exhausted, asleep on the desert floor. One can imagine the mental and physical strain he is under trying to get his family to safety, hoping for welcome and protection in a foreign land.

But will these refugees fleeing violence find that welcome and protection when they arrive at the borders of that foreign land? Or will they face hostility, paranoia and rejection?

Will the Christ child be turned away by immigration control?

Sitting on the Sphinx, in a striking juxtaposition and lending an exotic touch to the scene, is Mary and the baby.

The baby. The only source of light in the painting.

What I like about Rest on the Flight into Egypt is how it depicts, from the very beginning of his life, the homelessness of the Messiah. God is a refugee, an immigrant, a stranger in a strange land, a person of exile displaced by violence.

May Rest on the Flight into Egypt guide your prayers this Advent season.

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