Listen to this devotional:
Listen while you read: "I've Got Peace Like A River"1 (Lyrics)
Matthew 2:19-20 – When Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt. "Get up!" the angel said. "Take the child and his mother back to the land of Israel, because those who were trying to kill the child are dead." (NLT)
The topic was refugee sponsorship. The conversation was intense, and finally one of those at the meeting said, "Just once, right?"
It might have seemed that way to someone new to the refugee crisis. The conflict in Syria had churches responding as churches always do. It's time to roll up our sleeves and start the sponsorship program, again.
Those with little or no memory might be forgiven when they thought that this was something new. They weren't at Pier 21 in Halifax when boatloads of refugees arrived from Hungary, many of those coming from Reformed or Presbyterian backgrounds. Maybe they read in books about the flood of Vietnamese who were welcomed into our country, or the boat people from Sri Lanka, or maybe they had just listened to the latest news broadcast about Afghan refugees seeking safety in Canada.
We Christians have a heart for refugees from wherever they originate. Here's the start of the story of one such family:
- Into the wild and painful cold of the starless winter night
came the refugees, slowly making their way to the border.
The man, stooped from age or anxiety,
hurried his small family through the wind.
Bearded and dark, his skin rough and cracked from the cold,
his frame looming large in spite of the slumped shoulders.
This family of three made it to Egypt where they lived for a while as terror reigned in their homeland. This story, called "The Refugees" written by Ann Weems, is the story of Joseph and Mary fleeing with baby Jesus across the border, one step ahead of Herod's soldiers.
- At last the man breathed deeply again,
reassured they had not been heard.
And into the night continued
Mary, Joseph and the Babe.
This story is often shared immediately after the idealistic "Babe of Bethlehem" story called Christmas. But the two stories are meant to be seen together. It was written of Jesus that "He came to his own people, but they didn't want him." (John 1:11 MSG) The message is simple: it's a lot easier to accept a newborn baby than a fleeing refugee.
In the soft glow of this Christmas season, let your prayer illuminate the world of the refugee. In so doing, experience Jesus in this aspect of his life and mission and thank God anew for all that Jesus has done and for what Jesus means to the homeless and helpless of this world. Oh, and in case you wondered, it is never "just once".
Prayer: God of our wandering ancestors, long have we known that Your heart is with the refugee: that You were born into time in a family of refugees fleeing violence in their homeland, who then gathered up their hungry child and fled into alien country. Their cry, Your cry, resounds through the ages: "Will you let me in?" Give us hearts that break open when our brothers and sisters turn to us with that same cry. … Lord, protect all refugees in their travels. May they find a friend in me and so make me worthy of the refuge I have found in You. Amen. (A Prayer for Refugees, Catholic Relief Services)