“Look for a church”, said an Iraqi mother to her son who had just arrived in a European country where he knew no one. “The church will take you in and become your family, same as the church here in Lebanon has done for your brother and I.”
Hearing her moving words I was reminded of the three wise men, the visitors from the East, as they sought the star that led them to the new born King, Jesus.
Look for a church! How befitting of the Message we carry as Christians that the Church be recognized as the place where everyone is welcome regardless of any form of difference, affiliation or background.
The Word became flesh and dwelt among us as a reflection of God’s love for the world – for humanity. Jesus descended from the heavens because He cares. Not only for our salvation, but that we may become like Him. And as we respond to His humbling love, and in obedience to His calling, we put aside our mission and adopt the mission of God, such that compassion, mercy and justice become part of our DNA, that “your light must shine before people, so that they will see the good things you do and praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). The very reason why LSESD is involved in empowering the local Church to be the Church, and in serving the community.
There is so much pain and suffering in our region today – in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Yemen, Palestine, Egypt, Libya … Individuals and families are marginalized or looked down upon because they are “different”. Loneliness and despair are on the rise. Uncertainty too! Many are disillusioned by local, regional or global authorities they had trusted – be they religious or political, and/or by beliefs and concepts that they grew up on and for years adhered faithfully to. These people seek a “star” that will guide them on their journey. And many churches in Lebanon and Syria have risen to the opportunity and have become this star to the marginalized and the vulnerable. Churches elsewhere around the world too!
The Church has become that reassuring “star” in the surrounding darkness, and is being transformed and blessed in the process. For indeed “it is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). Especially when the “giving” is holistic and preserves or restores the care-recipients’ sense of dignity, and is being offered in an integrated manner that reflects who we are, our values, and our calling.
Our churches are being stretched like never before, and their understanding of ministry and mission is being challenged through the ministry of compassion that they find themselves involved in today.
A loving yet frustrated mother of a young Christian worker in Lebanon recently shared that she envies “Syrian refugees because they see my son more than I do”. But she went on to say, “But I can’t help but be proud that my son has chosen to be where Jesus wants him to be. I am both humbled and thrilled that my son sought to take on God’s mission as his own.”
Such is the heart of many young people in our churches today! They’ve tasted the meaning of being involved in the mission of God as compared to other missions, no matter how honorable. And as a result, their churches have become bright stars, drawing others to them.
In Matthew 2:10 we read about the three wise men and “how happy they were, what joy was theirs!” when they saw the star. It is my prayer this Christmas season and throughout the new year that the light of the Church in your country and ours may shine brighter and draw the broken and the abandoned, the abused and the stricken, that they may come to experience mercy, peace and love in abundance.
The LSESD team and I wish you a Merry Christmas and a blessed New Year!
Chief Executive Officer, LSESD