How does Jesus draw the world together when we humans seem so intent on keeping it divided? As we write this devotional, a caravan of refugees fleeing violence in Honduras and Guatemala is on the Mexico side of the border with the U.S. On the U.S. side, the Border Patrol has been bolstered by a few thousand U.S. Army troops. Also this week, migrants fleeing desperate conditions in sub-Saharan Africa and seeking a new future in Europe were rescued in the Mediterranean Sea. When they were taken to Libya, they refused to disembark because to them Libya was “worse than hell.” Where is Jesus?
According to the Christmas story we will find Jesus among those displaced, for he was a refugee as an infant. That’s part of the story of the Wise Men, but do we sit with the reality of the Holy Family fleeing violence and finding refuge in Egypt? We spent a month doing conflict transformation training in Egypt in 2017. We visited and sometimes taught in churches from Alexandria to Cairo to Minya. Churches throughout Egypt celebrate the traditional sites associated with the Holy Family’s sojourn there. Egyptian Muslims and Christians alike rejoice that their land gave sanctuary to the infant Jesus.
So how would we honor the Christ Child in this season? Can we see him among the “least of these,” among the strangers seeking refuge, among the children taken from desperate parents trying to bring hope out of hopeless situations? If we bar our borders to those seeking asylum, perhaps we bar our borders and our very selves to Jesus as well. The Wise Men brought gifts. What gifts might we bring to minister to those on similar journeys to the young Jesus?
Dan and Sharon Buttry are missionaries serving with International Ministries of the American Baptist Churches doing conflict transformation training around the world. This year they led the first program of the new Buttry Center for Peace and Nonviolence at Central this past August, a 10-day Training of Conflict Transformation Trainers. They live in Hamtramck, Michigan, a city completely surrounded by Detroit and home for many refugees and immigrants.
Dear Friends of Central, as we observe this joyous season of Advent and then Christmastide, we give thanks that Jesus draws the whole world together. God has called Central to be a place where north and south, east and west, come together as the one Body of Christ to learn how the Gospel takes root in different cultures.
I ask you to give generously as the year-end draws near. Each day I give thanks for your participation in the world-wide mission of Central. — Molly T. Marshall