Houston is situated on one of the world’s great migratory highways for birds. For more than a decade we lived in the middle of the city on a piece of land that was also a small, secluded forest beside Buffalo Bayou. My second story office looked out into branches of the trees. I kept count of the varieties of birds that drifted through. As I recall, the total exceeded 100. Many of them were there for only a matter of days and then gone for another year. Their survival depended on their migration.
It’s not just birds that travel. A few years ago, AAA estimated that more than 93 million Americans would travel over the Christmas holiday. Even Jesus and His family traveled over Christmas. Mary and Joseph traveled from Nazareth to Bethlehem (nearly 90 miles). And then, after Jesus' birth, an angel warned them of Herod’s murderous plan and they traveled again to Egypt (at least 200 miles depending on the destination). Eventually they returned to Nazareth after the death of King Herod.
There is, of course, a tremendous difference between traveling for the holidays and migrating for survival. Human migration is one of today’s top headlines. The influx of foreigners is proving to be a significant destabilizing force in many countries. By the grace of God, I was born into the United States of America where I have lived with the kind of peace and freedom that many in the world can only dream of. If instead, I had been born in Aleppo and my house had been bombed into smithereens, I would join the long migrating column yearning for a cup of soup, a warm bed, and shelter from the rain.
It is naïve to think that the humanitarian need can be separated from complicated political realities. But one thing’s for certain, we are disciples of a Savior whose earthly life was preserved because of migration. In 1896 Charles Sheldon’s book, In His Steps, (subtitled What Would Jesus Do?) was published. As we face a New Year, that question remains at the fore for those who follow Jesus. What indeed, would Jesus do today?
from Winfred Ernest Garrison
Thy sea, O God, so great,
My boat so small.
It cannot be that any happy fate
Will me befall
Save as Thy goodness opens paths for me
Through the consuming vastness of the sea.
Thy winds, O God, so strong,
So slight my sail.
How could I curb and bit them on the long
And saltry trail,
Unless Thy love were mightier than the wrath
Of all the tempests that beset my path?
Thy world, O God, so fierce,
And I so frail.
Yet, though its arrows threaten oft to pierce
My fragile mail,
Cities of refuge rise where dangers cease,
Sweet silences abound, and all is peace.
- Winfred Ernest Garrison
Now 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.’ Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfil what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, ‘Out of Egypt I have called my son.’
There are times when we want something, and as much as we hope, and pray, and long for it, when it finally comes true, we just can’t believe it is real. The people of God longed for the Messiah—and when Jesus came, he was all that had been promised—even to us: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace.