Luke 2:8-11 In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid’ for see–I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. 

Deuteronomy 10:17-19 For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. God defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt.         

It is difficult for me to write about joy when discussing immigration in the United States. Every week new stories come out about the changes in immigration policy that are sending asylum seekers back to their home countries where they face violence, starvation, and death. I read about families sending their children in the desert alone to cross the border. I learn of refugees being refused entry even though there is so much wealth to share. In the Center for Healing and Hope clinic, I hear stories of immigrants here in our community who are afraid to seek medical care due to their immigration status even though they need life-saving treatment. Where is the joy in all of this? If anything, this feels like a time for lament.          

However, the Christmas story and indeed the story of Christianity is ultimately one about joy. The angels came and spread good news of great joy for all people. The news was not shared with religious or political leaders of the day, but with shepherds, working people on the margins of society. The angels brought marginalized people the good news of a savior that was for everyone. God was born as a human in the world to spread the message of peace and love to all people, especially those forgotten or mistreated by society. This was and is indeed good news of great joy! Joy exists in the news of the birth of Jesus. Joy exists when we recognize that over and over in the Bible, we read of a God who loves those on the margins and takes care of the immigrants.          

During this Christmas time, it is important to celebrate this love and to spread the joy of good news. There is joy happening in the world, if only we know where to look for it. There is joy when a community joins hands to not allow ICE to deport one more person in Tennessee. There is joy when a county in North Dakota shows up in large numbers to welcome refugees. Here in Elkhart County, there is joy that our city governments are becoming more diverse with the recent election of the first black mayor in Elkhart and the first Latino to serve on City Council in Goshen. There is joy when communities come together and are able to make change in the world.

By working together for immigrants we need to celebrate all victories, large and small, and highlight the times of joy. It is this joy and the hope that it creates that keeps us going for the long haul. We cannot just become overwhelmed, but need to spread hope by sharing good news. It is important to know the harmful policies that being promoted, understand the stark reality of the current immigration system, and take action against these policies and systems. It is also important to use self-care and seek out joy. Seeking out the joy and spreading good news is the work of advent. 

Devotional written by Julia Schmidt, Immigrant Resource Coordinator at Center for Healing and Hope. 

Thoughts to ponder
Where do you find joy in your life?
How are you spreading good news to the world?

Actions to take
Actively look for joy and hope in the world then spread the good news. If you are active on social media, post stories of joy and hope and highlight individuals and organizations that are actively making a difference in the lives of immigrants. Here is a guide to hope-based communications to help you. Be a part of movements and groups that are life-giving to immigrants. Gather people in your community and find ways to make a postive change. Here is a free online class that teaches how to make a positive change in the world. 

Donate to agencies that are able to spread joy to immigrants, such as the Center for Healing and Hope where we are able to spread joy by providing a safe place for needed medical care. We have had requests from two immigrant families in the last week who are behind on bills due to factories not providing hours during the holidays and unexpected hospital bills. We would love to spread joy to these families before Christmas by helping cover their rent and other expenses. Click here to donate and specify Elkjart County HOPE to give directly to these families.