Oh the glamour and sizzle of the Christmas season in America – parades and decorations, sales and bargains, parties and special events. Then, comes Christmas morning with presents under the glistening tree with carols playing as the aromas from the pending family feast waft through the house.
Most of us enjoy some, if not all, of the above.
Some, perhaps many, still push back on that a little and find time for praise, prayer, and thankfulness for what Christmas is really about.
This year a Christmas related verse from Isaiah keeps flashing a stark image in my mind – “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned” (Isaiah 9:2, also Matthew 4:16). The image I see is troubled people in darkness, then a light of hope appears.
Isaiah cast the light as hope to come from a child who would become the Messiah (Isaiah 9:6), a child who would shatter “the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor” (Isaiah 9:4).
Now, visualize millions of oppressed people walking in darkness and dwelling in lands of deep darkness with little hope. These would be among the 68 million men, women, and children worldwide who have fled homes to escape war, famine, persecution, and pestilence. More than 25 million have crossed borders into other countries to become refugees. Another 43 million are displaced within their home countries.
Last week the United Nations acted to shine some light of hope on them. Almost unanimously, the UN General Assembly adopted the Global Compact on Refugees. The goal of this non-binding compact is to help countries hosting refugees and displaced persons to provide better care and support, particularly for the 33% or so clustered in dismal camps and shelters.
Shaped by the same Providence as Isaiah and founded as a beacon of hope, the United States once championed such initiatives. Derived from our heritage and mores, U.S. policy was to provide aid and support to victims of mass displacements.
Our beacon is going dim. Last week the U.S. joined Hungary as one of the two votes against the compact; 181 nations voted for it.
This issue is far larger than the meager 5,000 Central Americans who caravanned through Mexico and others who assail our southern border, or even the million Syrians who have escaped into Europe. The vast majority of refugees and displaced persons huddle in developing countries without the infrastructure or resources to cope with them. Providing infrastructure and resources for these countries is the goal of the compact.
Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Turkey, Uganda, Bangladesh, Colombia, Brazil, Ecuador, Chile, Kenya, Ethiopia, Yemen, to name a few, host millions who were able to flee from Syria, Afghanistan, the Sudan, Myanmar, Venezuela, and Somalia. Even more remain clustered in their home countries with little to no support.
“But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?” 1 John 3:17
Christmas celebrates God’s love and the light he brought forth to lift us out of darkness. As you celebrate say a prayer for those walking and dwelling in the darkness. And be thankful. But for Providence, we could be among them.
» BILL CRAWFORD is a syndicate columnist from Meridian.
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