Advent is here. Just when I thought the dreariness of November would stretch on forever, suddenly it’s Advent, the time of year where my candle obsession finds respectability. But for Jesus followers, Advent is about more than candles; this is the time of year where we make room in our lives to welcome in newness and hope.
Back in first century Palestine, this hope came in the surprising form of a tiny baby born far from home to poor parents in less than pleasant circumstances. And remember, the journey didn’t end in Bethlehem for Mary, Joseph and little Jesus; they were forced to flee to Egypt to avoid King Herod’s death sentence for toddlers. Jesus was a refugee who found welcome in a country far from home. Because of this, he lived to extend the boundary transgressing love that inspired the movement we know as Christianity.
This advent, as we seek to extend the radical love and hope that Jesus taught us, we must welcome refugees into our community and into our hearts, there is no other faithful option. What will it look like for you to welcome refugees this Advent? Here are five ideas:
1. Sponsor a refugee family with your neighbourhood
You probably know that churches, mosques and temples can sponsor refugee families, but did you know that neighbourhoods can too? I’m inspired by the Central Frederick Neighbourhood Association who raised the $27,000 they needed to sponsor a family of four.
2. Volunteer with an agency that does resettlement
There are so many agencies in our community that work to support refugees during their first days and months in Canada, and they depend on volunteers to help with the welcoming process. Mennonite Coalition for Refugee Support and Reception House Waterloo Region both have meaningful volunteer opportunities. They would also be happy for your financial contributions!
3. Be a good neighbour
You don’t need to be part of a formal volunteer program to be a good neighbour. What does this look like practically? Help someone new to our frigid climate learn the art of snow shovelling. Or…GASP!!!…invite new neighbours over for dinner and build friendships. Loneliness can be one of the biggest obstacles that refugees will face.
4. Pack a relief kit
Of course, not everyone who is displaced by violence will end up coming to Canada. Consider supporting displaced people who stay closer to home by donating items or money to Mennonite Central Committee for relief kits. According to MCC’s website, “14,507 shipped last year to Jordan, Syria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Haiti, Honduras, Iraq, Lebanon, Ukraine and Serbia.” Putting together a relief kit would be a fun, tangible giving project for kids!
5. Get creative!
Not only do we need to provide practical support to refugees, we also want to foster a welcoming community culture. My neighbours and I collaborated to write “Welcome Refugees” in the windows of our apartment building. These creative, symbolic actions are also important.
How will you welcome refugees this advent? Share your ideas with us!