Jesus at the Border


Isaiah 52:7-10

Psalm 98

Hebrews 1:1-12

John 1:1-14

Prayer of the Day: Almighty God, you gave us your only Son to take on our human nature and to illumine the world with your light. By your grace adopt us as your children and enlighten us with your Spirit, through Jesus Christ, our Redeemer and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

“And the Word became flesh and lived among us…” John 1:14.

The holidays are hectic even for those of us who are retired from full time employment. I expect that you might have as little time to read as I do to write. So I will make this short and sweet.

My guess is that most of us will spend Christmas Eve at home or at the home of a loved one. I expect most of us will sleep in warm houses with comfortable sleeping arrangements. Most of us, I hope, will worship the new born king in a sanctuary surrounded by people who love us, who share our faith and would be willing to lend us a helping hand if ever we were to need it. By contrast, thousands of hungry, ill clad and homeless people will spend a cold Christmas night on the border between two countries that do not want them. They have no Christmas plans other than survival. Their future depends upon the decisions of powerful people and political forces over which they have no influence. The question that haunts me is this: in whose company are we most likely to find Jesus?

John the Evangelist’s assertion that the Word became flesh needs to be read in tandem with Matthew the Evangelist’s account of the last judgment in Matthew 25, in particular, the inquiry, “when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you…?” Matthew 25:38. The answer is now. The story of the Nativity is about homelessness, poverty, flight from political persecution and seeking refuge in a foreign land. That same old, old story is taking on human flesh as I write these words. Jesus is at the border. We either recognize and welcome him now or make that recognition too late and only on the day of judgment.

I don’t have to tell you that there is a lot of consternation and heated rhetoric surrounding immigration. There are remarks being made about migrants, their character and motives that are beneath us all. Christians don’t have to agree on matters of immigration policy or border security. But if we cannot agree that when strangers arrive at our doorstep in desperate need there can be no response other than to open our doors, then I wonder how we can call ourselves disciples of Jesus. If Luke’s parable of the Good Samaritan, Matthew’s parable of The Last Judgement and John’s bold claim that the Word became flesh mean anything, it is that responsibility for the wellbeing of our neighbors does not end at any humanly drawn border. That isn’t a liberal proposition or a conservative one. That isn’t Democratic or Republican policy. It isn’t right or left wing. It’s just Jesus.

I conclude with the words of this familiar hymn by Philip Brooks:

O holy Child of Bethlehem
Descend to us, we pray
Cast out our sin and enter in
Be born in us today
We hear the Christmas angels
The great glad tidings tell
Oh, come to us, abide with us
Our Lord Immanuel!

Jesus’ answer to this prayer is waiting at our southern border. We have only to open our home that others may find theirs; allow the holy Child of Bethlehem to descend upon us, to cast out our sins of selfishness, bigotry and fear and be born in us today.

Phillips Brooks (1835–1893) was an Episcopal priest and rector of the Church of the Holy Trinity in Philadelphia. He later took the position of rector at Trinity Church, Boston. The words of the hymn O Little Town of Bethlehem were inspired by a visit he made to the village of Bethlehem in 1865. Three years later, he wrote the text as a poem. His organist, Lewis Redner, put them to music.

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