The season of Advent is upon us again, and Christians around the world are celebrating this season of anticipation as they await the birth of the Christ child. Candles are being lit for hope, joy, peace and love. Nativity scenes are being set, the greens have been hung and things are feeling a little bit more exciting.
I am having a bit of trouble feeling excited for Advent this year. Do not get me wrong, I am looking forward to the aspects of the season that I enjoy so much, but it seems a little harder this Advent season to find the love, joy, peace and hope in the world.
Author and blogger Rachel Held Evans tweeted recently, “Next time someone demands, ‘how can you call yourself a Christian and not vote Republican?’ I’m gonna tell them about this week.”
She is speaking of the week following the Paris attacks when Republican frontrunner Donald Trump called for Muslim Americans to wear special identification. She is referring to the week that 26 governors said that they would not accept Syrian refugees, including the governor of Tennessee, and the week that my Facebook feed was full of hate and fear directed at those who are living lives full of fear that most of us could not even comprehend.
That week following the Paris attacks is why I am having trouble feeling excitement for the season of Advent. It seems impossible to me that I could reconcile the idea that one can be a Christian and also refuse to welcome refugees. It seems impossible that one can hold the belief that all lives matter the same amount and yet claim that the lives and safety of Syrian refugees do not matter to the same degree.
It seems impossible to me for so many reasons. I have written before on Jesus’ command to love our neighbors as ourselves, and it has always been my understanding that God’s neighborhood extends to every person in this world. Every person, every child of God is my neighbor, and they all deserve my love, all of our love, because they exist and they were created by the same creator who created me.
I also struggle to reconcile the refusal of refugees because, as a Christian, I worship a God who came to live amongst humans as a refugee. In Matthew’s gospel, Joseph is given instructions by an angel to flee to Egypt with Mary and the baby Jesus so as to escape Herod’s plot to kill the child.
Joseph, Mary and Jesus fled from a place where they were being persecuted so that their family could be safe. We worship that refugee every week, and yet the idea of opening our hearts and moving beyond our fear of those who are different is too much for many of the Christians that I know.
And so I have been approaching this season with a heavy heart. This broken world seems to be a bit more broken each time that hatred, fear and disgust are directed at one who has done nothing but aspire to allow his or her children to be safe. This world seems more and more devoid of hope and increasingly full of heartache brought on by people who refuse to open their hearts to imagine that difference does not always mean bad. This Advent, I am longing for the hope that comes with the birth of the Christ child, of the refugee who saved us all.