There is something sadly ironic, something deeply moving, about the death of a little boy no one seemed to want on the same day that Christians around the world celebrated the birth of a little boy who was a refugee almost from the moment he was born. There is a message inside of this murky glass bottle and it’s for you and for me.
We just can’t have the Christmas story the Bible tells and conveniently forget the slaughter of the Holy Innocents, the decree of King Herod that all little boys under the age of 2 should die. This was the reason Jesus, along with his parents, became a refugee. This was the reason an angel came to Joseph in a dream, urging him to pack up all he could, to take the baby and his wife and to flee across a desert into Egypt.
Even now our government is gridlocked, with many folks on unpaid furlough as the people we elected fight over a $5 billion wall on our southern border. Politicians who warned of an “invading horde” of people who want to take over our country did nothing in the wake of word of the caravan to actually prepare for that caravan. Weeks passed when individuals could have been hired, vetted and trained to process refugees at border crossings. Days and days passed when, instead of preparation to welcome this group of people, all our elected officials did was fear-monger and lie, pushing false rumors to scare their base into supporting a $5 billion fence instead of bracing the mass of humanity moving toward our borders.
At church on Christmas Eve, I heard a challenging sermon. It was accompanied by a bulletin insert featuring a photo of a young Iraqi girl who has been asked by the photographer to smile. And she does her level best, but her eyes are full of tears.
Our lesson spoke of noisy sentinels, coming from our Hebrew Bible reading for that night, Isaiah 62:6-12: “Upon your walls, O Jerusalem, I have posted sentinels; all day and all night they shall ever be silent. You who remind the Lord, take no rest, and give him no rest until he establishes Jerusalem.”
The idea of sentinels reminding God of who God is, crying out in supplication for God to remember his promises of mercy — well, for me, that was a stirring idea.
In a time when news media is imperfect and unbalanced, but when some are telling the truth. In a time when spin is king and so many are content to eat their Christmas ham and open another shiny bauble that isn’t really needed. In a time when close to 15,000 children are interred in camps on our southern border. I believe what the world needs is more noisy sentinels, more people crying out for justice, more voices reminding God who God is and asking for that mercy to pour down like a righteous stream on a broken and dark world. On our broken and shuttered hearts.
Did you know that the ban on separating children from their parents only included biological parents? If a child crosses with an adult who has been their caregiver for many years, a separation still occurs. If my daughters crossed with their aunt, they would be separated. If your child crossed with a grandmother, they would be separated, too. This is where these children come from, this is who they are.
We can’t escape the truth of our Christmas story. We can’t escape the young family running for their lives and what that truth means for us as we side with a person who claims to be pro-life. We can’t really claim to be pro-life when we think we need a wall to separate us from people just like that Holy Family, when children are dying for lack of basic medical care. If you care more about a cluster of cells, or a fetus, than you do about living, breathing, smiling through their tears children, well, I’m not sure you get to claim being pro anything.
We can’t overlook the very real and obvious idea that God shows up where we don’t expect it.
God shows up in the homeless or hungry person who is told your church only takes care of their own. Every time we fail to contemplate just for a second what it looks like to have our lovely little streets leveled and still smoking from the bombs that fell, we miss God with us. And every time we think that the kids being held on our southern borders haven’t witnessed the murders of friends and family members, we deceive ourselves with a comfortable lie, a lie that makes us comfortable.
What we need now is less comfort and more noise. More sentinels posted around the clock who grab hold of the chains on the scales of justice and shake them until justice is done.
In 2019, grab those chains. Shake them and shout for mercy. Cry out for justice. Advocate and get on your soap boxes.
Our elected officials have shown us that they are not able or willing to affect real change, and that must leave change to us, the noisy sentinels.
— By Alicia Hager, Tribune community columnist