Warm greetings to you all this Advent and Christmas season.
Can you imagine actually being glad to be a refugee?
Recently a Syrian couple told our mission partners in Lebanon, Phil and Sylvie Good, that they were actually glad they became refugees.
Because in fleeing to Lebanon, they met Jesus. In the darkness of displacement, they found the light of the world.
This year I’ve been able to travel for the first time since the start of the pandemic, and I had the privilege to go to Lebanon, where I met many Syrian refugees.
We’ve been talking lately in Church Mission Society about people at the edges. And I can tell you that these people have been living on the edges for years now.
Many had to leave behind their loved ones and most of their belongings, and years later, they still cannot return.
Meanwhile, the country they have fled to is itself struggling amid political and economic turmoil. The cost of fuel and food have skyrocketed made worse with winter approaching.
For believers in Jesus from Muslim backgrounds like the couple I just mentioned, there is an added layer of challenge – as many face rejection from their families, along with wariness from local people, even some Christians.
And yet, in the face of such hardship, I was so struck by their hospitality as we were welcomed into their homes to eat together and to hear their stories.
One of the poorest, a street cleaner trying to support his wife and four children, insisted on using some of the little money they had to provide us with drinks to go with the fruit we had brought them.
As I look forward to exchanging gifts with family and friends this Christmas, that gift from this man will stick with me.
And as we read the verses from Matthew 2, where Mary and Joseph took Jesus in the middle of the night and fled to Egypt to escape Herod, I’ll be thinking of the Syrian women, men and children I met this year.
Our Christmas appeal focuses on people like the couple I mentioned at the beginning who said they were glad they became refugees because they met Jesus.
We know that around the world many people are turning to Jesus despite unimaginable pressures.
Yet we also know that without love and support from Christians, many will fall away from their newfound faith.
And this is why I’m so grateful that CMS is able to support people in mission like Phil and Sylvie, working among Syrian refugees and Muslim background believers.
And why I hope you’ll give to our Christmas appeal.
Everywhere I went in Lebanon, people expressed gratitude for our people in mission like Phil and Sylvie, who have walked alongside them and help them grow in their faith.
They told me that because Phil and Sylvie had chosen to live among them, it made them feel like they weren’t forgotten.
At Christmas we celebrate that God came to live among us.
We celebrate that even now, he is making himself known to people at the edges. Let’s join in with what he’s doing.
Let’s go: With Jesus, With each other, To the edges.
A very happy Christmas to you and your family from all of us at Church Mission Society.