We usually end our telling of the story of Christmas Eve with Mary and Joseph nestled snug together around the manger with baby
Jesus and the shepherds and angels looking on adoringly. But we know the story doesn’t end there. Soon after this moment they found out that their baby’s life was being threatened. So Joseph and Mary fled in the middle of the night with their newborn to find safety as refugees in Egypt. As they were fleeing they heard news of countless other families and friends in and around
Bethlehem who were weeping as their newborn sons were being killed by those in power.
Our church regularly partners with Refugee Services of Texas in Fort Worth to help set up apartments, welcome families, advocate for local refugees and help them feel welcomed in Fort Worth. Our neighbors who are refugees often tell us their stories. There is the story of our Congolese friend who had just had her baby in the hospital when friends came to warn her not to go home, that people were looking to kill her because of her activism and the tribe she was a part of. She fled on foot, straight from the hospital with a newborn, travelling for weeks to find safety in a refugee camp and eventually, years later, in the United States. She heard news of countless other friends who were weeping as their loved ones had been unable to escape and were killed in the violence.
There is the story of our Iraqi friend whose family worked for European & US news agencies in Iraq. They were starting to get notes threatening to kill them for their partnerships with western countries. Then a bomb went off on their family car. They knew they had to flee to keep their newborn baby safe. And so they made their way as refugees to the United States seeking safety. They heard news of countless other friends who had been unable to escape and were killed in the violence.
These are 3 of countless stories of parents of little ones risking everything to keep their babies safe. For Advent this year, our church decided to care for some of those babies. We collected diapers for refugee families in Fort Worth with little ones. We know this is a small thing. We wished we could have been there years ago to help protect and care for the infant Jesus and his parents when their lives were in danger. We know though that children of God in our own city share the same story as Jesus and his family and we can surround and support them in, and in doing so we meet God.
We hoped that in focusing on infants this Advent season we could help others begin to see the faces of the Holy Family on the faces of refugees and immigrants who are seeking safety in our country today. We know that when we can see the face of God in our neighbor, it changes everything. We continue to advocate for refugees to be welcomed in our country and state so that all who are in danger, like these holy families, can find the safety that Mary, Joseph and Jesus found. We continue to pray for the day when God’s peace overwhelms our world and no one has to weep for their loved ones lost in the violence ever again.
By Rev. Allison Lanza
Ridgelea Christian Church, Fort Worth, Texas