Friday of the Third Week in Advent
Let not the foreigner say,
when he would join himself to the LORD,
“The LORD will surely exclude me from his people.”
The United States is not alone in facing the challenge of foreigners seeking entrance to the nation. Nor is it a new crisis. Human beings have always wandered from place to place. We flee from famine, pestilence, disease, war and oppression. Always have, always will.
Nor is the Bible unfamiliar with this dimension of human life. The Jews would not allow their children to forget their history of wandering from “Ur of the Chaldees” to Egypt and back to Palestine. Though many returned from Babylon after the exile, some remained. Others had been scattered by the wars into northern Africa and western Europe. Nor would they lose track of those who had been carried away, fled or migrated to distant places. Their rabbis studied together and their pilgrimages brought them back to Jerusalem.
The Gospel has been announced throughout the world, beginning in synagogues throughout the Roman Empire. If you have not heard the gospel announced in a strange accent you might not know the gospel at all! Without an admixture of foreign ideas, experience and interpretations our reading of God’s word would be hopelessly bland, as flat as our provincial experience of life. This alienness belongs in our tradition as surely as the Hebrew and Greek languages belong to the Old and New Testaments. Without it we could not know the gospel which is announced to all people, nor could we belong to the Body of Christ which is a communion with people far and near.
Because welcoming aliens is, and will always be, a challenge, they represent the ever-present opportunity to know the gospel more deeply than we had expected. They continually offer the newness of the Good News. As often as we announce our reading of the gospel to them, we can welcome their reading to us -- and be refreshed.
The Christian can never assume a hostile attitude toward aliens, refugees and migrants. I would hate to be in the shoes of a bigot or racist on Judgment Day. He will be condemned to the hell of his own banality.
Welcoming, acculturating and including will always be difficult but that’s precisely why the Lord came from a faraway place to live among us.