We are so grateful to The Rev. Maria Tjeltveit for offering beautiful daily Advent meditations to EMM’s supporters and community. Subscribe to receive the daily meditations by email, or visit this post to read meditations as they are released.
Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. (John 14:23)
In Advent we await the birth of the Christ child, God coming and making a home with us in the mystery of the incarnation. In Advent, and throughout the year, my congregation, the Episcopal Church of the Mediator, in Allentown, Pennsylvania, works with refugees who are seeking to make a home in our country. We have a Refugee Community Center, where we teach ESL, work with children, have Community Dinners, and find other ways to support refugees. Many other congregations work with Episcopal Migration Ministries (EMM) to help make a home for refugees in their communities.
These Advent meditations lift up the ministry that Episcopalians do with refugees, as well as with asylum seekers and immigrants. They draw on my own experience, and that of my congregation, as well as interviews I did with people, in person, by phone, and in writing, through EMM as part of a sabbatical. Originally, my focus was on mission in the Episcopal Church, but when Allison Duvall, EMM’s Manager for Church Relations and Engagement, asked me for a title and description for the meditations, my focused changed to wondering about what it means to make a home.
What does it mean for people who have had to flee their homes to make a new home in a country where they may not speak the language, know the customs, or have any friends? How do people who work with refugees seek to help them make a home? What does it mean to us that God came in Jesus Christ to make a home with us? How does the story of Jesus’ family becoming refugees speak to us about displaced people today? How do we understand Jesus’ promise that if we keep his word, he and his Father will make a home with us? These are some of the questions that underlie these daily meditations.
Each meditation begins with a verse or two of one of the readings from the Daily Office lectionary (or the Eucharistic lectionary on Sundays). For those who may not have a regular pattern of doing the Daily Office (Morning and Evening Prayer), or may not be familiar with the lectionary, I have put links to all the readings at the end of each meditation. On the days that I use materials from interviews featuring a particular ministry, I will include a link at the end to the ministry’s website, if I have it.
I am writing these meditations primarily for my congregation, the volunteers at the Refugee Community Center, and members of EMM’s Partners in Welcome ministry network. You may click here to subscribe to receive the daily meditations; you are also welcome to be in touch with me directly with comments or questions. You are welcome to share these meditations with others, as I hope that readers will not only find something meaningful in them but will come to a deeper appreciation of refugees at a time in our country when they are being portrayed as a potential threat.
To maintain the privacy of refugees, I will use only the first name of those who have given me permission to share their story publicly. In other cases, if I use a name at all, I will use a name common to the person’s culture rather than the real name.
I am deeply grateful that God has blessed me and my congregation with the ministry of welcoming refugees. My life has been immeasurably enriched by getting to know people who have gone through challenges I cannot begin to imagine and still live lives of faith, hope, love, and joy. Their faith has helped me know in a deeper sense that God is our refuge and strength…this wondrous God who makes a home with us.
The Rev. Canon Maria Tjeltveit
Rector, The Episcopal Church of the Mediator, Allentown, PA
Canon for Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations for the Diocese of Bethlehem