Evangelical Immigration Table Prayer Partner: Home For Christmas
Authored by Matthew Soerens and originally published on evangelicalimmigrationtable.com
In my family, we abstain from listening to Christmas music until the day after Thanksgiving. But since early on that Friday morning, I’ve been listening on repeat to the various Amy Grant Christmas albums, which have been my holiday soundtrack since I was a kid. The best, in my opinion, is “Home for Christmas.” Just hearing the first few instrumental notes conjures up warm memories of the sense of family and belonging that define the idea of “home” in my mind.
While we nostalgically think about being home for Christmas, much of the biblical Christmas story is actually about leaving home. Jesus leaves the glories of heaven, takes on human flesh and dwells among us on earth, but the world He made does not recognize Him: He’s a stranger in His own creation (John 1:11). Mary and Joseph must leave their hometown of Nazareth for Joseph’s ancestral town of Bethlehem, but they can’t even find a decent place to stay, and newborn Jesus ends up in a trough for feeding animals (Luke 2:1-7). Later, an angel warns Joseph that they must flee to a foreign country as refugees in order to escape the genocidal King Herod (Matthew 2:13-15).
Jesus left home – in more ways than one – so that ultimately He could make a home for us, bringing us (regardless of our background) into His household through His death and resurrection. I love the way that Eugene Peterson paraphrases Ephesians 2:19-22:
You’re no longer wandering exiles. This kingdom of faith is now your home country. You’re no longer strangers or outsiders. You belong here, with as much right to the name Christian as anyone. God is building a home. He’s using us all—irrespective of how we got here—in what he is building. He used the apostles and prophets for the foundation. Now he’s using you, fitting you in brick by brick, stone by stone, with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone that holds all the parts together. We see it taking shape day after day—a holy temple built by God, all of us built into it, a temple in which God is quite at home.
Having been welcomed home into God’s family – and naturalized into His kingdom (Ephesians 2:19) – it seems like the least that I could do to extend welcome to those whose sense of “home” is shifting in a more temporal sense, building a new life in my home country of the United States, often having left behind a homeland under duress. We who have been welcomed in a cosmic sense should be eager to welcome others whenever we can.
That’s one reason that, this Christmas, I’m urging my elected officials to ensure that the many Afghans who have recently had to flee the Taliban and been resettled to the U.S. are fully at home here. At present, most Afghans have been given only a “parole” status, which in many cases will leave them in a perpetual temporary status. The Evangelical Immigration Table has urged Congress to ensure that these individuals have the opportunity to apply for permanent legal status, like most of those resettled as refugees, and also to provide the same opportunity to other immigrants who have already been living in an indefinite temporary state for many years. We’d be grateful if you’d join us in sending that message – would you be willing to add your name to this letter to our elected officials?
Lastly, I’d ask that you pray with me that the church would be on the front line of welcoming immigrants making a new home within our country, ensuring that they feel a sense of belonging – in this country and, if they’re not already brothers and sisters in Christ, that they’d come to know the ultimate belonging as a part of God’s family.
National Coordinator, Evangelical Immigration Table