Aleppo and the Radical Hospitality of the Incarnation

Five simple ways to engage with a world in crisis

When children began washing ashore on Europe's beaches, I took a long hard look at our office-slash-dining room and considered the new Ikea sofa sleeper we had just purchased on clearance. How fortuitous, I thought. We could fit a family of three in here! It took about 30 minutes of negotiations with my husband before I remembered our own precarious immigration status and that our landlord might not be too thrilled with my knee-jerk decision to house a refugee family.

This week, again, I find myself looking at my means, our position and freedoms, the state of the world. Yesterday I considered writing on Christmas anxiety, but news from Aleppo plagued my thoughts as headlines declared “a complete meltdown of humanity” leaving at least 80 civilians dead.

And from an exploratory trip to migrant camps in Greece, Minister for Children Katherine Zappone declared, “I wanted to just sweep them up and bring them home with me.” This sentiment is echoed again and again by humanitarian activists and friends from my own Kansas childhood. “I want to go scoop up so many and bring them to safety,” says one.

Oh, that we could.     

The curse of the average stay-at-home mum, the kid in school, the lower income family with a stake in the world is that we feel powerless, unable to affect anything. We watch the news and shake our heads, we cry and pray that those in leadership, those with power will do what's right. We trust others to affect change because who are we? What can we do when we don't know what to do? How do we fight against the temptation to feel helpless, to dwell in helplessness?

Last week I wrote about God moving into our neighbourhood in the form of a newborn baby boy. To me, this one universe-defying decision is as much an act of radical hospitality as it is a salvation promise fulfilled. I suppose He could’ve swiftly relocated His righteous sons and daughters to heavenly abodes whenever He liked, but instead He chose the most uncomfortable route imaginable - the very image of helplessness - and made Himself a home in ours.

A Christian worker in southeast Asia recently wrote:

I believe we can take a lesson from Jesus’ ministry to see the power of entering other people’s spaces well instead of always inviting them into ours... And I wonder if sometimes I’ve worked too hard to make my home a place of ministry instead of going into the homes of others – where they are already comfortable – and bring my ministry with me into THEIR space.

Incarnation. Domestication. Christ with us, anywhere we go…not wherever we invite people to join with us.

I’d like to offer a challenge as we enter the fourth week of Advent, the week of Love: while the world watches, let us not turn away. While we wait for Ireland to bring refugee children home, we can do something right now. The very act of me writing this and you reading it proves as much. We can each choose a few small action points to fight against fear and despair, to enter into the darkness of this world, and stem the flow of hopelessness. 

Let's start here:

Pray. Challenge yourself to pray every day for one people group, or recruit your family to pray together in the lead-up to Christmas.                                                    

Educate yourself. Read your local newspaper and ask people who are in the know for recommendations. Read from a variety of news sources and NGO's, both at home and abroad.

Speak up online and off. After you read up, speak out. Share what you’ve found, sign petitions, contact your TDs and brainstorm with your schools, neighbourhoods or churches.

Give. Support orgs which promote education, sustainability, compassion and faith. Or consider donating to an organisation working directly with refugees (like the Irish Refugee Council). It doesn't have to cost a lot to feel like it's worth a lot. And if you can't give, most sites offer other suggestions for getting involved and supporting their work. 

Say yes. This Christmas, say yes to the party invitations, to the playdates, to the teas or brunches or the school concert. Get out of the shops and into the presence of others.

As much as I want to open my home to the homeless, the orphan, the displaced, the fact that I literally can’t doesn’t absolve me from action and shouldn’t propel me towards helplessness. If anything, Jesus has taught us there’s another way to practice grace and live mercy, to invite ourselves into the space of someone else’s needs – if not physically, then financially, and at the very least, vocally.


*This article was adapted from a post originally published here.