Christmas Immigrants

The moonlight was their only light. Huffing and puffing were the only sounds. José walked in front. The trail was narrow. He didn’t want his wife to stumble. She carried the baby. He’d offered to do so, but she’d refused.

“He’s asleep,” she’d explained.

“Let him sleep,” he’d agreed.

So, they hurried, José in the lead, all their earthly possessions crammed in the backpack he’d purchased from the street vendor in San Salvador. That was weeks ago. How many trains since then? How many miles? How many cold nights?

He glanced over his shoulder. Her eyes caught his. Was that a smile he saw? She’s something, this woman, he said to himself. He turned his attention back to the trail. Mesquites on either side scraped against their jeans.

Behind them was a village. Within the village was a barn. Within that barn lay, even still, the gathered straw and abandoned feed trough that had served as a bassinet for their baby.

José heard the child whimper. He stopped.

“He is fine,” Maria assured before José had time to ask.

They continued.

The trail emptied into a river that had long since emptied its water into a rancher’s pond. The wide, dry riverbed allowed them to walk abreast. No thorns. They moved faster. He hoisted the pack. She secured the child. A blacktop was near, they’d been told.

After a dozen steps they heard the shots.

José had been warned of the danger. Just that morning, as the men warmed their hands over the fire in the five-gallon drum, he heard them speak of the cartel. Take the baby and leave, they’d urged him, these men are violent.

He’d hurried back to the barn to tell Maria, but she was sound asleep. He decided to let her rest. When she awoke at noon, her face was pale. She nursed the child and dozed again. José kept an eye toward the door. An old cowboy knew they were using his barn for shelter. He brought them coffee and beans and a blanket for the child.

“Do you know about the gangs?” he asked José.

Maria overheard and sat up from her pallet.

“You must go,” the cowboy told them.

But José wanted to wait.

“Just another day, or two. Till you find your strength,” he told Maria, though he knew she had enough strength for them both. Nothing fazed her. This sudden journey. This barnyard birth. She was the strong one.

She nodded and stretched out on the pallet. The sun was setting, and the chill was creeping through the walls. He built a fire on the floor, sat next to her and pulled knees to chest. He ventured a touch to her cheek. She did not stir. Her long hair was silk on her face. So young. Trusting.

He stretched out and closed his eyes. Sleep resisted, then relented. A messenger came to him in a dream. He was tall and light-filled. The same messenger who had spoken to him nine months earlier when spring was in the air and a wedding in his plans. But then came Maria’s pregnancy; her mysterious pregnancy. Had it not been for this midnight visitor, José might have left her.

Tonight, the messenger came again. The boy is in danger. Blood will be shed.  It’s time to go.

José sat up with a start. He knew he had no choice.

He shook Maria awake. “Get your things.”

Without a word she stood. She grabbed their few possessions and stuffed them in the pack. José lifted the lid of an old toolbox and took out the gifts. Strangers had brought them. They’d traveled far to see his son. Now, José would travel as far as necessary to protect him. Their kindness would fund the journey.

He placed the gifts in the pack and looked across the room. Maria was leaning over their son. Shhh, she assured and lifted him. Within moments the three were out the door and scurrying down the narrow street. Within minutes they were standing in the riverbed, listening the crack of gunfire. A woman screamed. A baby cried. Maria tugged on the José’s sleeve. “We need to go!” she told him.

Yes, she was right. Time was short. Safety was within miles. If only they could reach it. They hurried. The riverbed emptied onto a single lane road. They saw approaching headlights. José waved. A pickup pulled to a stop. José motioned to the truck bed. The driver nodded. The young family climbed in the back and squeezed together.

At one point the baby cried. Mary gave him milk. José looked at the Mexican sky. Stars sparkled like diamonds. For a moment, he wasn’t running, he was resting. A hacienda back home, perhaps? A home of their own, at least?

Maria dozed. Her hoodied head lay motionless on his shoulder. A pothole bumped the truck and she awoke. They rode wordlessly for an hour. The black sky gave way to gray, then gold. At the first daylight, the truck came to a stop on the side of the road.

