"The Work of Christmas" Includes Caring for Immigrants and Refugees

New Year’s blessing, FBC family. I’m thinking today about the timeless words of Howard Thurman (which are included in this Sunday’s worship guide):

When the song of the angel is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among brothers and sisters,
To make music in the heart.

The work of Christmas... This is the line in Thurman’s poem that shimmers for me and invites me to sit with this personal question: If, like the repentant Ebenezer Scrooge, I resolve to “honor Christmas in my heart and try to keep it all the year,” what new actions will I undertake in 2019 that reflect the love of God made visible in the life of Jesus? (This question, by the way, is at the heart of the conversations we are having about our facilities and our prevailing mission as a church.)

This Sunday in worship, Epiphany Sunday, we will read the story, in the second chapter of Matthew’s Gospel, of the “Flight into Egypt” in which, after the birth of Jesus and the visit from the Magi, an “angel of the Lord” comes to Joseph in a dream and warns him to leave Bethlehem for Egypt because King Herod is planning to “seek out the child to kill him.” Mary and Joseph do leave, along with Jesus, and, according to Matthew, make their way into Egypt. Afterward, King Herod slaughters all the male children in Bethlehem under two years of age. (Matt. 2:13-18)

Matthew shows us a family that is forced to flee their homeland for fear of persecution. This is the classic modern-day definition of a refugee. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) defines a refugee as “someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war, or violence. A refugee has a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group.”

The Holy Family, as Matthew recounts the story, was fleeing because of a “well-founded fear of persecution” because of their “membership in a particular social group,” in this case people with young children living in Bethlehem.

In 2019 we have two particular opportunities to enter into the struggle of refugees both in the U.S. and overseas (see related announcements on p. ??). In the spirit of "the work of Christmas" and in solidarity with the Holy Family, I invite you to consider participating in at least one of these:

  1. Pilgrimage to the U.S.-Texas border, March 10-14, led by Pastor Julie and Rev. Jeana Martin, pastor of Wesley United Methodist Church in Harlingen, TX.

  2. Pilgrimage to Albacete, Spain, July 20-27, led by Alyssa Aldape, FBC Missions Team leader Chelsea Clarke, and CBF field personnel Eddie & Macarena Aldape.

In the meantime, I ask you to take up “the work of Christmas” in this fresh, new year before us. What new actions will you undertake in 2019 that reflect the love of God made visible in the life of Jesus

Peace and grace,


Julie Pennington-Russell

"Refugees: The Holy Family" by Kelly Latimore. Used by permission.