Advent is a season of waiting, anticipating the coming of the Messiah and preparing ourselves to celebrate God’s presence among us. Probably because of my recent move to Texas, this year I find myself focusing on that last part: When will God make his home with us?
Since leaving my childhood home, I have lived in three different states, even another country. Every time I moved, whether for school or work, I had to start over. After each move, I hoped and waited for the time each new place would become home. At the same time, I mourned the loss of my old home, wondering when I would get to return. Even now I hope and wait and mourn.
This longing for home is one way I have connected with my friends and past clients who are immigrants and refugees. Unlike me, however, many of them didn’t move on their own terms. Their homes were destroyed, and their countries were rife with chaos and violence. They left their homes behind to survive. Some spent years living in refugee camps, waiting to come to the U.S. for the promise of safety, freedom, and financial stability. Since arriving here, they have worked to build new lives and create new homes. Many hope for the day when it is safe to return to their home countries.
During Advent we prepare our homes and our hearts for Jesus to come make his home with us. Matthew 25 instructs us to welcome the stranger for in doing so we welcome Christ. So we welcome Jesus by welcoming the stranger. One way to do this during this season is to share our family traditions with refugees and immigrants while also learning about their traditions. Our Advent preparations await our coming redemption. Our redemption will be complete when we are home at last, when Jesus makes his home with us.
For me this notion is captured beautifully in Revelation 21:2-4:
"And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.”
This season may we welcome the immigrant, the refugee, the stranger among us so that we can truly welcome Jesus and look forward to our redemption.
Thomas McPhail Ubaldo is married to Ruth McPhail Ubaldo and together they aim to serve immigrant populations along the U.S.-Mexico border. Prior to moving to Texas, Thomas worked with a refugee resettlement agency in Atlanta while he attended Candler School of Theology. Before entering seminary, Thomas started and directed an immigration legal aid clinic at his church, Tree of Life, in Indiana.