December Prayer Partner: Missing from the Christmas Pageant

 In Prayer Partner

Dear friends,

This year, my six-year-old daughter has been cast as Mary in our church’s annual nativity play. Her three-year-old brother is a (very adorable) sheep, who may or may not ultimately follow instructions on Christmas Eve and lay serenely next to his sister in the stable.

Watching them rehearse this week, I was struck by what elements of the Christmas story tend to make it into our Christmas pageants, and which elements we tend to cut.

Our play includes the first few lines of Mary’s “Magnificat,” her song glorying the Lord, but leaves out the part about God filling the hungry while sending “the rich away empty” (Lk 1:53). Maybe we thought that was a little edgy for Christmas Eve.

We skip over Mary’s visit to her cousin Elizabeth, where unborn John the Baptist recognizes the Messiah from within his mother’s womb (Lk 1:41). Most plays don’t include the interaction at temple between newborn Jesus and the elderly Simeon and Anna – models of long faithfulness who might be examples to us in our short-attention span society (Lk 2:25-38). And though the Magi are a part of almost every nativity play – often kneeling to present their gold, frankincense and myrrh ahistorically alongside the shepherds on the night of Jesus’ birth – we tend to bring the curtain down just before the next scene, when Joseph is told to flee with Mary and Jesus across the border into Egypt, escaping King Herod’s jealous genocide (Mt 2:1-15).

That flight to Egypt is why many have described Jesus as a refugee. Certainly, even if there was no formal legal definition of that term at the time young Jesus was carried to Egypt, he roughly fits the current U.S. legal definition: he fled his country on account of a well-founded fear of persecution. But, as World Relief president Myal Greene notes, a better descriptor of Jesus, Mary and Joseph might be asylum seekers – individuals who reach another country and profess to be fleeing a well-founded fear of persecution, before such time as the local governing authorities have had the time to consider the evidence for that claim.

I don’t know whether ancient Egypt had any sort of asylum policies, but the United States does: decades ago, the U.S. government legally committed itself to the principle that, if someone reaches the United States and can demonstrate a well-founded fear of persecution, we will not send them back.

In recent years, though, that’s become complicated because our governmental systems for processing asylum requests have become woefully inadequate to the number of people arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border. Many wait weeks or months for an appointment to even begin their case, and if they are allowed into the U.S., it takes an average of four years to get a final decision from an immigration judge. Most are ineligible to work for at least the first six months that they are awaiting their court hearings, but also ineligible for most governmental assistance, leading many to end up homeless (or to work without authorization). While many ultimately are approved for asylum, many more are denied, which usually means being ordered deported. And the very large number of people who keep showing up to begin the process has overwhelmed governmental facilities and processes to a breaking point.

In recent weeks, the Biden administration and a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators have reportedly been attempting to address this crisis by forging an agreement to reform asylum processing. Evangelical Immigration Table leaders have urged them to do so in ways that both make the border more secure and orderly but also ensure due process for those fleeing persecution, voicing concerns with proposals that would seek to accomplish one goal at the expense of the other. Guided by biblical principles, we believe we can and should be both a secure nation and a compassionate nation. (And we’ve created this super-simple tool to help you call and leave a message with your congressional offices, urging them to support policies that meet this dual mandate).

As I watch my kids re-tell the remarkable story of Jesus’ birth this weekend, I’ll also be praying for our lawmakers as they consider how to set policies that impact people fleeing circumstances very similar to what our Lord and Savior experienced as a small child, just after the Magi returned to their country.

I’d invite you to join me in prayer – for Members of Congress, for the president and his administration, for vulnerable families and individuals seeing asylum, for Border Patrol agents and other governmental authorities tasked with maintaining order and security, and for the local churches along the border that are ministering in challenging conditions.

And I pray that you and your family will enjoy a meaningful and merry Christmas,

Matthew Soerens
National Coordinator, Evangelical Immigration Table

Recent Posts

Start typing and press Enter to search