Welcoming the stranger

December 9th, 2015

Shortly after the terrorist attacks in Paris last month, it was reported that one of the attackers had used a Syrian passport to gain access to Europe through Greece. While President Obama vowed support for France and continued support to receive up to 10,000 Syrian refugees nationally, more than half our nation’s governors announced they would not allow Syrian refugees into their states. However, under the Refugee Act of 1980, no state can deny settlement of refugees in their state.

Currently the U.S. accepts about 70,000 refugees from many different countries each year. Applying for refugee status requires the person to prove he or she is unable to return to his or her country, “because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion” (Annual Flow Report, Office of Immigration Statistics, Aug. 2014). The process to gain refugee status in the U.S. generally begins overseas at a U.S. embassy and takes two years or longer for applicants to navigate finger-printing and security clearances before they ever enter our country.

Security and citizenship

No matter how tight our security is as a country, there will continue to be threats. So what are we to do? We must remember that our security is in knowing the God who calls us to act and goes before us so that God’s love might be revealed through our actions.

Paul wrote to the Philippians, “Our citizenship is in heaven” (3:20). First and foremost we are citizens of heaven who serve God. Our nationality is secondary to our spirituality. The Holy Family (Mary, Joseph, and Jesus) trusted God to lead them through their years of hiding as refugees in a foreign land. We may not know the name of the innkeeper in Bethlehem or anyone who welcomed them in Egypt, but during this Advent season, as we prepare for the birth of Christ, may we welcome Jesus by welcoming the strangers in our midst.

Question of the day: Who are the strangers in our midst?
Focal Scriptures: Matthew 2:13-23; Luke 3:1-11; Matthew 25:31-46

For a complete lesson on this topic visit LinC.

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