Epiphany is over, the kings have set off home another way. But their arrival has triggered an appalling chain of events. Herod, then as now, thinks nothing of killing the innocent for political ends. The Christ-child is a refugee in the world he came to save. But God, who gives Himself for us all also calls us all to give an account to Him of how we have lived and loved in that world.

As always you can hear this sonnet by pressing the ‘play’ button, if it appears, or clicking on the title.


We think of him as safe beneath the steeple,

Or cosy in a crib beside the font,

But he is with a million displaced people

On the long road of weariness and want.

For even as we sing our final carol

His family is up and on that road,

Fleeing the wrath of someone else’s quarrel,

Glancing behind and shouldering their load.

Whilst Herod rages still from his dark tower

Christ clings to Mary, fingers tightly curled,

The lambs are slaughtered by the men of power,

And death squads spread their curse across the world.

But every Herod dies, and comes alone

To stand before the Lamb upon the throne.



Filed under imagination

50 responses to “Refugee

  1. Elizabeth

    The poetry that is a prayer requiring us to translate it into a kind of action, if we are able. The thought of the Magis’ paths back to their homes….

  2. Dear Malcolm, Wonderful to hear you after all this time my friend. Where are you working now are you at Newnham?

    We still continue down this long and difficult road pulling up the thorns and planting flowers!

    Andrew White

    • malcolmguite

      Really good to hear from you Andrew. I’m living in Newnham ( Maggie is vicar of St. Marks) and working at Sr. Edward King and Martyr and Girton College

  3. Cheryl

    The peace He brought lives in our hearts but unfortunately not in the world around us…”where sin abounds grace doth much more abound” His power, His love and His grace are always at work in the lives of His children….and as His children we are called to give it all away in service to others. Let His light shine in the darkness!

  4. Great poem, and really captures the plight of displaced people everywhere.

    • malcolmguite

      Thanks, I think that Christmas celebrations can sometimes become a bit too cosy and self contained so I think this story of the flight into Egypt brings an important shift of focus.

  5. Thanks, I have thought a lot about the journey of the Kings to Jesus but not of the next journey undertaken by Jesus.

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  8. This is a very powerful sonnet ~ thank you for sharing it here. I would like very much to print it in the bulletin my tiny congregation will have tomorrow morning. I’m guessing you won’t read this message in time to give me permission, so I’m hopeful that our congregation of probably 20 worshipers reading it in our morning worship bulletin will be okay with you. (I will, of course, attribute it correctly, and it won’t be used in a broad public setting.)

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  10. David

    Dear Malcolm

    With your permission I would like to put your prayer poem into our monthly church bulletin. I am part of an action group providing aid to refugees. We are encouraging the wider congregation here at St Stephen’s Church in East Twickenham who are responding with generosity and compassion.
    Keep up the good work. Every blessing on your ministry.

    David La Bouchardiere

    • malcolmguite

      Dear David yes by all means do so. Please just put ‘From Sounding the Seasons Canterbury Press 2012 with permission of the poet

  11. Mark Rodger

    Dear Malcolm,

    I’m currently planning an Advent Carols by Candlelight using #LightTheWay – the theme of Christian Aid’s Christmas appeal focusing on refugees and internally displaced peoples. I’ve been looking for some poetry which would fit the themes and this is excellent. I’d like with your permission to read this and print this in the Order of Service. I’ll add ‘From Sounding the Seasons’ Canterbury Press 2012 with permission of the poet as above. Would this be ok?
    Grace and peace,
    Mark Rodger

    • malcolmguite

      Dear Mark yes that’s absolutely fine I hope the service goes well

      • Mark Rodger

        Thank you so much Malcolm. I’ll be reading it at our team meeting as we consider how to help people engage with the topic of refugees in creative ways – I hope I can do both the poem and those it speaks of justice both then and over the coming year as I talk about God’s heart for refugees and how we can and should respond.

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  13. Sandy Salisbury

    Dear Malcolm

    While searching for suitable inspiration for our third Advent Sunday service, I came across your sonnet ‘Refugee’. We are in the middle of a fund-raising project for Syrian refugees and this Service will be focussing on that project. Your sonnet expresses perfectly the plight of refugees, Jesus’ identification with them, and His ultimate triumph over the powers of this dark world. May I have permission to read it out in the service? I expect many in the congregation will ask for the link as well. It sets the right tone as we prepare for Christmas this year.

