This is the strangest Advent for me. In some ways it is magical because I am experiencing everything in a new place for the first time. No hum drum “here we go again” feel at all. A new church with new traditions. A new city with new possibilities. A new home with new ways of decorating with my favorite things. Most days it is joy filled.
Except there is a heaviness in the air. I’m sure you have felt it too. A sense that people are shifting from a place of compassion and possibility to a place of fear and suspicion. That people are assuming the worst. That people are defaulting to choices of violence and isolation to solve age old and new problems. That people are hunkering down in the darkness of the season rather than looking for and shining the light out into the world.
I just can’t do it. I just can’t hunker down in fear and wait for something bad to happen. I just can’t assume the worst in the person that I see before me, especially if they are different from me in race, culture or creed. I just can’t ignore what I believe to be the heart and soul of Jesus’ Gospel message. So I look at the refugee crisis in Europe and I hear the talking heads around me and my magical Christmas feelings turn into sighs too deep for words.
So I invite you to read Matthew 2:13-23 about the time when Jesus was 2 years old and Joseph had to take his family and become refugees in Egypt. We’re not told how long he had to grow up in a foreign land far from home but it was until Herod, the current evil ruler was dead and gone, before it was safe to return.
I think this story has something to say to us about the refugee crisis today. This is nothing new. But time and time again Jesus himself needed hospitality and refuge and time and time again he offered hospitality and refuge. Often to those who least deserved or expected it. Even to one who would betray him to death. The stakes were indeed high for Jesus. But living the Gospel was that important to him.
And it should be that important to us as well. I pray for peace. I have been praying since 2001. I pray for hearts to find that balance between compassion and security. I know I will err on the side of compassion but I do realize there is a balance needed here. But I pray fervently that we don’t become a people that choose fear and violence as the best options before us. I pray that we can find ways to bridge the gap with those different from us and not build walls to divide us. Let’s choose the Gospel way of hospitality and compassion. Let’s be the Light to shine in our dark world with perseverance and love.
Zoya Hameed, a physician from the United Kingdom, hugs Hanin, a frightened Syrian refugee girl, on a beach near Molyvos, on the Greek island of Lesbos, on Oct 30, 2015. Photo by Paul Jeffrey
For more information about how you can help refugee relief efforts check out this link to UMCOR – United Methodist Church response.