“Like New”

Joya Colon-Berezin | December 23, 2013

Alan Johnson and others from All Saints Lutheran Church in Phoenix delivering refurbished bikes to refugees. Photo: Stephanie Hardin

Alan Johnson and others from All Saints Lutheran Church in Phoenix delivering refurbished bikes to refugees. Photo: Stephanie Hardin

Christmas can be a profoundly joy-filled holiday. Beyond all of the gift giving, and gift getting, it is a celebration, for Christians, of the birth of Jesus. The meaning of Christmas can be understood as the incarnation of God’s Kingdom on earth; there is something new born into the world that has the power to redeem us. This is an exciting idea on many fronts – what a powerful thing it must be! And we must be quite special to receive it! Many call “it” love.

Many of us find great joy around this season in relatively small acts that we might otherwise consider ordinary — giving gifts, acts of service and kindness. I was thinking about these so-called “ordinary” acts when I arrived to work today to find a handful of Hershey’s Kisses on my desk and then later when I spoke to several of our refugee resettlement affiliates about their plans for this holiday season.

In Louisville KY., Epiphany United Methodist Church provided an offering for refugees of more than 60 coats and blankets – many brand-new, all in beautiful condition. Church members collected these by placing them around the altar, as a visible reminder of the gifts we all receive and the joy of sharing them.  I also heard about an annual toy drive conducted by CWS Miami and how Buenas Nuevas Christian Reformed Church members contributed to a fund for over 30 gifts for children of families they served this year, as well grocery baskets for family Christmas dinners.

The story that stood out most for me, however, was from All Saints Lutheran Church, in Phoenix AZ.  A church member, whom they affectionately call ‘Alan the bike man’ routinely refurbishes old used bikes and fixes them up “like new.” This Christmas he was able to finish a dozen children’s bicycles and donate them to the CWS affiliate office, Lutheran Social Services of the Southwest. Once they were announced to clients as being available, they were gone within a matter of hours.

Why was this story the most touching? (Not only because 12 young people will be able to travel fast and in style. . .) It reminded me of the creative potential in each of us to take something “used” and make it “like new.” This is a great metaphor for Christmas. At its best, Christmas is a time of year when we are given the chance to restore ourselves, our community, and our world to “like-new” status.

This story is also a great metaphor for CWS’s commitment to refugee resettlement: when refugees arrive, having escaped persecution and violence in their country of origin, they arrive in a home that is “like new.” This program has the potential to be a “restoration,” of human rights and dignity. And yet, fortunately, they are still the same people they have always been, each with a unique past. Thankfully, this is a joy we can take with us all year long.

Joya Colon-Berezin, Ecumenical Relations Coordinator, Immigration and Refugee Program, CWS