General CBF

What if he came and we sent him away?

By Adam McDuffie

adammcduffieIn the weeks following the election, we’ve often seen headlines about the possibility of a ban on immigrants based solely on their faith tradition, coupled with a registry for those who are already here or the deportation of undocumented migrants who came here seeking a better life for their families.

In response, many Americans have demanded cities and institutions label themselves as sanctuaries, while others have stated they would register as Muslim themselves if such a registry came to be. I’ve been proud to see many churches among those pledging to provide sanctuary to those who need it.

We find ourselves now in the season of Advent, a season of waiting.

In worship at my church on the first Sunday of Advent, as I’m sure was the case at most churches, we began this season of waiting by joining the voices of Christians echoing through the ages singing “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.”

We began Advent yearning eagerly for the arrival of the light in the darkness, the inbreaking of the Word into our world. We wait, and call out “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel!”

But, what if he came, and we sent him away?

What if he didn’t look like us? Or talk like us? Or pray like us?

What if he came to your door, but you felt you didn’t have room for him?

Jesus was born to refugees seeking a place to rest after a weary journey. The Word made flesh was born in a feed trough because they couldn’t find room for his parents in the inn. His parents didn’t demand the status or respect to guarantee some sort of shelter. They were from out of town.

“O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”

But, what if he came, and we sent him away?

In Matthew 25:40, Jesus claims that whatever we do to the least of these, we do to him.

Whoever we encounter who is in need, that is Jesus in that moment. There’s an old story about Jesus and Martin of Tours. Martin was a Christian and a Roman soldier. One day, in the middle of a rough winter night, he encountered a poor man who was begging for alms. Martin had no money with him, but he saw that the man was cold and shivering and instinctively offered the only thing he had to give. Without hesitation, he took off his cloak, old and torn, and cut it to give half of it to the beggar.

All he had was this old ragged cloak, barely enough to keep himself warm as it was, and he still decided it was better for him to be a little bit colder if the man could be just a little bit warmer. Martin later had a dream, in which he saw heaven and the angels and Jesus himself among them. Jesus was wearing a frayed remnant of a Roman soldier’s cloak. One of the angels asked, “Master why are you wearing that battered old cloak? Who gave it to you?” Jesus replied, “My servant Martin gave it to me.”

We can cry out: “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel!”

We just need to make sure we take every opportunity to welcome Emmanuel when he comes.

Adam McDuffie is a CBF Leadership Scholar and second year M.Div. student at Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta, Ga. 

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