Just Once, Right?

Monday, December 27, 2021
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)

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About the author:

Kenn Stright <kennethstright@yahoo.ca>
West Petpeswick, Nova Scotia, Canada

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1 Comment

  • PresbyCan Feedback says:

    Thanks for the inspiring insights, Kenn.

    Thank you, Kenn, for this timely reminder! Blessings.

    What a powerful reminder Kenn! Thanks for sharing that wake-up call to us!

    Thank you, Kenn. This brought me a memory of my mom taking in a family from Cuba in the 60s.

    Great reminder, Kenn. May God bless all refuges as they seek new homes and touch all of us to be ready to help them!

    Dear Kenn:
    Thank you for a moving devotional.
    I plan to share it with my congregation.

    Thank you Kenn
    Such a valuable perspective for us to appreciate instead of the usual white baby story!
    Many Blessings.

    Thank you, Kenn, for reminding us of the refugee Family as they fled to Egypt and the many refugees who need to leave unbearable situations in their homeland now. May the LORD give them courage and strength, and may they find strangers who will welcome and help them in their new land.

    Kenn, your comments remind me of our journey to Canada over the Winter in the late 1950’s. We spent four months in England in a “holding pattern”, waiting for the plane (not boat) ride to Canada. Our longest stay was at a Church Army Hostel. Perhaps it was our not knowing the language, but NOT ONCE did we hear a complaint or resentment towards us, refugees. Only in recent years, I was shocked to learn that at the time of our stay, England was still handing out post-war food stamps. I am sure God blessed well the generous people of those times.

    Dear Kenn,
    A powerful devotional that all Christians need to be reminded of about refugees, especially me. I am comfortable in my life of ease having been born in Canada. I need to do this “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”.
    Thank you for sharing this important topic. I was listening to this music which I don’t know and reading the lyrics which are also very moving. May our eyes be open to the many stories of others to help our hearts to respond. May 2022 be a year of much goodness in His World. Blessings.

    Kenn, may the Lord use your reading today to inspire others. My husband and I started a Ministry to new Canadians in our church many years ago. It helped immigrants, refugees, asylum seekers get established in Canada. It changed the face of our congregation, which was resented by many.
    Then our denomination sent us as delegates to a refugee conference. It got us into sponsorship, and we have been involved since then but not with our local church.
    Your reading moved me to tears as I thought of our church turning down twice the opportunity to do sponsorship when both times, we had money independent of church funds available.
    My heart breaks during this pandemic when I see refugees stuck in camps, stopped in their journey because the pandemic has stopped refugee migration. Is any refugee work happening where you are in NS? It has basically stopped in our area.

    Thanks Kenn, reading this makes me look at the birth of Jesus and their journey to Egypt in a different way, never thought of them as refugees. The prayer is so good.


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