Christmas Hymn in a time of Refugees

We tell of weary travellers in danger,
who journey by compulsion not by choice.
And will there be a welcome for the stranger?
And will there be a reason to rejoice?
“No room for them,” the casual rejection
with which the powers-that-be preserve their own.
And yet we dare to sing of God’s protection
for lives imperilled by their neighbours’ hearts of stone.

Lord Jesus Christ, your birth among the lowly
has overturned our shaming of the poor.
Your incarnation made the humble holy;
your empty tomb has opened heaven’s door.
Amid the bedlam of our bombs and borders,
may we be brought by Bethl’em’s ancient tale
to welcome every nation’s sons and daughters,
until in every heart your words of peace prevail.

Tune: “Londonderry Air” (public domain).

Prompted by U.S. Mennonite hymn-writer Adam Tice’s text The Son of God Became a Refugee (and by the thoughtful conversation his text provoked among a group of colleagues). I’m grateful to Adam for his encouragement and affirmation; my hymn uses the same metre and tune as his, but treats the theme in a slightly different way.

There’s a deliberate ambiguity in the last two lines of the first verse. Does “we dare to sing…” mean that we defiantly align ourselves with God’s purposes over against the world’s? Or is it a confession of our own hypocrisy, numbering ourselves among the “neighbours [with] hearts of stone”?


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