We cannot claim to celebrate Christ this Christmas without caring for refugees.
This Christmas, Christians across the globe will, once again, celebrate the life of a special gift—Jesus Christ—whose work and ministry revolutionized the quality and purpose of human life.
Our Christmas will be filled with moments of joy and warmth, expressed through reflections on our relationships with family, and even on our faith. Canticles with cheery lyrics like “Joy to the World, the Lord has come” encourage us to rejoice and celebrate His purpose and works on earth. We will do so by coming together with fellow Christians in church, but more so with the meals and stories we share with our families and close friends. Christmas is a great time for families to bond and reflect on Christ's place in our lives.
However, Christ’s story transcends these pleasures. He came to save the lost, but began His journey with displacement.
At Christmas, a reflection on our world could depress us. We may ask what joy there is to it, when most of what we hear is very divisive and sad.
Yet, our faith in Christ calls us to a different hope – of better things to come. We must not be weighed down by what we see. Instead, we must channel our fears and concerns in meaningful ways to help some of those who suffer today.
Caring for Refugees
This Christmas, many newcomers in Canada will face a certain coldness they have not known for a while. Not from warm-hearted Canadians, but from the low temperatures in their non-heated homes and from the over-crowded shelters where many risk inhabiting.
Our government’s response to the Syrian crisis, to resettle 35,000 people in a year, is very commendable. However, there are many other challenges that need urgent attention. Poverty is a reality for many newcomers nearing the end of their sponsorship arrangements. With insufficient language skills, employment opportunities remain farfetched for many refugees, most of whom will indubitably fall back on social assistance to subsist. There are already reports of an increase in the number of newcomers who use food banks.
We cannot claim to celebrate Christ this Christmas without doing anything about this reality. As community members, we must ensure that the refugees we have cared for, for a year, are not left in the cold. As much as we have the opportunity, we must financially support those who still struggle to integrate well into our communities.
Churches Speaking Out
We must also increase our advocacy on refugee issues. Many newcomers to Canada must repay transportation loans incurred in their resettlement process. Our church communities can raise more awareness on the burden this brings to refugees, and support them by covering some or all the costs, to give newcomers an opportunity for a fresh start here.
Creating a nurturing environment for vulnerable persons is an act of faith. Refugees, like Jesus Christ, have the capability to contribute in unusually meaningful ways to our communities. If we do not facilitate better integration for refugees, we will miss this potential.
Let’s begin to do so this Christmas.