    Many thanks,

    Sandy Salisbury
    Exwick Community Church

    • malcolmguite

      Dear Sandy yes by all means do read the poem in the service. If you want to print it in the order of service that’s also fine – just include a little note to say that the poem is from ‘Sounding the Seasons’ Canterbury Press -thanks

  14. thesnells

    Hi. If possible, I’d like to use the poem in a service at St Edmundsbury Cathedral tomorrow morning, with ‘From Sounding the Seasons Canterbury Press 2012. Would this be ok? Thanks.

  15. Tom Peryer

    We always like to have a thoughtful poem on our Christmas cards. We are using a Coptic picture of the Flight into Egypt and would very much like to use your poem on the inside. Is that possible? The ‘audience’ will be about 200 people.

    Tom Peryer

    • malcolmguite

      Yes that’s fine. Could you just put ‘from ‘Sounding the Seasons’ by Malcolm Guite Canterbury Press’ somewhere after the poem

  16. Luis Leon

    May I have your permission to copy your poem for our weekly mailing. I plan to use it in the Epiphany weekly email letter. Luis Leon

    • malcolmguite

      Yes that’s fine just say ‘taken from Sounding the Seasons by Malcolm Guite Canterbury Press used with permission’ thanks

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  19. Sally Morley

    I would like to read your powerful sonnet in our ecumenical carol service at our church in Bosham, West Sussex. Is this possible providing, always providing I acknowledge kind permission? Sally Morley

  20. Reblogged this on Persona and commented:
    Please read this. We all need an epiphany this Christmass.

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  22. Good Morning,

    I’ve just seen on a friends social media post that this sonnet is to be read at King Charles’ carol service.

    I’ve had some involvement in actively helping refugees in the past, and with the current situation and (dare I say) anti refugee stance taken by a very vocal group, hope to counter that by my involvement in sharing and campaigning, and indeed hopefully being actively involved in helping again at some point.

    My main reason for commenting here is to ask permission to share these powerful words of yours on my Facebook profile.

    Kind regards and every blessing be upon you

    Andy Hudson

  23. Richard Frazer

    Dear Malcolm,
    This is such a powerful poem. I am sure you are inundated with requests by ministers like me who’d like to make use of it at a Christmas service.
    I am minister at Greyfriars Kirk in Edinburgh and would love to quote this on Christmas Eve. I will of course attribute it. And please don’t trouble to respond unless you would rather I did not make use of it.
    Thank you for your powerful and timely words.
    Grace and peace,
    Richard Frazer

  24. Kathy Andrews

    I like this sonnet, it makes you think about the older times when Jesus was born.9

  25. Hi, I love the words of ‘Refugee’ and would like to include the words on a Christmas post on my personal WP blog, Exploring Colour. I would also link back to this page, and credit as you’ve asked people to do above. Please let me know.. thanks!

  26. markreilly52

    I heard this first as it was read in the carol service for King Charles organised by the Princess of Wales. It is a powerful reminder that God is on our side, truly with us and one with us.

    • Elizabeth Ramsey

      Yes, I also heard it for the first time when I watched the “Carols at Christmas” service at Westminster Abbey. So powerful, and then the Ukrainian children’s choir. Could not hold back tears. My own minister (Presbyterian USA) had a powerful sermon this morning on the “Holy Innocents,” and Malcolm Guite’s poem immediately came to mind.

      • malcolmguite

        Yes I thought the way they followed my poem with the Ukrainian children’s choir was very moving

  27. Vicki Fieldhouse

    Good morning
    Thank you for this impactful and appropriate poem. God has given you such a gift of expression.
    We pray God continues to bless all you do.
    Thank you
    In His name
    A family of believers in Mallorca

  28. Glenn Crain


    I’m interested in setting your words to music. Would that be something you would permit?

    Thanks for writing such a meaningful work.

    Glenn Crain USA

  29. Laurel Armerding

    Thank you for this poem. Its language strips away a husk around the past, present and future that my self-absorption builds. My first introduction to it came through its reading by King Charles at the Christmas service organized by Princess Katherine. This I watched from America on my computer. Your closing couplet made me gasp. Thank you for bringing history, the world, my small story, and the plight of the helpless into the sharpest of focus.

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