Advent Underway!–Welcoming the Stranger

Family Advent Wreath

This Advent our worship team decided to focus on the theme of “welcoming the stranger.” It’s a subject that has been close to our hearts, especially this time of year. We are concerned for the migrants and refugees in need of care, as they arrive in their new countries, especially here on our southern border. We recognize that Jesus and his parents, too, fled from danger, as refugees from violence.  One of our team members, Hilary Mattison, offered a reflection on the first Sunday of Advent, and we include it here. We also have been participating in the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service: Hope for the Holidays. We hope you will, too.

Below is Hilary’s Reflection: Thank you, Hilary!

Welcome strangers!
Today I would like to talk about the historical Jesus. By that I don’t mean Jesus shining in the clouds, or Jesus the all powerful, or even Jesus as the Son of God. I mean just Jesus, a human person as yet unknown, in his mother’s belly.

And his mother, hugely pregnant, riding a donkey for days in a foreign land. Not by choice. Having been hugely pregnant myself and having once, separately, ridden on a donkey I can attest to what an undesirable, miserable situation it must have been to be about to give birth while bouncing on a donkey for days, in the heat and in the
dust. They simply had no other choice.

So here’s Jesus, alone really with his parents as a stranger in a foreign land. I can imagine that the ‘townies’ were none too pleased about the weirdos showing up from all corners, sitting on their park benches, crowding the local pizza joint, making lines at the gas station, not knowing rules and just being around and having needs and being different which was potentially bad and certainly a change. The Bethlehem-ers were probably feeling quite angry about it.

It’s clear that Mary and Joseph were not welcomed strangers. It was not “Hi – come to our town! Head over here for a hot shower and a meal while this crazy census thing happens. Thanks for bearing with us until this is all over.” It was more like closing doors, faces turning away, turning-down of eyes and no room, no room, no room – it was clear that there was no place for them there.

One person was kindly – which in this case meant making eye contact and talking to them, and then letting them sleep in the garage. “Come on in – welcome – I can see you’re going to give birth. The garage has a little heat from the house, and there are a few moving blankets on the shelf in the corner. The Camero won’t bite.” Thanks, right?
Although – in fact that pittance was quite helpful.

Just think about it. Being a stranger, no helpers, no family, no friends, everyone turning you away – they won’t even look at you – and then actually giving birth in a garage with just your husband helping. It’s terrifying. But there was simply no other choice.
I would say that the Holy Family were not welcomed strangers.

And here we are over 2000 years later. And I wonder – are we doing any better at welcoming? So this Advent, this Christmas, please consider with me what this phrase means: Welcome Stranger! Consider historical Jesus as Jesus the Stranger.
The traveler.

The unknown person.
The needy person.
The new person.
Maybe that different looking person.
Maybe a new family of migrants on their way to Egypt.
Maybe a foreigner.

Whatever your gut reaction is to those phrases, just for this month, consider trying out “Welcome Stranger!”

We are taught certainly – and we know confidently that these strangers are loved by God. Loved and precious.

What does it mean for us as Christians to act out “Welcome Stranger?”
What does it mean for our selves, for our church and for our community?

While considering this Advent, I have been thinking a lot about the stranger and who they might be.
Welcome Stranger!