My name is Stanley Ayashim, I am a spouse to Rubiyasima and a father to three children. I am a pastor at First Lutheran Church on the East Side of St. Paul and a graduate of Luther Seminary.
The story of the holy family’s migration from Bethlehem to Egypt is quite a relatable story to many immigrant families in today’s world. The holy family was forced to leave Bethlehem because King Herod wanted the King of Kings dead.
Like the Holy Family, we have become vulnerable and uprooted because of violence and dangerous leadership.
My family moved from the chaotic Kaduna State of Nigeria to Minnesota. In Kaduna, bad leadership from the government has led to the incessant killings of many innocent humans who would have been especially useful to their families and communities. Between my time of being here in Minnesota from 2019 until the present, I have had to cry for the death of at least eight humans who were grossly killed by terrorists without any recourse. One of those is a senior pastor I had worked with in committees before coming over for studies at Luther. Not to mention the ones I know very closely who have been kidnapped and some women even raped at their kidnapper’s den. As horrific as this situation is, it is certainly not new. The holy family experienced threats and forced poverty multiple times, along with their entire community. In that context, any place to come in from the cold and sleep in safety is a blessing.
Questions for reflection:
- Why have you or your ancestors been uprooted or moved to a new place? Does this echo in any biblical story for you?
- Who are the immigrants in your neighborhood or region? Do you know why they ended up there? How might you find out?
A place to lay your head
After my graduation from Luther Seminary, I have been blessed with an “inn” here by a loving, godly family who offered me a place to live with my family, to bless us and the ministry we are involved in doing here in America. We often do not remember the family who owned the inn where our savior was born. Though it was not in the house itself where the birth took place, the manger belonged to the family. Imagine if this birth had not happen in the place where God had destined it to take place. The story would have been different. This is the family that gave hope in the time of hopelessness, the family that opened their space for the baby Jesus to be born during chaos and danger in the life of the holy family.
Sometimes I imagine hope in the “manger” of people’s homes, the “manger” of people’s hearts and generosity. That smile, or moments of decision to do something extra for an individual who is in need could serve as the “manger” that someone needs to survive. It is important to understand that in the world we live in today, there are constant wars and rumors of wars. Therefore, there could be many holy family experiences in America, just as we have recently witnessed from Afghanistan, Ukraine, Myanmar, and many other parts of the world. The reasons for families to flee in today’s world have outstripped the love that is available to accommodate those who have been harmed by the evil of the many Herods we hear about in many places around the world. It is only interesting to me that God did not make available an expensive five-star accommodation for Jesus to be born in. A manger is accommodation that every home at that time had, no matter how poor they were. Clearly in today’s world we see hopelessness and despair in many fleeing every kind of danger that projects itself in life.
Questions for reflection:
- Can the immigrants around you count on you to help them with your inn? Do you see yourself as one whom God can use to bring about the needed shelter for them?
- In your heart or on a paper, can you name one person/family that you have seen the need to help? What is stopping you from making the move to open the door of your heart to help?
Signs along the way
I have often shared an illustration of traffic lights to mean a place of hope in the point of despair. There are moments when one gets to the traffic light, and it is red. Those are moments when everything in your life seems dangerous. That moment when it is not right for you to move forward with whatever decision you thought you had taken that was right, those are times one mostly cannot reverse because there could be a car coming behind. Sometimes it is more difficult when the wait time is longer. This is when I tell myself that, in every moment of chaos or pain caused by someone or certain events of life, there is always the moment when the light will turn green.
In the Biblical narrative about the Holy family, we can see Joseph having the traffic light experience: when he thought to himself to put Mary away secretly due to the fear of “public disgrace.” Soon after Joseph had the thought, the angel appeared with the green light, encouraging Joseph to proceed with his plan of having Mary as his wife. Based on Joseph’s cultural experience it was normal to be afraid, but it was also important to watch out for the green light, that moment of hope when one’s faith begins to be lifted again after waiting. Particularly when we look out for the signs from God through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us all. We still see the green light indication in this story when we remember that the shepherds were guided by a star, likewise the holy family is guided by the green light of the angel’s appearance with directions.
Questions for reflection:
- What are your struggles right now as you anticipate the coming of Emmanuel in your space today? Are you waiting in fear or anxiety, wanting to put away something due to public disgrace?
- Do you see hope, like myself, in odd places? What are some things that joyfully give you hope in the place you are right now?
It is important to surround our lives with the good news by looking around us to see what God is doing even during difficulties that we see prevalent. Interestingly, God still speaks words of hope to us now, even in our moments of despair or fear. All we need to do is to look around us to find that one thing we can be thankful for because it gives us joy. Sometimes you cannot find that one thing while you search. I will encourage you to be thankful that you can read these words written to you today in love.
May God’s blessings that bring joy to you today abound in every aspect of your life that needs to flourish. Remember you are a beloved child of God created in God’s image and likeness, no matter what happens, God’s image remains true in and through you. Merry Christmas.