You don’t do it lightly, do you? You don’t abandon your home, spend your life savings on a trip where there are no guarantees and risk your life in an unsubstantial boat that struggles to keep afloat even in more clement weather. Then you arrive soaked and ill. You’ve almost certainly see death on route and you are less than welcome.
Seeking asylum is not illegal yet you are treated like an illegal immigrant.
You don’t do it lightly. You come to another country whose language you can just about speak but it’s not easy. They are friendly towards you because they believe that a tyrant has illegally and immorally invaded your country. You are considered to be a person who resembles your host. But it’s still not easy living in another person’s home. Nor is finding work or being apart from your extended family or even from your closer family; many mothers and children have come from Ukraine without the family father. And you watch the goodwill slowly ebb away.
You don’t do it lightly, do you? You take your newly born son and your wife, already tired from a long journey and giving birth while you are both overwhelmed by realising you and your family have fulfilled a prophecy, and you drag them off to another country where in the past your people have been slaves. An angel had warned you in a dream about the actions that a jealous king was about to take. After the shepherds and the wise men had been so kind and respectful and after the angels had appeared and rejoiced.
We forget when we celebrate Jesus’ birth that very soon afterwards many young children were killed because of him. The Coventry Carol isn’t a lullaby for the new born baby. It’s a lament for those about to lose their lives. Herod “in his raging, hath chargeth this day, his men of might, in his own sight, all young children to slay.”
Mary and Joseph were asylum seekers. They had good reason to ask for help: their son’s life was in danger. Reason enough for any parents. His special status made no difference.
If this had happened in 2023, and Jesus, Mary and Joseph had crossed the Channel to seek refuge in the UK, would we have sent them to Rwanda?