About that time, leaders of all sorts and stripes, for a myriad of well-debated reasons, ordered cuts to budgets and the raising of fences throughout the Western World.
This wasn’t the first census to forge a consensus on how not to somehow, someway, make room for screaming children and begging grandparents caught in the conflict of Syria, the conflicts of the whole bloody and warring world.
Everyone in the killing fields had to flee their ancestral hometowns to have any chance to be accounted for as simply one human being who wants a chance to keep breathing, keep hoping, to keep simply being.
So there were Josephs and Jacks and Johns who fled to any House of Bread they could find, refugees who had been vetted by at least 15 different government agencies like the State Department, Department of Homeland Security, Terrorist Screening Database, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Interpol, Automated Biometric Identification System and they took with them the women they had married, some who were swollen with pregnancy and starving for hope.
But there was no room for them in the inn.
Was there really no room for them under skies that don’t drop bombs, no room for them in air that doesn’t scream with bullets, no room for them, made in the image of God, on the whole of this planet made by God, to not be hunted human beings just seeking refuge with the people of God?
While they were running and banging on doors and hanging on to unraveling threads of hope, the time came for a baby to be born; and a terrified and bone-weary woman Mary gave birth to her first child, a Son.
She wrapped Him in a torn coat, and laid Him in a manger, an animal feed trough, and she prayed that there was somewhere safe for her family to be seen as human —- that violence wouldn’t eat them alive.
That night there were Christ-followers, part of the flock of God, staying in countries on the edges of the killing fields, who were praying for God to move right into their neighborhood.
Christ-followers who knew that the chance that you would be killed by a refugee terrorist was one in 3.6 billion a year — that’s a 0.000000028 percent chance.
Christ-followers who know that if the people of God cannot be a place for the 28 million are child refugees facing evil violence, then the people of God cannot say they are with God.
Out under the same stars that fleeing and oppressed slept under, the Christ-followers heard the word of God from the prophet Isaiah:
“Give the refugees…
sanctuary with you.
Be a safe place for those on the run
from the killing fields.”
Show your… hospitality.
…The desert’s swarming with refugees
escaping the horrors of war.” Isaiah 16:3, Isaiah 21:13-15
Suddenly, God’s Spirit moved among them and God’s glory blazed around them and God’s purposes work mightily through them.
And the Spirit of God moved in their spirit:
“Don’t be afraid. You aren’t called to be a people of fear, but a people of faith.
You aren’t called to be afraid of some future unknown— because you abide in a known God who holds all the future.
You aren’t called to be fear driven — but to step out in faith. Christ’s love crushes all fear everywhere.
And the Spirit of God’s here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide — yes, for the people who look differently, dress differently, believe differently, a message meant especially for everybody, worldwide, and all the better if you invite other people into your own neighborhoods to experience it:
A Savior has been born in David’s town, a Saviour has been into this world, into the hearts of His people, a Savior who is Messiah and Master and a Messenger of Welcome to all Peoples.
This is what you’re to look for: an innocent baby wrapped in a hope, and a fleeing mother wrapped in trauma and a desperate father wrapped in exhaustion, and you’re to look for the Other who doesn’t seem at all like you but is more like you than know, because:
When you look into the face of the Other, you see a reflection of the face of God. And we become the face of Hope.
When we love the other — we discover that there is no other.
What you’re to look for is the image of God in everyone —
and you’re never to stop looking like the One lying in a manger who left everything that was comfortable to offer others hope of comfort.”
At once the angel was joined by a huge angelic choir singing God’s praises:
Glory to God in the heavenly heights,
Peace to all men and women on earth who please Him — Peace on earth to all who please Him by living like Him – who live with arms stretched wide open in surrendered, cruciform love like Him.
As the cranked Christmas carols crooned, as the angel choir tried to shake earth with a bit of heaven, the flock of God, out beyond the killing fields, rose and found the hoping babe, the fleeing mother, the desperate father, and saw the Son of God in them all, and seeing is believing: seeing the image of God in others is part of believing in God.
And as Christ-followers genuinely came Home to Him for Christmas and became home this Christmas to hurting people He created, the babe in the manger testifies: Hope is found in the smallest of miracles. Be the smallest yes, the smallest open door, the smallest reaching out —and believe in explosion of hope miracles.
And all who saw those following God like this, were moved to follow a God whose people said like Job: “No stranger had to spend the night in the street, for my door was always open to the traveler.” (Job 31:32)
They were moved to follow a God whose people knew that when they reached out to the marginalized and the oppressed, they were reaching out to Jesus: “For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited Me in, I needed clothes and you clothed Me, I was sick and you looked after Me, I was in prison and you came to visit Me. “(Matthew 25:35-36)
They were moved to follow a God whose people lived like God:“He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those we are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt.” (Deuteronomy 10:18-19)
Like Mary, the people of God kept all these things close to their hearts, holding them as part of their deepest truth because they knew it’s relatively easy to pontificate on how to live the gospel — and it’s infinitely harder and more necessary to incarnate the gospel in your life.
And wise men and women do more than still seek Him — they seek to be like Him.
The wise men and women still bring their life as their surrendered gift to God and know: Our theology is often best expressed in our hospitality.
The wise men and women know that in the past, the people of God may have been defined by what they are against — but, in this defining moment in history, the people of God get to be clearly defined by what God is for — and God has always been for the stranger, the sojourner, and for being the welcoming arms of the Savior.
The wise men and women still really following Christ never forget that the Christ-child’s earliest experience on earth was as a refugee — and He is the Saviour who rescues all us of us who have been refugees, far from home and God.
Jesus whose father obeyed the angel of the Lord who appeared to him in a dream, saying “Get up and take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”
Because Herod, like a thousand leaders and Presidents and Prime Ministers after him, had commanded the killings that left babies dead in the streets — and even now, this day, in the cities near us and in the true people of God, Jeremiah’s sermon is fulfilled:
A sound was heard in Ramah, and around the world, in the heart of every child of God,
weeping and much lament for the injustices that are in us,
Rachel weeping for her children, the people of God weeping for the millions of displaced children, every child of God refusing to do nothing because:
How can we not move heaven and earth to let those fleeing violence in, when Heaven moved and came to earth to let us in?
Sometimes the way you persist in the ways of God, is to resist the ways of Herod.
And the Word became human, became real to us and real in the World, and He moved into our neighbourhoods in a thousand ways and Jesus, who once was a child refugee, comes to us in the disguise of the desperate refugee —what if to deny Him is to deny our identity as Christ-followers?
The one who is the true Light arrived to shine on everyone coming into the world —
and across a dark world a thousand, thousand faces light with Hope.
Because there is a light that shines in the darkness, in us, and never can the darkness anywhere ever extinguish it.
And all around a world of nativities, candles light and hearts burn within us —
and injustices go up in smoke and the light of Christ flames on like a faith that can never be put out.