Zechariah 7:8-10 The word of the Lord came to Zechariah, saying Thus says the Lord of hosts: Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another; do not oppress the widow, the orphan, the alien, or the poor; and do not devise evil in your hearts against one another.
Isaiah 9:6-7 For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom. He will establish and uphold it with justice and righteousness from this time onward and forevermore.
When I was growing up, my church did not place much emphasis on the prophets other than telling the story of Jonah and quoting Isaiah’s prophecy of the Messiah at Christmastime. When I entered seminary I was suspicious of the books of prophecy that contained violence, confusing words, and strange visions. However, as I learned more about the history and themes within the prophetic texts, I became caught up in the vision of hope and peace that the prophets brought to the world.
Biblical historians believe that many of the prophetic texts were written during a time when Israel, God’s chosen nation, was in exile and forced to live as a persecuted minority group within larger empires. God’s people were often victims of violence and abuse. The Isaiah text proclaiming the birth of Jesus would have given hope to people because it declared a coming time of peace and justice for Israel, a time when the persecution would end and enemies would be held accountable. The books of the prophets are filled with hope that God who will bring peace to all the world. The time advent is a time of waiting in this hope.
However, the prophets did not just foretell a time of peace to come, but commanded people to act out justice and righteousness now. The prophets called out unjust governments and even members of Israel who were oppressing the people on the margins, which included widows, orphans, immigrants, and the poor. Throughout the Old Testament, we read laws and stories of God telling God’s people to welcome immigrants and foreigners. The prophets, too, called on God’s people to welcome immigrants by treating them with kindness and mercy.
I believe that this command is for us today. We welcome the immigrants in our midst and call out people who are oppressing them. We have hope that God’s kingdom of peace and justice will come, but we act now on behalf of the marginalized and call on the government to do the same. By speaking out against injustice, we offer hope to the world. We take part in bringing peace into the world. By showing kindness and mercy to the immigrants among us, we actively take part in the hope of advent.
Devotional written by Julia Schmidt, Immigrant Resource Coordinator at Center for Healing and Hope.
Thoughts to ponder
What actions can you take that will give hope to the world?
How are you being a prophet of hope during these unjust times?
Actions to take
Stay informed – Several organizations send out updates of ways to be informed about current immigration policy and action steps to take. These include the National Immigrant Justice Center; National Immigration Forum; Define American; and American Immigration Council.
Call on the government to act with kindness and mercy towards immigrants in our country. Visit usa.gov/elected-officials to find the contact information for your own elected officials to call or write to to change policy to be welcoming of immigrants.