A Long Way From Home
It sounds familiar
by Brian Radcliffe
Suitable for Whole School (Sec)
To encourage us to consider the plight of refugees.
Preparation and materials
- Choose two or more readers and encourage them to read with sensitivity. You may wish to play some gentle music in the background. The script uses two readers, but more readers could be used if needed.
Leader: We’d like to tell you a Christmas story.
Reader 1: Once upon a time, there was a Palestinian couple. The man was a skilled professional. They weren’t poor, but they weren’t especially affluent either. They lived a comfortable existence in a small town.
Reader 2: Sadly, their lives weren’t entirely under their own control. Palestine was under the thumb of an occupying force. A Western European government, far away across a treacherous sea, had formed an administration and laid down the law.
Reader 1: For reasons of their own, the government officials of that faraway country decided to count every member of the population, including those in the occupied lands. However, rather than counting people where they lived, they insisted that every man return, with his family, to the place where he was born. For this couple, it meant a journey to a town many miles away. They had to take to the road.
Reader 2: Oh, by the way, the woman was pregnant. Not three months pregnant, or even six months, but nearly full-term. The last thing she needed was a long, hot, uncomfortable journey.
Reader 1: But when the foreign government says, ‘Go!’, everyone has to go, including the sick, the disabled and the pregnant.
Reader 2: The roads were full and progress was slow, especially because of the woman’s condition. When the couple eventually reached the town where the count was to take place, all of the accommodation had long since been taken. They were turned away many times by residents who were fed up with the influx of visitors. Finally, due to the kindness of one man, they were able to camp for the night in a barn behind his bed and breakfast.
Reader 1: Maybe it was the jolting on the donkey that the woman had been riding, or maybe it was simply her time, but she went into labour that night and gave birth to a boy. He was placed in a makeshift bed, a cattle trough, surrounded by the warmth of animals.
Reader 2: I assume they all made it to the count and then returned home. I wonder if the new baby was added to the number . . . However, a new crisis was looming for this travelling family. Fearing a threat to the security of the country, the local authorities organized a cull of all the male children who had been born in the previous few years. Boys were torn from their mothers’ arms and slaughtered in the streets. The family fled for its life, enduring yet another long, hard journey, this time as refugees, without home, possessions or friends. They sought asylum in a country far from their home and eventually found safety.
Time for reflection
Leader: Of course, we probably all recognize this story. OK, so we’ve cut out the shepherds, the star, the wise men and lots of other details, but it’s the traditional Christmas story . . . or is it? This family’s experience is the same as today’s migrant families, refugee families and asylum-seeking families, who have been trudging from their homes, searching for a place of safety. They’ve been forced to travel by the actions of governments, by fear for their lives.
The news often highlights the plight of people who have left their homes in the hope of a new life and a future that’s free from war and pain.
You may wish to bring the refugee crisis story up to date at this point in the assembly.
Maybe we’ve helped to give some form of aid to the families, through money, food or clothing. And many of us will have formulated our opinion about how a small, crowded island such as ours can best fulfil the moral obligation to help fellow human beings in their time of need.
As we approach Christmas, let’s allow the Jesus story and today’s news to interact with each other. When we bring to mind the images that we’ve seen of refugees streaming along the roads, of temporary accommodation, of babies born in railway stations, we can let these become the images of the Christmas story.
It can be tempting to airbrush the experience of Joseph and, especially, Mary. Jesus’ birth probably wasn’t an easy or cosy experience for her. The stable would not have been clean and the facilities would have been inadequate, to say the least. Yet this, Christians believe, was how God chose to enter our world: to identify with those on the lower rungs of the ladder. He became one of us. He identified with our difficult lives.
Let’s also believe that there is hope in what appears to be a hopeless situation for many of the refugees we see. If governments work together; if we offer something of the plenty that we have; if we are welcoming to those who are without friends, country or family; then a new life beckons.
You may wish to give details here of any projects within your area.
Christians believe that Jesus’ birth represents the beginning of a whole new era for humanity. Maybe current migration can represent the beginning of a new era for us.
Thank you for the stability of our homes, our communities and our lives.
Open our eyes to opportunities to share this stability.
Give us the will to act.
‘When I needed a neighbour’, available at: https://youtu.be/grnEc0vhtyo (2.45 minutes long)