Reflections on Christmas and the Syrian Refugee Crisis


Advent: Hope, Peace, Joy, Love and The Light of the World

With Advent candle lit, I sink comfortably into the corner of my sofa. A sip of coffee warms the room, soothing my nose with pumpkin spice. Wrapped in security, the blanket snuggles my chin, as I read the morning’s devotion. I am comfortable, safe and warm, and so are my children.

My imagination conjures up a different setting, facing war and devastation. In Jordan, where I was just a month ago, I remember gazing across the skyline from the rooftop of a three-story church building. I could see the mountains of Syria on the horizon, a place of torment for millions and still home for many living in fear.

HOPE: The First Week of Advent

“But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all people.’” Luke 2:10

Over 2,000 years after Christ’s birth, Amman, Jordan rests at the edge of unsettled tension. She borders Israel, Syria, Iraq and Saudi Arabia. East of the Jordan River, the Old Testament sites cities established as places of refuge. Providing asylum for millennia, Jordan is a sanctuary for many people fleeing today. In 2016, more than 50,000 Iraqi, 1.4 million Syrian, and 2 million Palestinian refugees call Jordan home.

The Savior of the world was born, wrapped in swaddling clothes, and lying in a manger, only 50 miles from Amman, Jordan. And people still find hope in Him, even through the atrocities of war.

PEACE: The Second Week of Advent

“Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus.” Luke 1:30

img_5322After Christ’s birth, Herod was on the hunt for all boys under the age of two, killing any child found that he perceived as a threat to his kingdom. Mary, Joseph and Jesus ran to Egypt, fleeing danger. As a young boy, Jesus was a refugee.

The story, from the beginning, really hasn’t been peaceful.

Iraqi Christians Flee Mosul, Iraq

Today, in a tiny concrete apartment, tucked behind bustling streets in a small town in Jordan, live Christians from Mosul—a mother, father, and two children (six and four years old). They live on only the bare necessities.

As we entered the home, the aroma of cardamom and coffee, thick as tar, filled the air. The mother shared with us, “They told my father, ‘We don’t want Christians in this area,’ so he was planning on getting the money from his work and moving to a city close-by that was safer, but they killed him before we could do so.”

Her father was the guard at the family’s local church in Mosul. After the pastor was beheaded, her father felt a strong need to protect the church.

n sign in arabic

Arabic letter “n,” 

The mother’s brow furrowed as she remembered her father’s final words before being killed by a gunshot to the head: “It would be my honor to die in Jesus’ name.”

(The Arabic letter “n,” which is pronounced “noon”, stands for Nazarene or Nasrani (the Arabic word for Christian). Houses of Christians were spray-painted in red with this symbol, marking them for extermination.)

Self-sacrifice led to her father’s death, and she couldn’t bear the pain. In her grief, she tried every way possible to commit suicide, but she said, “It seems like God didn’t want me to die. It feels like Christ sent His Spirit to comfort me.”

“Now,” she said, “I’m thankful to come here because I know God has a plan for my life.”

As we listened to her story, she appeared to have an unexplainable peace.

JOY: The Third Week of Advent

“She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger because there was no guest room available for them.” Luke 2:7

Imagining Mary holding her baby close, before she lays Jesus in the manger—I wonder if a mother feels joy bearing a child in a hostile environment?

Fleeing Syria and Finding Comfort in Jesus

Head covered in a pink scarf, a woman welcomed us with kisses, one on the left, and two on the right. She took us quickly to her third-floor apartment, where teacups filled to the rim with coffee and trays of cookies awaited our arrival.

The story she told didn’t start with her suffering in Syria. Rather, she overflowed with appreciation for the pastor that helped her settle here. Then, she told her story of Jesus.

“Even through all the hardships, Jesus is able to put joy in our hearts,” she said.

“I dreamt that Jesus and I were sitting on this couch,” she patted her hand on the flower print sofa, a gift from the local church.

“He started talking to me, comforting me,” she said.

Across the room, sat a young woman holding a child, no more than two years old. She told of her encounter with Christ: “I kept praying for three months and after three months I had a dream of Jesus holding me and my son and telling me, ‘You are mine. Come to me,’ and He kept saying, ‘Come to me.’”

After telling us their stories, the women from Syria said good-bye with kisses, one on the right, and two on the left.

I was overwhelmed with joy as we went on our way.

LOVE: The Fourth Week of Advent

“Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” Luke 2:11

“Truly he has taught us to love one another. His law is love, and his gospel is peace,” plays in the background, as I sit with tree lit and candle glowing.

Christians make up only 2.2 percent of the Jordanian population, and they bear the weight of war that surrounds them. Yet they are responding to the crisis, bringing much-needed supplies to refugees.

The pastor in Jordan sacrifices daily for love of his neighbors, refugees from Syria and Iraq. His health is frail and his body is weak, and yet he serves tirelessly. He delivers basic necessities—providing mattresses, food and other household essentials to arriving families.

Christmas Day: The Light of the World

“The people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” Matthew 4:16

Even amidst the tragic stories, we faced a sense of hope rising in those who know Jesus.

Please lift those still suffering and the people we met living in darkness and despair, whose stories weren’t shared. Join me is this prayer: Lord, give them ears to hear the sweet sound of hope rising. Grant them a sense of Your eternal peace and the joy that’s everlasting. Lord Jesus, come to them in dreams and visions, providing Your comfort and love. Lord, give them eyes to see the “light that has dawned.”

Oh Come, Oh Come, Emmanuel (God with us). And let this song be our prayer as we consider those suffering at the hands of war in the Middle East.

Give today: Funds donated here will go to the Jordan Bible Society, serving refugees from Syria and Iraq.

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HeidiMontana-native Heidi Glynn is a church representative for Food for the Hungry, developing relationships with U.S. churches who partner in Africa and Asia. She loves to travel, hike and take road trips with her husband, Doug, Director of Church Engagement for Reconciled World. She enjoys game nights with their grown, and still growing, kids and hanging out with close friends.

By | 2017-09-05T20:12:09+00:00 December 20th, 2016|Categories: Learn and Apply|Tags: , , , |

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One Comment

  1. Christi Whitekettle January 2, 2017 at 2:30 am - Reply

    Thank you for sharing of the people you met in Jordan, Heidi.
    I was especially moved by the account of the father dying for Jesus after his pastor had been beheaded.

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