14th December 2022

Advent is a time of waiting. Olena, Olha and Oleksii had been waiting for several months to travel from Kiev. A series of delays through the dilatoriness of the British, Ukrainian and Polish authorities have frustrated the efforts of their hosts to arrange for them to come. But now they are here and can celebrate Christmas in the peaceful Devon countryside.

Probably the part of the Christmas story given least attention is the last part – the so-called flight to Egypt. St Matthew explains how an angel warned Joseph to take the family to seek refuge in Egypt because of the threat from King Herod. This was a much longer journey than that from Nazareth to Bethlehem. It was a very different place from the Egypt of Moses’ time – the last pharaoh had died 30 years earlier. While, like Judaea, it was a Roman province, it was by this time under direct Roman rule, whereas Herod was a ‘client king’ of Judaea under the Romans. Egypt was probably considered safe not least because Herod had earlier been on the losing side in a struggle for domination in Egypt, and it was certainly outside his sphere of influence. The family remained there for the first few years of Jesus’ life until Herod died.

There have been many refugees both before and since the time of Christ and, no doubt, there will be many after the Ukrainians. Nevertheless, as we come together to celebrate Christmas, let’s give a thought, and, indeed, a prayer for today’s refugees, who are far from home.

David T Roberts