December 22, 2010

Resident Alien

I must confess that the phrase still makes me look cautiously over my shoulder. It just sounds too strange. In case you have forgotten, a resident alien is a foreigner who is a permanent resident of a given country.
Read the Christmas story with this concept in the back of your mind. Joseph and Mary arrive in Bethlehem—they are not from Judea, but from notorious Galilee. They are outsiders and get treated that way. The Wise Men from the East are foreigners, looking in a strange place for an unheard-of event. A king is to be born—not in Jerusalem’s palaces, but in a cave or a shed where animals are kept.
When the angel tells Joseph about the imminent danger to the baby, the family escapes to Egypt, on a journey none of them had anticipated. They are refugees, trying to survive on the precious gifts that God had supplied through the goodness of the foreign Wise Men. Imagine Joseph (who most likely traveled without the tools of his trade) trying to make ends meet in a country where Aramaic (or Hebrew) was not understood. Imagine Mary trying to shop in the open market, not understanding much of the whirlwind negotiations.
Life is not always easy for a foreigner living in a new (and often strange) culture. Matter of fact, life is often very tough. The refugee, the guestworker (as they have been called in Germany), the foreigner, the stranger, the alien—they speak differently, they eat differently, they dress differently, and they often think differently. Jesus became a resident alien—Immanuel, God with us—so that anybody, including you and this resident alien, would be able to find an eternal home where there will be no more “aliens.”
Gerald A. Klingbeil is an associate editor of the Adventist Review. This article was published December 23, 2010.