Looking for bright lights in the darkness of this Advent season, wonderful moments with refugees come to my mind. Emmanuel means God-with-us, and I truly do sense the presence of God in a particular way with these newcomers to our shores who have fled their countries.
Normally, people don’t want to leave their homes. But if home becomes “the mouth of a shark”, many are forced to leave. Please read Warsan Shire’s poem Home (Warning: not an easy piece).
“The mouth of the shark,” meaning horrific circumstances—came up in a recent conversation. Over three decades ago, the woman I was talking with fled massacre and starvation in Pol Pot’s Cambodia. Since then, she has welcomed and served other refugees here at Jubilee Partners. We were lamenting the tragic global conditions that she has endured and that so many are facing this very day. “Children cry without tears because…” she faltered, eyes wide, groping for words, “their bodies—all gone…”
Sadness is magnified during holiday seasons. This Christmas, the sad plight of people fleeing their homelands is worse than ever. We who try to live according to the best of biblical values are urged throughout the Hebrew scriptures and the New Testament to love the alien as we love ourselves and welcome the stranger as though that person is Jesus. At the very least, these innocents deserve our sympathy. And yet, there are those—even avowed Christians, Muslims and Jews—who scorn refugees, spit upon them literally and figuratively.
Daily, I see the deep gratitude of people who have found refuge in the U.S. And I see joy, too, in their whooping laughter at cultural surprises and in their singing and dancing. Complexities notwithstanding—and I don’t think anyone has ever said or thought that cohabitation on this little planet of ours would be simple—let us celebrate the new life and diversity refugees bring. My prayer this Advent, when we wait in longing for love to overpower hate, is that we will love like never before and find ways of welcoming the strangers in our midst.