The other week I returned to Calais to work for a few days, again working with the different charities that provide life-saving and future-giving assistance to refugees there. It was November last year when Jo and I ran a marathon. Part of the money we raised went towards the cost of shipping items to Lebanon where there is an incredible number of refugees. There was a weekend when as a church we hosted an event with the Marlow Refugee Action Group as part of this fundraising. Being in Calais this autumn it struck home, as my work there included helping to load a truck with supplies to go to… Lebanon!
Lebanon is of course mentioned many times through the Bible. Although it isn’t part of The Holy Land, the cedars of Lebanon are a clear of sign of the wonders of creation – they are tall and majestic. The cedars may not have the same connection now in our minds. Lebanon is now known for many more (and different) reasons. Tourism for example is a growing part of its existence. But it has a lot of refugees. It is roughly the same size as Wales and has well over a million refugees just from Syria. There are refugees from other countries too.
I wonder what the poetic writers of Psalms and Isaiah might say now about Lebanon? I wonder if they would still dare to say that the wonders of God’s creation are in Lebanon… but not the mighty cedars. I wonder if we might look at the refugees and the lives that they are forced to live and say: “They are a reminder to us of the wonder of God’s creation”. If we can’t say that then, no matter how disturbing it is to us, it may be very hard for us as Christians to see God in the mess of Remembrance (and the whole time we use weapons, we have to admit that our ‘remembering’ is a mess), and very hard for us to see God’s love breaking out into the world in the Christmas story.
Which takes me back to Calais. I will be going back…. Let me know if you still are interested in going there for a few days volunteering! I need to go back. It is a reminder to me that so often God’s love doesn’t come through human-made institutions or structures. In fact, God’s love is best seen in the eyes of a refugee, a person who stands for peace, and the birth of a child in a quite ‘un-holy’ setting.
May God’s love reach us, even if in the most unexpected and most unorthodox ways! Then may we share it with the world, perhaps in ways that we haven’t even imagined…. Yet!