This past week I received an email from my friend and colleague, Stephen Lewis. Mary Kay and I were greatly touched by his reflections and expressions. He gave me permission to share it with all of you this season. Thank you, Stephen. I pray you are as touched as we were.
In this season, we celebrate the messiness of a human birth, of the displacement of God from heaven to earth, from infinite to finite. Immanuel, God with us. We honor the obedient faith of a young woman and of her husband, of a family displaced by political circumstances beyond their control. And it resonates in my heart and mind, broken and caught by the displacement in our world today of millions.
And that’s what I’ve noticed in reflecting on the outlines of the Nativity story this year, that Christmas highlights displacement, the effect of being moved, removed, from the place where we were—of Mary and Joseph from Nazareth to Bethlehem; of God from heaven to earth, from immortal to mortal; of shepherds from field to town; of Magi from the east to Bethlehem; of a family warned of death escaping to Egypt; of Rachel weeping for her children.
Displacement introduces us to a liminal space, a space between what was and what will be, a place where we may live for a moment or for a lifetime, often due to circumstances beyond our control, whether it’s the Ukrainians who find themselves on the run for safety and fighting on the frontlines, the Congolese in flight from the fighting along the border with Uganda and Rwanda, the millions whose lives have been caught in the unrelenting rage of COVID, or the Venezuelans fleeing starvation, seeking a place to earn enough to live on.
The truth is that I’m overwhelmed by the news of displacement. We’re overwhelmed by it. We’re fatigued by life in a liminal space that we’ve only begun to traverse.
As midnight strikes on New Year’s Eve, 2022 will be displaced by 2023. None of us knows what displacements, what new places, what reversals, what detours, what celebrations, what successes await us in the new year. But we know that our God is faithful, that our God draws near to us and sustains our hope.
“Father, remind us that you have drawn near to us. Give us hope and strength for the days of change in which we live, strength and hope to remain present with eyes wide open, engaged in the displacements of our time. And soften our hearts that we might draw near to the millions of our neighbors experiencing displacement in this world. May we live with eyes and hearts open. And may we be your presence in doing so.”