By James E. Flynn
And so it came to pass. A ruler in Egypt ordered his top attorney to demand that border guards stop desperate peoples trying to cross into Egypt. The King knew that parents with children were fleeing massacres in their homelands, but Egypt would not accommodate hordes of refugees, with fears that some could be intent on bringing harm to citizens of Egypt. The Egyptian ruler and his attorney seemed to be on a campaign to demonize and criminalize those migrants seeking refuge.
So the call went out to the border agents to separate children from parents if they tried to cross the border. Maybe this would stop caravans of donkeys or camels with humans aboard from trudging through the deserts.
Mothers may wail in uncontrollable moans, but the message must go out to one and all back where the massacres around Bethlehem raged: “if you try this tactic we will snatch your child and imprison you parents...we have a ‘zero tolerance’ in place to discourage immigration, even if migrants arrive in a caravan of camels”.
But one couple with a young child plowed on anyway through the desert, hoping that this threat would be avoided in their desperate case.
Back home they had been warned in a dream that a local King named Herod would murder all the children in order to find the one he feared, one called a king by visitors from somewhere in the East.
For this family of three the Egyptian border finally loomed ahead.
As the parents approached the border they felt some relief and security as they desperately sought to escape the infanticide behind them.
But the agents were vigilant and ready. At this border there would be no exceptions, no matter how dangerous it may have been back there.
So border guards snatched the infant from this crazed mother’s arms. Her screams were like Rachel’s voice in Ramah as she too wept bitterly for her children.
All to no avail because orders were invoked.
The King of Egypt had often made the case to the cheers of his followers: “they could be terrorists – keep them out of here!”
So the babe was whisked off to waiting officials. A disconsolate mother and father were locked behind barriers to await the decision of an Egyptian judge.
The couple was eventually freed, but watchful eyes of Egyptian faithful zeroed on both Joséand Maria to assure that no one would give them work or allow them to search for their infant. It was the law prohibiting illegal persons from crossing that sacred border, and that law could not be broken. No exceptions, no matter the dignity of any infant or the terrors in a homeland.
Sadly this was history being repeated. In this same land of Egypt an infanticide was once waged by another Egyptian Pharaoh against this family’s ancestors.
Fortunately one infant was rescued by an Egyptian queen who saved the child from a massacre of infants of foreign-born and slave parents. This one infant, Moses, would grow to be a confidant of the King of Egypt, and eventually lead his people out of that slavery from his adopted land.
Moses’ personal history prompted him to keep reminding his followers through the ages: “you must not molest the stranger or oppress him” (Exodus 22:20). Moses often repeated his command: “You must not oppress the stranger; you know how a stranger feels, for you lived as strangers in the land of Egypt” (Exodus 23:9).
Later in life Jesus reflected on his ancestral and family history, and preached as part of his final sermon: “I was a foreigner (aka immigrant) and you welcomed me into your home” (Matthew 25:35) – with the opposite: “I was a foreigner and you did not welcome me” (Matthew 25:43).
Later the author of the Book of Hebrews (Christian Scriptures) reminded his listeners and readers: “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it” (Heb. 13:2).
So, rulers, take note! Officials, beware! Border guards, pay attention! Citizens, do not forget hospitality! The frightened guests at your borders may be angels of hope for all who are reside in your lands.