“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” - Statue of Liberty 

"Somewhere I read that the greatness of America is the right to protest for right.” - Martin Luther King, Jr

“I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” - Jesus

I believe Christmas has largely been forgotten in the so-called Christian West. 

I don’t mean the consumerism and stress we succumb to as we rush to buy presents in these frantic days. Our consumerist culture will never let us forget that. What I mean is the offence of Christmas, because in these days of fear and of shutting out the ‘other’, we don’t really want to be reminded that Christmas is the time when a brown-skinned child from the Middle East was hunted from birth and was forced to flee with His parents to a foreign land because of the fearful vengeance of a powerful ruler.

Love One Another

Christmas message? Nils von Kalm prays that love would define Christmas for Christians this year. PICTURE: Jon Tyson/Unsplash.

 

"When I said to one of my friends to stay safe when she is there, she said she would try but that her first concern is to stay faithful. That’s an attitude of love, surrender and devotion. My respect for these people is through the roof. If anyone wants to know what the Christmas spirit is, you just need to take a look at what these Christians are doing in Tijuana."

Two thousand years later, nothing has changed. Last week, two friends of mine, beautiful Christian people I met in the West Bank earlier this year, joined with other Christians and people of other faiths to provide assistance to the migrant caravan in Tijuana, at the US/Mexico border in Texas.

At a time when thousands of Christians in the US have succumbed to the lust for power by supporting probably the most unChristian President in history, here are thousands more who would prefer to be faithful and follow Jesus and provide succour to the unwelcome. 

These good people don’t have to do this, but they choose to out of sacrifice in what is a dangerous environment. When I said to one of my friends to stay safe when she is there, she said she would try but that her first concern is to stay faithful. That’s an attitude of love, surrender and devotion. My respect for these people is through the roof. If anyone wants to know what the Christmas spirit is, you just need to take a look at what these Christians are doing in Tijuana.

Recently I received an email update from this same friend. Here is her heartbreaking yet love-filled description of what they experienced. I quote this with her permission: 

"When we approached the forbidden zone we were met with a wall of human flesh clothed in green uniforms and helmets. We prayed. They clutched their guns. We knelt, they tightened in formation. Slowly, as one, we progressed forward step by step until we crossed the line into forbidden territory, suspended in place and no longer with lawful physical presence. 

Here we found solidarity with our Southern siblings, some of whose faces now gathered in the rectangles of the border wall. They sang sweet hymns and beat loud drums. Seeing us seeing them. The connection of humanity transcended the wall between us. I stared deeply into the eyes of the officers, affirming their humanity and dignity as human beings as well. They looked away.

With each step we took forward, frustration escalated until suddenly all the border patrol officers charged toward us at once. We took a step back, avoiding contact as best we could. They yelled for us to leave. We stood our ground.

Another lurch forward and a strong hand grabbed my arm and jerked my body to the left while another two hands shoved my body to the right. In an instant I was caught in the middle of two giants and, physically unable to respond to their command to step back, was then grabbed by a third who yelled, “You’re under arrest!”

Walking earlier in the safety of our own caravan, I was so energized that I thought I would be brave at the “point of action”. But I wasn’t. When the palpable shift from peaceful protest to aggressive attack happened, I lost control and began to weep. Maybe it was the emotion of the moment or maybe it was all the stories of migration bubbling up from the refugee lives I carried with me. Either way, it was raw and unexpected.

There were 32 of us who were arrested today. We were searched, locked up in a military vehicle, then released after about an hour and given a citation requiring us to show up in federal court to either plead guilty or not guilty to a federal misdemeanor charge of failure to comply with the police."

This is Donald Trump’s America, the man lauded by thousands as ‘God’s man for the White House’. 

What I see in these faithful people who stood up for the rights of their oppressed brothers and sisters is Christmas love, the unflinching love of Jesus in action. They are being Christ to the people of the migrant caravan, and they are seeing Christ in the migrants.

"This is faith, hope and love putting itself on the line. This is the Christmas spirit. This is putting Christ back into Christmas. Loving God by loving their neighbour, the alien and the stranger, without regard for their own self-protection. This is what the baby in the manger came for. To show us love like this."

This is faith, hope and love putting itself on the line. This is the Christmas spirit. This is putting Christ back into Christmas. Loving God by loving their neighbour, the alien and the stranger, without regard for their own self-protection. This is what the baby in the manger came for. To show us love like this.

As we approach this solemn time of year, the contradictions of our human state are on full display in Tijuana. While a self-proclaimed Christian nation violently shuts out the tired, huddled masses, a few of the faithful show a more excellent way. As a former pastor of mine has said, when it seems that all is darkness in the world, a little candle flickering in the corner says, ‘I beg to differ’.

The Baby who was a refugee 2,000 years ago is still a refugee today. Whether He be in the frightened faces of the many in the migrant caravan, or He be in the little children wanting to self-harm in the prisons of Nauru (children held captive by an Australian Government led by another Christian), he is the vulnerable one, the stranger in our midst.

The faithful Christ-followers in Tijuana, just like those in our own Love Makes A Way movement who take a stand for the forgotten children of Nauru, are prophets for a greater cause. They are disruptors of the old order of fear and hatred that is passing away. By their actions they are demonstrating that a new order of love that overcomes fear is breaking in. They are the hands and feet of Christ, bringing in the reign of God, a reign of healing, not just for the oppressed, but also for the oppressor. They are the light shining in the darkness that the darkness will not overcome.

This is what Christmas is about; remembering that it is God come as a vulnerable baby to renew this weary world, to love it back to life. It is happening in little pockets of the world, through the faithfulness of those filled with the Spirit in Tijuana, and through the perseverance of those having sit-ins in the offices of politicians around Australia until the kids on Nauru are free. And it is happening anywhere the love of Christ is faithfully lived out, whether it be by the unnoticed or the noticed. 

At Christmas we remember that a love like this has never been seen before. It is a love which welcomes the unwelcome, takes in the stranger, and has no fear. God fill us with this love this Christmas.