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A Prayer for the Arrival(s)

Advent: Middle English, borrowed from Medieval Latin adventus, going back to Latin, "arrival, appearance"

Refugee claimants (people who have fled their countries of origin to make a refugee claim, and do not yet have refugee status) have been arriving in Canada, via plane, boat, train, long before the topic of border crossings was making headlines.

However, with the cancellation of protected status for people of various nationalities in the U.S. beginning in summer 2017, there was an uptick in refugee claimants making their way across to Canada across our southern border without passing through official border points. (To learn more about why people have not simply crossed at official border points, visit this page from our partners at Citizens for Public Justice.) It’s an uptick, but it’s not a flood. It’s a new challenge, but not an unprecedented one.

Refugee claimants have been arriving in Canada long before the topic of border crossings was making headlines. 

I can sometimes forget how complicated the refugee system is, since I work in connection with various parts of it. But in a recent trip through CRCs, I realized again just how much confusion there is around refugee claimants and the legal right to claim asylum, even outside of regular border points. So often, when I explained the basics of the refugee claimant system to people, their response was, “I didn’t know.” And why would you know that international and Canadian law protects the right to cross a border to make a refugee claim, regardless of where you cross the border, unless you had learned somewhere?

This is encouraging to me, in a way. Education can help CRC people in Canada, who have been faithfully welcoming privately sponsored refugees for 4 decades, to see refugee claimants (ie those who are making their refugee claim after arriving in Canada, rather than overseas) with the same eyes of compassion and understanding.

Educating ourselves is so important--otherwise we can far too easily be manipulated by people with ulterior motives for manipulating our lack of knowledge.

By FAR the largest numbers of refugees are hosted in countries that directly neighbour those experiencing war and conflict.

For example, here’s a fact that is not widely known: by FAR the largest numbers of refugees are hosted in countries that directly neighbour those experiencing war and conflict, not Canada or the U.S.:

  • Turkey (2.9 million)
  • Pakistan (1.4 million)
  • Lebanon (1 million)

This Advent, as we welcome the travelling Holy Family and read again of their forced displacement and flight to Egypt, may this be our prayer:

A Prayer for the Arrival(s)

God, you come to us again this Holy season

In a guise we have come to expect,

Our mangers picturesque with their dusting of artificial snow.


But if we pause to think again

Of your incarnation as a poor baby, soon to be a refugee,

Born under the thumb of one of the greatest empires the world has ever seen…

Again you give us the great gift of unsettled hearts,

Of de-throned idols,

Of re-orientation.


We struggle to be thankful for this great gift,

This anti-triumphalist vision,

This lengthening table,

And we pray that you would give us too the strength to receive it.


Free us from our cynicism

Our same-old-story, tired-old-story, how-much-will-this-cost-me, why-is-this-our-problem-story.

Free us from our small god, who can only handle so much,

Who draws up the accounts

Who weighs us in the balance.

Set us free to HOPE!


Free us from our nickel-and-diming,

From our white knuckles,

From our consumerist anxieties.

We want to decide who our neighbor is;

Narrow the field,

Lessen the load,

That caring for them might not lessen our comfort.

We forget that your Kingdom looks like relationship,

Like perichoresis,

Like kenosis.

Set us free to LOVE!


Free us from our fatigue, our busyness,

Our rhythms that keep us from community,

Especially from community with people

Whose kids don’t go to the same schools as ours,

Whose worship of you looks different than ours,

Whose fears include realities we’ve never had to contend with.

Wildly, extravagantly, cacophonously, joyously creative God,

Set us free for JOY!


Free us from our suspicion, our divisions,

Our convenient myths that let us off the hook.

Un-fence our hearts, God.

Un-wall our souls.

Set us free for PEACE!



When we meet you, when we face you,

When we are faced by the stranger,

May our idols fall away.


You who are as close as our next-door neighbour,

And as far beyond us as that brightly gleaming star that led the Wise Men onward,

You come when we are not expecting you,

When we are looking for a different kind of king,

And those who see you…

The poor labourers

The star-gazing strangers

The shelter-less travelers…


May we be among them!


"He came to that which was his own, and his own did not receive him."

Five ways to welcome the stranger in Canada this Advent:
  • Learn the basics about the Canadian refugee system, so that you can discern well: When someone shares myths about refugee claimants, point them to more factual resources.
  • Enquire about participating in a Journey With Me workshop, to equip your community to welcome refugees well. 
  • Look into sponsoring a refugee through World Renew.
  • Connect with the local shelter or refugee welcome house that shelters refugees or refugee claimants. Especially recently, they could use your support!
  • Pray for refugees. Pray for God to draw you and your community deeper into his heart around this topic. Pray that voters and policy makers would resist easy myths and make well-informed, wise decisions.

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