The Christmas Strangers
by George Brisbin
December 18, 2012
Scripture Reading: Matthew 2:9-16
The strangers have left their gifts and disappeared into the distance. Joseph, Mary and their new baby are left to wonder. Strangers come from who knows where, leave gifts fit for a king and just ride off. How unusual!
Then instructions come in a dream to flee to Egypt. The road most likely taken by Joseph would have been the road to Beersheba. The road starts in Jerusalem and descends southward from Jerusalem, through Bethlehem, down through Hebron, and on to Beersheba—which is the other port of Palestine on the Egyptian desert. Joseph had never traveled this road. He had never been in any of the villages and towns along the way. The further he and his family traveled south,the more difficult talking would be, since although the language was Arabic, the dialect was changing and word usage was different.
Now they were strangers. We know little of the journey to or from Egypt; we simply know that it took place, and that Joseph with Mary and baby Jesus were strangers in that land. Someone in that land must have reached out to them and taken care of them. Someone must have assisted them with work, food, clothing and housing while they stayed in Egypt. These people had no idea whom it was they helped, nor the situation from which they fled. Most of all, they had no idea how the child of those two strangers would change the world.
Today we live along an ocean highway. Ships loaded with roundabout 25 strangers come and go from our port daily. Who are these strangers? Are they important? Should we care? We know that none of them are the earthly parents of Jesus, but who are they? Maybe it is good that we do not know, for if we did, the human tendency would be to only care for those we deemed “important” in our own thinking.
God in His wisdom presents strangers to us as—well—strangers. We have no idea who they are or if they are or are going to be “important” so we are to treat each of them the best that we can. Almost everyday, the volunteers of the Portsmouth Seafarers Center, a division of Tidewater Transportation Ministries Inc., meet and help these seafaring strangers along their way. Just like those that took care of Joseph and his little family never knew who they were helping, we don’t know the details of the lives that we touch either.
Once in a while, we get a glimpse—like the wise men who knew the child they visited was special. One such glimpse for TTM was the day a Filipino seaman requested Tagalog bibles for his brother, a pastor back home. This church had no Bibles until we shared some from the Seafarers’ Center. Who will come from that church? Perhaps it will be a great evangelist, a missionary of exceptional character, or a Christian political leader? We will never know, but we all have a chance to serve strangers, and in serving strangers we should not forget that Hebrew 13:2 says, “by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.”