SKLUT: Welcome the stranger this Christmas

December 25, 2018

Growing up, my family always decorated for Christmas placing many Nativity sets around the house. I have always loved the various representations of the Holy Family and the celebration of the intimate moment of Christ’s birth. 

Because of my family’s tradition, I am drawn toward Nativity sets during the Christmas season. This year, however, as I notice the Holy Family on display, I have a heightened awareness of recent headlines, especially the many people fleeing Central America. In an all-too-similar way, Jesus, Mary and Joseph fled Bethlehem and sought shelter in Egypt, as we read in Matthew’s Gospel: 

“When the magi had departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Rise, take the Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him.’”

Joseph rose and took the Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt (Matt 2:13-14).
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees defines refugees as, “people fleeing conflict or persecution.” The Holy Family would have fit this definition as they took refuge while Herod “ordered the massacre of all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity two years old and under” (Matt 2:16b).

I cannot imagine how Mary and Joseph felt as new parents desperately trying to save their infant Son.

This holiday season, consider meditating on this reality for the Holy Family and praying for people who find themselves in a similar position in 2018. The Holy Family’s experience gives unique meaning to Jesus’ familiar words, “I was a stranger and you welcomed me” (Matthew 25:35b).

This holiday season, consider meditating on this reality for the Holy Family and praying for people who find themselves in a similar position in 2018. 

As we talk with friends, classmates, coworkers and family members, is our language welcoming and inclusive of all cultures and recognizing the humanity of all people? Or do we set ourselves apart, using “us versus them” language?

Just as Jesus, Mary and Joseph were shaped by their experience in Egypt, so too people in our communities have been shaped by their circumstances and opportunities. Have you ever asked someone about the experiences that shaped his or her life, and listened to the unique perspective that person offers?

This fall, St. Agnes Academy gathered to celebrate the diversity in our community. In an assembly coordinated by our students, we listened to individuals’ stories of how they came to live in the United States.

Students, parents, faculty/staff and alumnae shared their families’ experiences of immigration, points of pride from their native cultures, the reality of assimilation, and the joy of being American. Their perspectives enrich our school, and these same diverse cultures enliven our Church.

Do you know the stories that shape your family? The holidays are the perfect time to find out about your family’s roots and to ask about the history of your family’s favorite traditions.

Our God became flesh and dwelt among us, that we might become more like God. This holiday season, may we meditate on the mystery of Christmas, embrace the beauty of family, and welcome the stranger in our midst. 

Anna Sklut is the director of campus ministry at St. Agnes Academy.