Every few years the old story is given a political twist and used to manipulate something or someone. The story of Mary and Joseph and the a baby born in a stable is used to push some agenda or another usually about the homeless and the hungry. The Pope dragged it out again and identified The Holy Family with the migrant waves that are moving across the globe and that they arrived in a land that had no room for them. There are enough Biblical mandates to care for the hungry and homeless and the alien that we don’t have to make up stories and about Mary and Joseph. Once again we have to set the record straight. A radio announcer talked about this the other day and he made more sense. If the Pope was talking about the journey to Bethlehem, the Holy Family were not migrants, they were the victims of bad timing and overarching government. They had to leave the town of Nazareth and travel to their home town because they were being taxed. The King James is at least honest. Other translations call it a census. The only reason a government takes a census is for taxation. The arrived and had no place to stay because Joseph probably forgot a reservation. They were not poor and homeless. Joseph had a job that he had to leave for a time to walk 100 miles to sign up to be taxed. They didn’t stay in a barn long, Joseph was able to find lodging in a house somewhere because that is where they are when the Wise Men show up.
If the Pope is talking about the fight to Egypt that is a different thing, and with the state of reporting today the article about the Pope’s comments are not all that clear. King Herod wanted Jesus dead and he begins the slaughter of all the babies under the age of two. Mary and Joseph and the baby flee to Egypt having been warned in a dream and in that sense they were political refugees. I have always been caught in a conundrum here because I am a child of the culture. On the one hand I am offended that the Pope and politicians use Jesus in political ways as if equating Him with the homeless will somehow help the homeless. At the same time I am offended that we have to take the real politics out of our religious discussion because after all, “religion is private”. The flight to Egypt by the Holy Family dispenses with this nonsense and show that the birth of Jesus is a very public threat to principalities and powers and Kings. Jesus is born in the circumstances He was because of government fiat and a very public government action. He has to flee because of the political calculation that the death of hundreds of baby boys is expedient that this one child not live. Fredrick Dale Brunner wrote that the Herod’s of this world hate this child Jesus, and they ending up murdering children.
Frederick Dale Bruner, 2004. The Christbook: Matthew 1–12. Revised edition. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.