In the story about the birth of Jesus, we are told that there is a census to be taken related to taxation, and therefore Mary and Joseph must travel to Bethlehem, Joseph’s ancestral home, to be counted.
As the story presents it, this trip is to be undertaken to facilitate the funding of the occupying government that is oppressing the Jewish people. So, obviously, this is not a trip Joseph and Mary would want to take.
Then there is the timing. Mary is pregnant. Not the time you want to walk or ride a donkey for days on an unwanted trip. And, not what you want to be doing close to your delivery date. That’s when you want to be home, on familiar territory, taking it easy, with your family close by, and trusted women to counsel you.
But we are told of an unwanted trip at an unwanted time. We are told of a couple thrust into unfamiliar, even unwelcoming circumstances, at a precarious moment. It’s not ideal. In life, many times migration is not ideal. People must undertake transitions at inopportune moments. A war breaks out and people are forced to clear out to stay alive. A wildfire sweeps through destroying people’s homes. A political change makes it impossible to stay put. A mudslide or tornado or hurricane leaves people homeless and they must relocate. Threatened gang violence may force a move. Many times, people are on the move whether they want to be or not. They are forced by outside circumstances to migrate to stay alive. Maybe you have been in this circumstance at some point on your life’s journey.
The story of Mary and Joseph invites us to have compassion upon those forced to move, to migrate, by circumstances beyond their control. Can we think about being understanding? Can we think about making the way easier and more comfortable? Can we be welcoming? Can we offer hospitality and help? Most people who migrate are not hostile invaders. They are desperate souls clinging to life.
It’s ironic, isn’t it, that just as we are re-telling the migration story with no room at the inn, the US government is debating funding a border wall with Mexico. Hopefully our lawmakers will revisit the Christmas story and know what to do.
Seeking to live and flourish, may we make our way toward Divine Love this Advent season. Amen.