Aleppo: The Christmas Story We Cannot Ignore

Most likely you have had one of two responses to the news of the fall of Aleppo and the subsequent humanitarian needs.

Cringe or ignore.


It’s the type of story that we consciously suppress from our outlook, or it’s the story that literally keeps you awake at night. It feels utterly unfitting for the Christmas season, when we go out of our way to create joy and cheer. The Aleppo situation is everything unjoyful.

But what if the pain and darkness of the Aleppo crisis is exactly the story we should be listening to at Christmas? Because it is undeniably a modern-day Christmas story.

No crib for a bed

The humanitarian crisis that has resulted from the six-year war in Syria has left millions of people homeless. Innocent families seeking safety have walked hundreds of miles to places like Lebanon, Egypt and Turkey. They’ve made treacherous journeys across the Mediterranean Sea to Europe. And some have stayed, hoping for peace.

Thousands of children have gone without a bed. Gone without a good meal to eat. They are raised to know only the life of a refuge-taker and survivor. Just as Jesus entered this world, the prospect of a thriving life was a dream. We’ve made the manger scene look cute and cuddly. The animals look docile. The hay seems soft. But when does hay ever feel soft? Baby Jesus glows with warmth in his swaddling cloth. But I’m pretty sure most stables are cold and damp, hardly the comfortable crib we’d want for our newborn child. Today, the displaced children both inside Syria and elsewhere are seeking similar arrangements. Without a home, without a safe place to go to bed, without security in what the next day may hold.

All of Jesus’s Classmates

A few major implications of an entire country engulfed in war for six years are under-education and depopulation. For those children who will have survived this enduring conflict, they do so absent of much educational benefits. Not only that, most of the children of Syria have either left the country or died. Not unlike all the baby boys that would have been born around the same time as Jesus. Herod’s massacre drained Bethlehem of a micro-generation of children, an impact that has deep and wide implications. Similarly, the children of Aleppo will face an uncertain future.

Egypt and Herod

The Adoration of the Shepherds

Jesus and His family had to wait years before they could return to their country. They fled following Jesus’s birth to Egypt and waited there until the demise of King Herod. As the Aleppo crisis unfolds, there will be millions of people who do not feel it’s safe to return to their homes. It will be a full generation of displacement.

The parallels between the painful stories of survivors in greater Syria, and the story of Jesus’s birth and subsequent exile are very real. To turn a blind eye to the Aleppo crisis is to do so to a modern-day Christmas story. If we only know the Christmas story to be one of joy and peace without the context of despair and uncertainty, then we’ve missed the full meaning of the season.

As we celebrate Christmas this year, let’s not do so in ignorance nor in guilt. But in full awareness of the story of Christ’s coming, and the poignant relevance that story has today.