On the move…

A group of Somali refugees travel back to the area where they are staying on the far outskirts of Dagahaley camp, near Dadaab, Kenya.

A group of Somali refugees travel back to the area where they are staying on the far outskirts of Dagahaley camp, near Dadaab, Kenya.

Rachel and I have done a lot of moving in our marriage.

Our journey of almost 35 years has taken us to two places in Texas, four in Minnesota, one in Pennsylvania, and one in Wyoming. We’ve lived in large cities, small towns, and near a wide spot in the road. Each place has offered both blessings and challenges—new culture, new people, new expectations, new traditions. And, of course, each move had meant leaving behind loved ones as well as familiar customs.

Throughout these years of moving, we’ve learned that coming to a new place can be both joyful and sorrowful. Thankfully, every place we’ve moved has been a place where people spoke the same language, and in general, experienced the same customs and traditions. We’ve been welcomed.

The Bible is full of stories of people on the move. Soon after Jesus’ birth, Joseph and Mary were fleeing the terrorism of King Herod, who wanted Jesus dead. The family escaped to Egypt as refugees.

Abraham and Sarah, and Moses and Zipporah, also knew what it was to move through a violent world seeking a promised land of security and happiness. That is why the Scriptures speak often of welcoming the stranger, of showing hospitality to those on the move.

Love comes down at Christmas. As Christ’s people, we open our hearts to refugees and immigrants—to all folks on the move. We ask: How can we be good neighbors to all people? How can we show the peace of the Christ child to all who flee violence? How can we show hospitality to the stranger?

As the Christmas season continues and New Year begins, may we be Christ-like to all who seek new life—whoever they are and from wherever they come.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

Don Holmstrom is a pastor of the ELCA, having served most recently at First Lutheran Church in St. Peter, Minnesota. He also writes novels, hymn texts, and musicals for youth. He’s a native of Texas, husband of Rachel Larson, father of Susanna Holmstrom, caretaker of Dooley the dog.