Just a few days ago, a 16-year-old Guatemalan boy died in a Border Patrol facility. He was the sixth migrant minor to die while in U.S. custody after being apprehended at the border without a guardian.
Just a few weeks ago, we began the season of Advent. It is the time we set aside as Christians to remember the coming of Christ into the world. We celebrate during the darkest time of the year when the days are shortest, that a light shines in the darkness and the darkness shall not overcome it.
This is not just a season of remembrance but of preparation. We work to make our homes and our hearts ready to welcome the Christ child. I remember hearing the Christmas story as a child with a sense of shock that Mary and Joseph were turned away because there was “no room at the inn.” I had a sense of disbelief that anyone could be so foolish to turn away that family. It seemed unimaginable that the innkeeper had missed out on the great blessing it would have been to host the birth of Jesus.
And here we are today failing to see that Christ is at our door.
The preparation that we do in Advent is not meant to be a hollow performance or reenactment of a history long gone. It is not an esoteric exercise that signals a vague hope for some sort of future event that we may never see. It is an active exercise of welcoming Christ into the world in the here and now.
We learn from Jesus that when we welcome the stranger, we welcome him. That when we clothe the naked, we clothe him. That when we feed the hungry, we feed him. When we visit him in prison, or an immigrant detention facility, we visit him.
We remember the past and look to the future so that we might better live in the present. It is the constant formation of our hearts so that we might better see Christ in everyone and everything. We pray that even as the nights are long our vision might sharpen to better see this reality at work.
To say “Christ is coming” is not so much a statement we make about a future event beyond our control but a commitment we make with our lives. We say with Paul, it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me. When we show God’s love and compassion, when we function as God’s hands and feet, then we are a very real part of Christ coming into this world today.