That’s the number of people who were forcibly displaced from their homes by conflict in 2015.
That’s the number of refugees there were in 2015.
Is the number of stateless people in 2015, people without access to healthcare, education, employment, and with no freedom of movement.
These are 2015 numbers; I suppose we don’t have accurate numbers for 2016 yet. They’re awfully big numbers to grasp. They boggle my imagination, and they may boggle yours too. Let’s try a smaller number.
We can do three.
That’s the number of refugees in today’s Gospel reading.
Jesus, Mary and Joseph were refugees.
They’d barely be reported on today, of course. Just another Middle-Eastern family caught in the tsunami waves of lost souls, thrown up by dictator upon brutal dictator. We’d blink and they’d be gone.
It wasn’t reported on then, either. There is no mention of the Slaughter of the Innocents outside of Matthew’s Gospel. Bethlehem has only been really well known since Jesus was born there. There are around 25000 people there now, but there were less than a thousand in the time of Jesus. ‘Royal David’s city’ was just a village then.
People did remember that great king David was born there, but you can only trade on your past glories for so long. David had been dead for a thousand years. The royal line was gone, crumbled into dust. It was supposed to last for ever. Where were David’s descendants now? Any that were still around were nobodies, like Joseph.
The dream of David’s line was dead among most people. There were those who kept fanning the flames of hope for a Messiah, but most had moved on.
And now we have three refugees. Joseph was descended from David. So what? The royal blood in his veins didn’t prevent him from being on the move, looking for a safe haven for his family.
He found it in the land of Israel’s ancient enemy. Egypt.
There are two ways we can go from here to really appreciate this story. Let’s briefly do both.