Halloween is over. That means it’s time to get ready for Christmas! I know some of you might not be ready for that - some of you are going to wait until after Thanksgiving, but not me. I have my Christmas playlist queued up and there’s a good chance I will watch Elf before the month is out. Christmas is my favorite holiday. I love the vibe, the family time, the music, the lights, etc… But also, the birth story of Jesus is one of my favorite stories in Scripture. And I read a news story from earlier this year that reminded me of a truth we find in the early years of Jesus, specifically the Magi subversively avoiding Herod to protect Joseph’s innocent family.
In 2010, a family of five from Armenia, the Tamrazyans, fled their homeland due to political persecution. For 9 years they have lived and raised their kids in Denmark. But as nationalists gain power in Europe, including Denmark, the government ruled that the Tamrazyans, and hundreds of families like them, would be deported. So the Tamrazyans went to church. Church leaders surrounded them and took advantage of an obscure law that forbids authorities from interrupting a church service. Ministers at Bethel Church in The Hague began an around-the-clock worship service in order to prevent the five members of the Tamrazyan family from being arrested and sent back to Armenia,
having no idea how long it would need to continue.
Denmark is one of the least religious nations in the world. More than 50% of the nation declares to be atheist or decidedly non-religious, and yet, almost 1000 pastors and priests came together and participated in what turned out to be a 2300 hour worship service… 96 days, 24 hours a day. They housed, fed, and protected the Tamrazyans until finally, the government reopened their case, along with 700 other families, and it became safe for them to leave the church building.
When Jesus comes into the world He reminds us that there are more important things than law. There are more important things than political differences and national borders - mercy, compassion, and justice are the weightier truths and at times must be protected from the rulers and governments and institutions that give greater weight to power, control, and security. And the church is at its best when she sees with the eyes of God, beyond the borders and walls our world has erected, and seeks to be merciful. And maybe that will seldom look like a 96-day worship service to protect one family, but there are people in your circle of influence that need mercy or justice or protection. Entering into the mess of the world, as Christ entered the world, becomes the calling of all those that profess that Jesus is my Lord.