In their annual joint Christmas greeting posted on YouTube December 4, Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, and Bishop Susan Johnson, national bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, urge church members to “give an extra gift” in support of refugees.
The message begins with Hiltz’s reflection on the story of the birth of Jesus, focusing on the rather negative light in which we often see the innkeeper.
“As I read the Christmas story I’m always taken by the way in which we portray the innkeeper as the one who said to Mary and Joseph, ‘No room here,’ when in fact he did provide them a warm and safe place for the birth of the holy child,” Hiltz says. “Yes, it was a manger, but for them it was a warm place, and a safe place.”
Hiltz then notes the role of Jesus’ own refugee experience in the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy and the setting in motion of the story of his ministry.
“As we know, within weeks of his birth, Jesus himself became a refugee,” he says. “Mary and Joseph were fleeing from the tyranny of Herod. They took the child into Egypt and there they remained for a time, and when it was safe for them to return they made that journey back. And so the Scripture was fulfilled, ‘Out of Egypt I have called my son.’ And so began the gospel of Jesus the Christ.”
Concludes Hiltz, “As we celebrate his birth we are mindful, so mindful this year, of the migrant refugee crisis and our need in his name to respond, to open our hearts and our country to those seeking refuge among us.”
Johnson then invites viewers to take part in the “Reformation Challenge” adopted by the ELCIC at its national convention this summer, one of the goals of which is to sponsor 500 refugees by the end of 2017.
“At this time of Christmas, why not give an extra gift in recognition of the gift that we have been given, through our lord and saviour Jesus Christ, to support the refugee appeal or support another charity that’s working with refugees?” she asks. “Let us be like the innkeepers who did provide a warm and safe place for someone who was in need.”
The message concludes with the two wishing in unison “a blessed Christmas and a peaceful new year” to viewers.