At this time of year, we often hear songs telling us “I’ll be home for Christmas” and “There’s no place like home for the holidays!” However, for countless refugees around the world right now, they are not at home but instead in some unfamiliar place as exiles. Scott Armistead M.D. of Richmond has been serving medically- and culturally-disadvantaged patients for most of his distinguished thirty-plus-year career, both here in the US and in Asia and Africa.
Armistead was recently speaking with a young man from the Middle East. Some years ago the fellow’s grandparents had fled their native Afghanistan for what they had hoped would be a more peaceful and tolerant asylum in neighboring Pakistan. However, because they were a Shiite Muslim family in predominantly Sunni Muslim Pakistan, they were still persecuted so the grandson had to flee for safety. He is now in the Richmond area.
Dr. Armistead, while working with this young man, realized that the Josephs in the Bible were also refugees. Joseph in the Old Testament went to Egypt involuntarily because his greedy and jealous brothers sold him into slavery. Joseph in the New Testament fled to Egypt after an angel warned him to escape so King Herod’s soldiers could not find and kill baby Jesus. While much focus at Christmas is on Mary, Joseph gets little fanfare. Thinking of the emotional, mental, and physical burden Joseph must have experienced while running with his young family for their lives, Armistead wrote this poem for Christmas 2021.
Flight to Egypt
Weary, heaviness weighs on eye and frame
Though each day had plenteous troubles of its own
Just now the sudden, unexpected came
And we must leave again what we have known.
The feet still sore – the memory seems still fresh,
Of swollen legs and baby soon to come
As then, tis now, my fears would my faith crush
As threats of violence force us now to run.
With child in arms we flee into the night
The questions plague my weary mind again
If not for dreams of God’s veiled story bright
I’d wander to despair’s well-worn terrain.
–Scott Armistead M.D.