Monday, December 02, 2013

A Refugee Christmas

Like millions across the globe, my family decorated our house for Christmas this week. We put up the tree, strung the lights, broke out the classic films, and heated up the hot chocolate. It's a familiar, comfortable tradition, and I basked in the usual warm nostalgia of Christmases past.

But this year, as the routine kicked into high gear, a new thought gnawed at me with inescapable acuity.

Unlike the majority of those Christmas-adoring millions, my family lives in the Middle East, and we spend our weekends in the makeshift tent-homes of Syrian refugees. These sweet, humble families have crossed the border, leaving behind a homeland in ashes and embracing a new world of poverty, uncertainty, and humiliation.

Our time with our refugee friends has brought me a new sort of clarity about Christmas: that the Christmas Story has more in common with Syrian refugees than with our modern yuletide ideal.

We all want the ideal Christmas. The perfect gathering of perfect family members in beautiful sweaters, with fire crackling in the background. Sometimes the idyllic perfection of the thing consumes us, making joy unobtainable.

Mary and Joseph's Christmas was anything but ideal. We make it perfect in our nativity scenes. We sing about a baby Jesus who doesn't cry. But the Bible doesn't tell us he didn't cry. I am quite sure he cried like a baby. And I bet Mary and Joseph fought like a couple who couldn't find a place to give birth would fight. I bet Joseph was ashamed that he couldn't do better than a stable that reeked of animal feces for his young bride. I bet he even thought he failed the God who promised him so much.

I bet Mary felt out of control and overwhelmed. I bet she questioned everything she had been told by the angel. Surely this wasn't her story, was it? To give birth in a city she hardly knows, with animals watching on? Surely somebody in this town had room for the King of Kings? Why wasn't she in the warmth of her own home, with family members nearby for support?

This was the first Christmas- a disaster. A humiliation. It was dirty, and smelly, and probably tenser than you can imagine. But in hindsight, it was perfect. It was the clearest statement that God could make that he loved the whole world-all of it- and that no place was too lowly for his presence. If Christ the Lord is willing to be born into such circumstances, then his glory can fill anywhere.

When I sit in the tents of my refugee friends, and I feel their pain and grief and fear of the future, I can't help but think: this is where Christmas is supposed to happen. This is where "tidings of great joy for all the nations" need be experienced; this is where the savior belongs.


Blogger 14 Beautiful Feet said...

"...the Christmas Story has more in common with Syrian refugees than with our modern yuletide ideal."
So true! Thank you for these words and for your family's love for refugees! 14bf

12:01 PM  

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