Pastoral Ponderings for December 2018
“While they were there, the time came for Mary to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.” (Luke 2:6-7)
“Now after the Wise Ones had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.’ Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod.” (Matthew 2:13-15)
Jesus spent the vast majority of his days as a homeless man, from the first breaths he took as an infant born in a crude stable to his last breaths upon a crude cross. But, as a young child, not only was he homeless, Jesus was also a refugee, having fled for his life for a number of years with his family to the land of Egypt.
Meanwhile today, thousands of Central American refugees—reportedly half of them women and children, fleeing violence and poverty–are seeking sanctuary at our southern border, during this very season in which we celebrate Jesus’ birth. Is there still no room in the inn? In this Inn that is the richest nation our world has ever known? Surely we have more resources with which to welcome them than barbed wire and tear gas.
As people who follow the loving Way of a homeless refugee, our hearts ache as we hold simultaneously the pain and the hope of this Advent and Christmas season. None of us individually has the political or economic power that Herod had. None of us individually can shelter the thousands of refugees at our border or the millions of children in the United States who go to bed hungry. This is the pain we witness to and experience, as people of moral conscience. Yet, we also witness to the resilience and strength of HOPE collectively in the hearts of parents who seek safer and healthier lives for their children and of people along the caravan route who’ve offered tortillas, a drink of water, clothing and medical care and of churches and other humanitarian groups who are welcoming them at the border in a different, more compassionate, way. Collectively, we human beings DO have the power—the greatest power of all, the power of Love—to incarnate the message of the homeless refugee we follow to truly “love our neighbors as ourselves.”
Can and should we enjoy to the fullest all the fun and festive blessings of this holiday season? Absolutely! As Madeline L’Engle writes, “joy is the infallible sign of the presence of God!” Can and should we recommit ourselves during this Advent and Christmas season to living out our faith, simultaneously holding the pain and the hope of our human family, and—where and whenever we can–providing food and drink, clothing and medical care? Absolutely! In the words of our homeless refugee/teacher, “I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”
During these especially difficult times within our country and our world, how blessed we are to be a church family wherein we find loving support for the individual and collective challenges we face. How blessed we are in this Holy Season to celebrate the rebirth of HOPE. How blessed we are to know the JOY of God’s Love reborn in a manger and in the hearts of each of us. Advent blessings of Hope, Peace, Joy and Love to you, dear friends.
Faithfully your co-pastor,