“This is as far as I can carry you. What you seek is over the next hill.”

José gave the man a gracias and a coin, then helped his family climb down. Maria’s face was chalked with road dust. The eyes of his son were open; looking at the sky, then at his mother. The three set out on the final segment of the escape. One weary step after another carried them to the top of the hill. When they reached the crest, they stopped and stared. The river below was lined with tents, campfires, and people.

José reached for the newborn. “I’ll carry him the rest of the way.”

Maria gazed at the refugees. “Will we be safe, José?”

He looked at her for several moments before answering. The rising sun cast her face in orange.

“Si Dios quire, mi amor.”

“Yes,” she agreed, “if God wills.”

The family turned and began the walk to the border.

© Max Lucado

Now when they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said,
“Get up!  Take the Child and His mother and flee…” (Matthew 2:14).

            According to the UN Refugee agency, 70.8 million people are forcibly displaced worldwide, including 25.9 million refugees. During this season when Christians celebrate the most famous of refugee families, let’s offer prayers and assistance. World Vision is one of many ways to help. Visit this link to learn more:

12 comments on “Christmas Immigrants

  1. My heart breaks for the refugee. Lord Jesus, bless the refugees…no matter the country. Protect them, feed them…help them find protection and freedom.

  2. Thank you to the people who choose to love the way Jesus taught us.
    Thank you Max Lucado for being a fine example of Christ’s love.
    Let us “love” one another.

  3. Thank you Max, for helping us to see… not immigrants, not refugees, nor foreigners, but precious sons and daughters of our Father, as dear to him as were Joseph, and Mary, and Jesus as they too sought a place of refuge…

  4. The Lord will hold us
    accountable for how we treat the vulnerable, the refugees, those who hurt and have no resources, when we, the richest nation on earth, turn them away..

  5. Give me your tired, your poor….(Statue of Liberty) Let’s welcome those displaced, the despised, the poor, as Jesus did. Let us especially pray for the children that are separated from their parents at the Mexican border.

  6. Really? The Bible simultaneously commands Israel to welcome the foreigner and show hospitality to the stranger while issuing warnings that if Israel disobeys they will be overrun by foreigners. Is it possible that a dichotomy exists? That every Christian should individually welcome those in need and invite them into their communities (something rarely seem despite many congregations’ moral grandstanding) and that a country can determine it’s own levels of immigration that are viable for economic sustainability? And thereby, concomitantly enforce its own laws? Seems to me that even the entire tradition of just war theory, employed by Christian theologians for centuries, distinguishes between the moral obligations and responsibilities of a state and that of an individual. Thou shalt not murder and turning the other cheek isn’t applied to a sovereign state under attack of a neighboring state. Why then is there no discrepancy between the operating realm of the state vis a vis the individual in regards to the alien? Wouldn’t a better, more informed, Christian critique of the current dilemmas be to analyze the failed efforts of Reagan’s drug war, the militarily industrial complex’s funding of unnecessary regime change wars, and the various lobbying interests that push destabilization in third world countries for falsely perceived economic and security interests? Furthermore I disdain the implication that any Christian that holds to a different political opinion regarding immigration policy isn’t really a faithful Christian.

  7. Max, it may have been unintentional, but just a small suggestion:
    Perhaps somehow in your story you should differentiate between legal and illegal immigration. Jesus, nor his family, would do anything illegal. Let us remember that God is perfectly loving and at the same time perfectly just. Thank you.

  8. I can see true colors in some of the previous comments. As Christians, true believers have the Holy Spirit to guide them to the truth taught in Scripture. When in doubt, ask Him who not only inspired the Word but also brings it to our minds so we can have wisdom and discernment to act upon it.

  9. Only thing Mary Joseph & Jesus were not refugees or immigrants. Egypt was part of the Roman Empire making their journey legal easy & safe. They broke no laws. Their journey before to Bethlehem was following the law also. They were citizens. They were not criminal illegal aliens by any definition of the term then or now. Twisting scripture to fit your own perspective is an ill deed for selfish purposes.

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