Istanbul is a city full of contrasts… and surprises. Visiting Turkey last year with Open Door, an organization that works with our persecuted brothers and sisters, we spent several days in the city that once divided the East from the West. It boasts some of the most pristine, church architecture in the world, some Christian and some Muslim.
But it is a westernized, Muslim city. Starbucks has made its way there and we drank coffee atop a five-story Starbucks on the Black Sea, looking from Europe into Asia. Making our way back to our hotel on our last evening, we walked past a family; a father… mother… and two or three small children… huddled under a blanket against the chill of the evening.
Our hearts were moved by the sight… refugees, our guide told us. They would soon be forced to move by the hotel management. We ran quickly to our rooms and gathered our remaining food store… protein bars, crackers and peanuts… and the warm clothes we had brought for the trip. Though we did not speak Syrian, they understood and gratefully received the gifts we offered. They were gone the next morning, no doubt evicted by security guards.
These were not beggars. They were not vagabonds too lazy to work. They were a family displaced by a war they did not understand and that they took no part in; pressed out of their home by a power struggle.
I think about this family as I remember that our Lord, for a time with His earthly parents, was also a refugee living in Egypt. Not homeless, not beggars. They had an address in Israel, just as likely as that family had one in Aleppo. Jesus’ family was also forced out of their home by a power struggle that made no sense and that they probably didn’t understand.
And I wanted to tell this Syrian man and his family that there was a Savior named Jesus who understood exactly where they were… even though they had no address in a city of with millions of people. He knew the cry of the refugee family… He had lived as one Himself.
He knows your cry tonight… no matter how far from home you may have wandered.
So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. Matthew 2:14-15a
Our Father, You know the path we take. Some take the path of the refugee tonight. Some are in hiding from the terror of warfare. Some are in flight from other things unseen. Wherever we live tonight, may we know we do not have to wander the path alone. There in One who sees us…and understands. In Christ alone we pray, Amen.