Praying for Immigrants: Christmas 2018

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The below email was sent to Prayer Partners from Matthew Soerens, Evangelical Immigration Table Coordinator, on December 18, 2018:

Dear praying friends,

My childhood memories of Christmastime — whether my recollections are accurate or have been romanticized as time has passed — are bursting with joy. “It’s the most wonderful time of the year,” a season of laughter and family togetherness, gifts and special foods, music and lights, wonder and hope. At its most sacred, of course, it’s a season of joy as we reflect on the birth of Jesus, a moment that changed history forever as God took on human flesh and dwelt among us.

But this year, if I’m honest, while I love to see this happiness reflected in my small children’s faces, I’m not fully feeling it. I’m more mindful than I used to be of the suffering in our world, in our nation, in my own community, my own family. Given the work I do, immigration-related headlines are stuck in my mind: a seven-year-old girl dies of dehydration after reaching the U.S. border. Families persecuted for their Christian faith (among many others) are shut out of the hope of resettlement in the U.S. Asylum-seeking children are separated from their parents, with proposals pending that could dramatically scale up the numbers of families kept apart. Close friends fear what 2019 will bring, with the likelihood of court decisions that could remove their ability to stay and work lawfully in the U.S.

All is not calm. All is not bright.

I’ve been finding solace in the version of the nativity story found in the Gospel of Matthew. Whereas in Luke’s gospel we read “good tidings of great joy,” Matthew’s version of the events surrounding Jesus’ birth also include “lamentation, weeping and great mourning.” Reports of Jesus’ birth upset a jealous, tyrannical king who instigated a murderous campaign to kill all the boys in Bethlehem. Jesus, Mary and Joseph barely escaped, fleeing as refugees to Egypt, where – like for millions of refugees today – life was likely very difficult.

Here, though, is the ultimate hope of Christmas, much more powerful than the saccharine celebrations of my childhood: Jesus is born into a world in which, for the moment, Herod is still king, and all is not well. With His incarnation, though, we are assured that a time is coming when this Prince of Peace will ultimately dethrone Herod and Caesar and set all things right.

In this Advent season, we’re still living in that tension: Christ’s Kingdom is here, and it is coming. We have reason for great joy even as we lament injustice and brokenness, yearning expectantly for Christ’s return.

As we reflect on the year that’s been, would you join me in this Advent prayer:

O come, O Wisdom from on high,
who ordered all things mightily;
to us the path of knowledge show
and teach us in its ways to go. 

O come, O Branch of Jesse’s stem,
unto your own and rescue them!
From depths of hell your people save,
and give them victory o’er the grave 

O come, O Bright and Morning Star,
and bring us comfort from afar!
Dispel the shadows of the night
and turn our darkness into light.  

O come, O King of nations, bind
in one the hearts of all mankind.
Bid all our sad divisions cease
and be yourself our King of Peace.  

Rejoice! Rejoice! Immanuel
shall come to you, O Israel.

In Christ,

Matthew Soerens
National Coordinator, Evangelical Immigration Table

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