Sermon for Christmas Eve 2015
Rev Canon Charles Royden
Sermon for Christmas Eve 2015
The Year of the Refugee
UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres said this year.
"Never has there been a greater need for tolerance, compassion and solidarity
with people who have lost everything,"
I shared in a television programme this year about refugees. In Bedford we had announced that we would take four families a year in Bedford over a five year period. This equates to 100 refugees over the 5 years and the council are working with the Kings Arms Project and Bedfordshire Refugee and Asylum Seeker Support (BRASS). These refugee families have been made homeless and vulnerable by a devastating conflict and are in desperate need of a safe, stable home for their children. The message has gone out from Bedford Borough that we will help take our share of these families to start a new, happy and stable life.
However the reason why I was on the programme was to put one side of the argument because others were saying that these refugees should not be allowed in at all. At a time of crisis which we share some of the blame in making in the first place, when Jordan and Lebanon have four million people in refugee camps we spend our time arguing over whether we should be taking this tiny proportion across our country and in America folks like Mr Trump want to send refugees back.
How would we feel if we were like these poor people, fleeing conflict, seeking safety and we heard that four families a year was too many. Put yourself in the place of a refugee, you know that 3,671 have died crossing the Mediterranean Sea this year alone, you are unable to swim, but you consider that the overloaded dingy about to cross the sea in the hands of greedy traffickers is safer than what lies behind you. You are clearly desperate and you look for some compassion and there is no room. Not a lot seems to have changed since that first Christmas when Joseph and Mary were turned away.
The Christmas story reminds us of our responsibilities towards those who are weak, defenceless, displaced, alone, poor, vulnerable. We worship a Saviour whose father, like many fathers in Syria and Afghanistan today, got a tip off that his child was in danger and took his wife and child and fled to a foreign country. One of the newspapers I read on this exodus of refugees commented on how they had with them expensive phones. It is as if somehow they should have not had the right to bring anything with them of value in their escape ! Imagine if sky news had been around to film Joseph and Mary carrying bags with Gold, and expensive good.
Today it is not Herod who seeks to kill to make himself more powerful, but there are other Herods who are prepared to kill indiscriminately, like Assad and Isis. Religion has no monopoly in this, atheist countries like North Korea show the same evil in human hearts.
The year 2015 will exceed all previous records for global forced displacement. The number of forcibly displaced people worldwide according to UNHCR (United Nations High Commission for Refugees) 59.5 million. During this year conflict and persecution forced 42,500 people every day to leave their home and seek protection. The Christian Gospel says something very powerful to the world in this year of the Refugee
There have long been miracles stories surrounding the birth of great figures in history, Roman Emperors and the like. The thing which is special about Jesus is the manner in which the Gospel writers were unashamed that the amazing stories about Jesus centered on his poverty, and his rejection at birth. In his home town Joseph found no room, no relative. In his own country he finds danger and indiscriminate slaughter, so that he must escape to a strange land. These are things which you don’t make up to impress people or encourage followers. It is there because at the heart of the Christmas story is the message that God takes ordinary human flesh, lives alongside us and knows what it is like to suffer, be persecuted and ultimately to be killed by people who hate you.
UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres called for
‘tolerance, compassion and solidarity with people who have lost everything,’
Humanly speaking tolerance, compassion and solidarity are sometimes short in supply, but at Christmas we thank God that he shows them to each one of us in abundance.
May we learn from God abundant mercy and generosity to us to show the same measure of mercy and generosity to those who seek our help. Charles Royden