The Entire Christmas Story
Published: December 18th, 2015
By: Steven and Cokie Roberts

This holiday season, let's remember the entire Christmas story. It only begins in a manger in Bethlehem.

"Jesus himself was a refugee," notes Matthew Soerens, an official of World Relief, an evangelical Christian group that helps resettle refugees. "He fled as a small child to Egypt when there was a tyrannical government threatening his life. So as Christians, we don't really have a choice but to welcome refugees."

It's not just un-American to reject the refugees now flooding out of war-torn hell-holes. It's un-Christian.

The stories of Jesus and today's exiles are not only by morality, but by history and geography. Syrian president Bashar al-Assad heads a "tyrannical government" reminiscent of King Herod, the bloody dictator who sent Mary and Joseph fleeing in fear with their son. Damascus, Syria's capital, is only 140 miles from Bethlehem.

Many Republican candidates for president are appealing to conservative Christians by cloaking themselves in religious piety. But their anti-immigrant animus -- epitomized by Donald Trump's shameful call for a ban on Muslims entering the country -- profoundly misreads the Gospel they profess to hold sacred.

To reinforce that point, Christian leaders are denouncing the candidates' ignorance of scripture.

Story Continues Below Adverts

"Our nation, for decades, has chosen hope and welcome for those fleeing war and persecution," asserted the Presbyterian Church (USA). "We must witness to the Gospel with generous hospitality. To hide in fear is a mistake. Fear is the ammunition of terror. Hope is the best defense."

Pope Francis welcomed two refugee families to the Vatican, saying, "The Gospel calls us to be near to the smallest and abandoned."

President Leith Anderson of the National Association of Evangelicals issued a statement saying that "compassion for those who are in need (is) a long American tradition as well as a Christian principle."

He recalled the parable of the good Samaritan, who aided a poor and beaten traveler. Many believers have forgetten Jesus' ending to that story, noted Anderson: Jesus encouraged his listeners to "Go and do likewise."

"So he's calling on Christians, his followers, to be good Samaritans," stressed Anderson.

Writing in the Huffington Post, pastor Ryan Gear of One Church in Chandler, Arizona, cites Jesus' admonition in Matthew: "Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me."

Jesus meant the "least of these" to include foreigners, immigrants and strangers, says Gear. "In other words, when we don't welcome the foreigner, Jesus takes it personally."

Some Christians like to ask the question "WWJD": What Would Jesus Do? Any fair reading of his life and words can come to only one conclusion. Jesus would firmly agree with President Obama's statement at a naturalization ceremony this week: "We cannot say it loudly or often enough: Immigrants revitalize a new America."

Despite Trump's popularity with Republican primary voters, a majority of Americans share the president's view. In the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC poll, 59 percent objected to Trump's proposal to bar Muslims, and almost half objected strongly. Only 1 in 4 favored such a ban.

Trump is not alone; nativists in many countries are stridently stoking fears of foreigners. But the haters are losing more often than they are winning.

In France, voters soundly rejected the far-right appeals of the National Front party.

In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel faced down critics who wanted to end her policy of welcoming refugees. Delegates at a conference of Merkel's Christian Democrat party applauded for nine minutes after Merkel declared, "It belongs to the identity of our country to show greatness. If we do something wrong now, then we will lose the future."

In England, a church in Kent staged an adaptation of the Nativity story set in a refugee camp. "The traditional stable image wasn't a palace, and we thought, 'what would that look like today?'" said minister Charlie Ingram to The Express. "Maybe people will stop and see the Christmas story in a different way."

Story Continues Below Adverts

In Canada, new Prime Minister Justin Trudeau personally welcomed a planeload of 163 refugees while pledging to take in 25,000 in the coming year.

"We suffered a lot," one man told The New York Times. "Now we feel as if we got out of hell and we came to paradise."

WWJD in Toronto? He'd be embracing that family at the airport.