by Aaron White, 24/7 Prayer Canada
Jesus is in the caravan.
It is 2021, and life is as hard for migrants, refugees, and displaced people as it has ever been. Many borders are closed, agencies are hard-pressed to help, and even our neighbours are suspected of being dangerous to us, let alone strangers from other lands. Politicians continue to inflame fears against foreigners and refugees to provoke anger against their political foes.
We tend to pay attention when things are sensationalised or politicised, but then our attention moves on to other things. But refugees are not political leverage or media fodder.
The stories of the millions of internally displaced persons and asylum seekers all around the world story haven’t ended just because our attention has been diverted. Each displaced person is a beloved child of God, made in His image, intimately known.
And Jesus is present with them.
Advent is a time in the Christian calendar when we remember the incarnation of Jesus and prepare for his return. The story of Jesus’ birth - well-worn through Nativity plays, Christmas carols, and seasonal television specials - seems overly-familiar. But perhaps the actual Biblical story is less familiar to us than we think.
If we celebrate the forced journey of Jesus’ family from Nazareth to Bethlehem; sing about mysterious wise men from the East causing political unrest in Jerusalem; and read about the violent policy that forced the holy family to escape to another land; but fail to see how this might connect to the 82.4 million displaced people in our world today, then perhaps we really haven’t understood the story as well as we should.
Scripture is consistent in its view of how the people of God are to receive orphans, widows, and strangers. "Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers..." (Heb 13:2) "God executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing. Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt." (Deut 10:18-19)
Jesus became the ultimate sojourner, taking on human flesh not in comfort and security but under threat and displacement. If we can believe that Jesus is present in our worship services and around our family tables, then we must be able to imagine Jesus on the road with people who have lost everything, a situation Jesus and his family knew first-hand.
Mary and Joseph sought shelter when they arrived in Bethlehem for the birth. People from all over the world are still looking for shelter and welcome as they arrive in our communities at increasing rates. There are things we can do to receive them well.
Our vision is to help people survive and recover from forced displacement. We do this together with the church, both globally, and locally in Canada.